Recipe for Disaster: Diners, Drive-Ins, and Drone in the Poconos
Meredith and the Meatball
Ali Donohue for the Village Voice
[Meredith Graves — Perfect Pussy frontwoman, Honor Press founder, Voice festival correspondent, etc. — loves making and eating food just as much as she loves making and listening to music. Meredith is in the Poconos working on a new record with her band and hanging out with them watching Julia Child videos, so this week she's eating someone else's food instead of cooking it, and ruminating on society's lack of love for Guy Fieri. See below.]
I didn’t know anything about Guy Fieri, save what he looks like.
And to be honest, I feel like a lot of people only get that far before forming an opinion on the man. He sort of looks like the singer of Smash Mouth. Sure, as someone on my Twitter posited, “people who wear clothes covered in flames are best suited to be consumed by them.” He spits out nerdy catchphrases with a mouth full of food and makes uncomfortable noises when he eats something he likes. He loves classic cars and hates eggs. He’s a purposefully constructed caricature of every loud, obnoxious, embarrassing, visor-and-Crocs-rocking, white-trash tourist dad you’ve ever seen tucking into a gargantuan turkey leg at the Renaissance fair, spewing bits of viscera and drops of sauce every time a jouster gets knocked off their horse.
None of this, though, seems to be why people don’t like him. Many of us have friends and relatives who meet one or more of the above descriptors, and we don’t hate them with anywhere near the ferocity reserved for Fieri.
We “hate” Guy Fieri because he is the Marilyn Manson of the Food Network— unashamedly, unselfconsciously, unreservedly extra. All things at once, and very much on purpose.
We hate Guy Fieri because he loves generic things that make our stubbly undercuts stand on end with secondhand embarrassment. We would never be so bold as to eat that, say that, wear those, frost our tips. We are young and savvy and eat sardines at “rustic” restaurants (on Bedford Avenue over in Epcot Brooklyn) with menus letterpressed on recycled card stock, or sleek pseudosecret health haunts that smell like the flatus of a thousand alt-provocative vegan Instagram models.
We have "horse girl hair" and normcore trousers and pretend to be indifferent about blockbuster films and Can reissues. We only talk to people we already know at shows. We "ghost." And we're allowed to like generic, normy, "trashy" things — Angelfire throwback graphics, Flamin' Hot Cheetos, stretchy Nineties chokers, "99% Angel" crop tops from Deb, memes that look like No Fear truck stickers — from a healthy distance. We misuse the word aesthetic in a totally academic way to describe our relationships to these objects and concepts. Because, above all, we have chill.
Guy Fieri only reviews restaurants he genuinely likes. He only shows his audience things that provoke him to make gross mouth sounds. In an era where only chill and criticism — brutal, swift, incisive criticism — seem salable, whether you’re working in music, food, or politics, Fieri is the opposite of everything we claim to want as consumers. Even Anthony Bourdain — the Ramones to Fieri’s NOFX — talks shit, which I take to mean Anthony Bourdain is scared. Guy Fieri has less chill than any human being on the planet, and judging from his television series and restaurant empire, he’s definitely a millionaire thanks to his lack of it.
We, on the other hand, aren’t millionaires (though if you are and you’re reading this, HMU if you feel like paying off my remaining student loans). Could it be that, if we only put our chill aside, we could learn something from the man?
So we’re out in the Poconos and I’m watching my first episode of "Triple D," and my bassist tells me that Fieri has a restaurant in a nearby casino. My bandmates know that this would be good column fodder, so we plan a group trip to a restaurant that has something like two stars on Yelp, and gets reviews like “Flavortown? More like Blandsville.”
But when last night (Triple D Day!) rolled around, lazy and hungry and wearing real pants for the first time in a week, we couldn’t muster the energy to drive an hour each way in a van that only has three seats. We wanted to — we hemmed and hawed and mourned the loss of planned cardboard-cut-out selfies — but we just wouldn’t. With no plans and five mouths to feed, I instead asked myself: WWGFD? He’d look for the best restaurant in the surrounding area, the highest-ranked of the Triple Ds the Poconos could offer.
Turns out, twenty minutes away on a fairly dead stretch of road, there’s a locals-only Italian restaurant in a recessed parking lot, sandwiched between a regular bar and a tiki bar. The cook, smoking outside in the parking lot, asked if we were lost. We were the only customers. There was no music playing. The kitchen closed in an hour. We were misled: The tiki bar is only open during warmer months, but the waitress said she’d be happy to open it up for us if we wanted to sit out there and smoke. She made us tiki drinks anyway. Shaun had a mai tai that tasted like perfume and rocket fuel.
I gave Ray four bucks for the jukebox. One dollar is three song credits here, as opposed to the one credit you’ll get in our hometown. My only requirement was that he play Thin Lizzy. He started with "The Boys Are Back in Town," which was such a hit that a cook came out of the kitchen and offered to buy him a beer.
It was wing night, so, duh, we got wings, five bucks a pound. Hot, which was blistering, and garlic Parmesan, which I wouldn’t touch because nothing other than hot wings is real, and if we are ever out and you order another type of wings around me I’m calling the police.
Then, we got pasta. And pizza. And sandwiches. And it was all pretty fucking great. I’ve wanted a good meatball since I finished The Sopranos a few months back, and the meatballs were so goddamn good, I got a second order to go. Baby Ray got a small pizza, which turned out to be bigger than any large I’ve ever seen in New York. The crust looked a lot like the crust at Roberta’s. Everything including the dough is made on site, except the pasta, which is made up the road.
The staff came by the table to give us tips and tricks for fun things to do in the area. It was repeatedly suggested that we come back in the summer. They also encouraged us to come drink with them this weekend on Trivia Night. As we were leaving, one of the cooks said something like, "Wow, you guys found the only real locals' place in the area where the food doesn’t suck and the beers are cheap. Good job."
The only other customers in the place came in as we were walking out — laden with doggy bags full of pizza and meatballs that would inevitably become this morning’s breakfast — a middle aged couple, the dude in digital camo (de rigueur around these parts). Our waitress and cook friends cheered, and everyone hugged. I worked in places like this all through college, down to the dollar bags of corn nuts and precariously placed flatscreen hanging over the liquor shelves. The same couples, married twenty years or more, come in every night for a Coors Light and a game of Quick Draw, tip a dollar each, and leave. Proceed through the adjacent buildings. Go next door for a plate of ravioli and meatballs if you’re hungry. Maybe drink a mai tai and smoke outside when it’s warm.
And, most important, engage in the ultimate activity allowed by a decided lack of chill: Treat every stranger like a friend you haven’t met yet. Don’t judge people based on appearances or attitude. Everyone is hungry, everyone is thirsty, nobody wants to be alone — and sometimes, food and drink (and music, of course) are that much more satisfying when served sans pretense. That’s the Triple D way.
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