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Of Asian Delicacies and the Idiom Tedium

16 Mar

by Roger White

My mother-in-law loves authentic Chinese food, so when we treat her to dinner, she almost invariably chooses First Chinese Barbecue, way up on North Lamar in far North Austin. It’s so far north you’re practically in Waco. You can’t get much more dead ducksauthentic than First Chinese Barbecue; as you walk in you’re greeted by rows of dead, naked ducks hanging like John Wilkes Booth’s gang at execution. The aroma of spices and meats is practically intoxicating, and the menu’s mostly in what I presume is Chinese, with some hints about what you’re ordering in English. I’m never quite sure if I’m ingesting a pig, a chicken, or some other roasted creature, but I must say it is all quite scrumptious.

No, First Chinese Barbecue did not cut some sort of free-meal deal with me to write this, but I will tell you that the dried fresh squid with black bean sauce is out of this world. (Is that good, Mr. Run?) Again, that’s First Chinese Barbecue. Far North Lamar. Ask for the Oldspouse Special.

Anyway, the dinner is only half of the evening for our Bubbie. Dear mom-in-law then likes to head next door to the MT Supermarket. This store, if you’ve never been, is the Asian version of a Walmart Supercenter. It’s a 100,000-square-foot bastion of the most amazing and unbelievable foodstuffs any Texan has ever seen. I presume these yummyitems are foodstuffs. In this era of PC politeness and easily hurt feelings, I’m trying to tread lightly here, OK, but not in my wildest imagination can I conjure a gastronomical use for, say, pork rectum, pork uterus, or fresh chicken feet.

And on just about every aisle you’ll find small armies of robotically waving ceramic cats. Quite unsure of what a robotically waving ceramic cat has to do with Asian groceries, I looked it up and found that these are actually a Japanese thing. Called maneki-neko (which sort of translates into “beckoning cat”) these oddly friendly felines are considered good luck talismans. I don’t know. I have a real cat, and whenever he starts to wave at me like that it usually indicates an impending ambush.

There are also rows upon rows of sweets, too, both prepackaged and freshly made. These aren’t your typical kitty hellocandies and cakes, mind you. You have chocolate and strawberry Pocky Sticks, Green Bean Ice Bars, Purple Mochi Balls, and all sorts of squishy treats with names like Lychee Jelly Cup and Poo Poo Variety. Keeping the freshly rendered pork rectum in mind, I opted to pass on the Poo Poo Variety.

With this less-than-appetizing terminology stuck in my cranium, I got to thinking. How many other marketing words and slogans—perfectly appropriate and appealing in their native tongue—somehow fail to translate? So I hopped on my google horse, and here’s what I found:

  • It seems that the Pepsi slogan of some years back—“Come Alive!”—actually translated in a certain Chinese dialect into “Make Your Ancestors Come Out of the Grave!” That Pepsi packs a punch.
  • Coors once used the motto “Turn It Loose!” to ramp up sales, but apparently this hip saying translated into “Suffer from Diarrhea!” in some Spanish markets.
  • Pee ColaWhen good ol’ Coke was introduced overseas, some Chinese dialects rendered “Ke-kou-ke-la,” which was about as close to Coca-Cola as they could get, into “Bite the Wax Tadpole.” Yum.
  • When Kentucky Fried Chicken made the leap across the big pond, their slogan “Finger-lickin’ Good” came through in Chinese as “Eat Your Fingers Off.” Ouch.
  • The American Dairy Association, pleased with the hugely popular “Got Milk?” campaign, was flabbergasted to find when it exported the saying to Mexico, its initial translation appeared as “Are You Lactating?”
  • If Green Giant brand foods wondered why their first forays into the Arab markets didn’t go as planned, it may have been that the Arabic terminology for naughty soup“In the Valley of the Jolly, ho ho ho, Green Giant!” came across as “This is the Land of the Intimidating, uh uh uh, Green Ogre!” No Ogre Brand Peas for me, thank you.
  • Ah, and here’s a classic, from the days of the Ford Pinto. Seems that the braintrust of the Henry Ford folks couldn’t understand why they failed to move any of their hot, new Pintos in Brazil when they first put them on the market. Only after the fact did they discover that the word “pinto” is Brazilian slang for “tiny male genitals.” Yoiks. The Ford guys quickly and as discreetly as possible switched the car’s moniker in their Brazilian dealerships to Corcel, which means “Horse.”

Knowing all this—and understanding that the term in question surely means something delectable in the Asian world—I still can’t picture myself biting into anything of the Poo Poo variety.

Fart BarRoger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

 

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W.B.’s Resolution: Find a Rhyme for Penguins

5 Jan

by Roger White

 

Ah, my cosmic cohort, mi altruistic amigos, another calendar has been trash-binned. Another yuletide has been yuled, another new year’s staggered through, another den full of pine needles and confetti swept up, another damn wrinkle found in the mirror. This can mean only one thing: It’s time to hear from the great Willie Bartwhat a nightholin Cowper, former poet laureate of south Hudspeth County and professor emeritus at the Fort Stockton Night School for Girls. The legendary W.B. has agreed to grace us with his poetic rendition of thoughtful resolutions for the year 2015.

 

Please understand, my existential adherents, as I turn this forum over to W.B. that the professor, while still brilliant and incisive, tends to wax a tad eccentric of late. Prof Cowper, a true Renaissance man, spent the greater part of his life as an inventor-philosopher perfecting a type of home insulation crafted from radium-coated asbestos. Take this into account as you glean what pearls of wisdom you can from Dr. Cowper’s musings. I give you the renowned Willie Bartholin Cowper:

 

“Now that 2014’s gone and a new year is before us,

Let’s make some resolutions—because some rocks are rightly porous.

 

“Let’s vow to argue less, to see the other’s position,

Walk a mile in another’s shoes, but don’t catch his foot condition.

 

“Know that Republicans are simply Democrats with their insides turned out,

And Methodists are actually Baptists with a bad case of gout.

 

“Let’s eradicate Ebola with sarcasm and unmanned drones,

Let’s toast the Kardashians with mint tea and scones.

squirrel bagged

“Make an effort to floss more, text less, and put the lid down,

Above all, avoid the squirrels in the road on the east side of town.

 

“Let’s vow to remember what’s important in life,

It’s not fame or fortune or having a trophy wife.

 

“No, it’s about family and friends and love, goodness knows,

And finally squeezing that pimple just under your nose.

 

“Let’s resolve to drive friendlier, to let the other guy in,

And reol nancemember that Nancy Reagan had very weak shins.

 

“Let’s keep foremost in our minds that inside we’re all the same,

Except, of course, for the Norwegians—we all know their little game.

 

“Take time in this new year to stop and smell the roses,

And forget you saw your mother-in-law in just her pantyhoses.

 

“Fill your days with things you love, put petty squabbles aside,

And remember—your sister’s poodle likes to drink formaldehyde.

 

“Be kinder to your neighbors; being friendly’s not that hard,

If you recall, they’re the ones who saw you passed out in the yard.

 

“Be more like little children—worry less and play more,

But try hard this year to blow less snot on the floor.

 

“Be there when your kid learns to ride her first bicycle,

But trust not that new proctologist with hands like icicles.

 

“Don’t be so body-conscious, so you’ve gained a few pounds,

Your hiney is your cushion—it’s meant to be round.

 

“Take your wife out to dinner, or if she’s out of town,

Take your friend’s wife to dinner; we know she’s been around.

 

“Walk a few blocks when you can; clip your nose hairs often,

Eat the pickles in the side drawer before they start to soften.

 

“Tell your mother that you love her; tell your stepdad he’s the tops,

Find your nephew’s medication before someone calls the cops.

 

be a pepper“Consume more uncooked greens, learn to brush behind your molars,

Drink more Dr. Peppers; drink fewer Coca-Colers.

 

“Keep your poise, keep your cool, keep your sense of humor,

Have that weird mole checked—probably not a tumor.

 

“So look for the good in people, but watch for the bad in penguins,

And remember through life’s journey—nothing really rhymes with penguins.”

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Pondering Life’s Little Scams, Schemes, and Swindles

7 Jul

by Roger White                                                                              

 

So I was standing in the shower attempting to loofah my stretch marks when one of wifey’s standing army of haircare products amassed on the shower shelf caught my eye. It was a shiny, dazzling thing, the color of polished gold. The container’s meant to grab your attention, you see, designed to stand apart from the plethora of shampoos and such that crowd the grocery shelves. Marketers never cease to amuse. Gold equals value, see, so this shampoo must be head and shoulders above the rest. Ouch, that was unintentional. So now that the golden suds caught my eye, I looked closer. I had to laugh—more superlatives and blatant hyperbole were crowded onto this little bottle of bubbles than a Barnum & Bailey circus poster.

photo

“Advanced,” “NEW,” “Total Repair,” “EXTREME,” “Emergency,” “Recovery,” “RAPID FIBER RENEWAL” (whatever that is)…and on and on. It’s as if the company’s advertising guys looked up every glowing adjective in the dictionary and simply pasted them all on the bottle. I snickered again, but then I realized, hey, it worked. It’s in my shower, ain’t it?

 

I pointed out all the grandiose gobbledygook to my wife when I exited the reading room and asked her if it was indeed the best haircare product she’d ever used. “Eh,” she said with a shrug. “It’s not that great.”

 

Ah, yes. This revelation got me pondering all the little cons and exaggerations and out-and-out flimflammery that we deal with on a daily basis. I believe we first got the idea that the scam was on as we moved from adolescence into young adulthood. This was about the time we witnessed the gradual, ever-so-subtle phenomenon known as the incredible shrinking product. Remember? Food staples such as hamburgers and candy bars slowly lost their heft over time, almost like magic.

 

gadzooksThe Big Macs and Hersheys of our youth didn’t merely appear larger back then because we were tykes; they’ve been carefully trimmed over the years. Picture your Hershey bar on a fulcrum, like a teeter-totter of corporate trickery; price goes up, product size goes down. Eventually, I suppose we’ll be shelling out $19.99 for a chocolate nibble the size of an unwell raisin. In that vein, corporate candy minds have already given us the “fun size” bar. Fun size. That’s marketing speak for “you pay us regular-size price, and we’ll give you tiny crumbs in a colorful, exciting package. Yay! Fun!”

 

The Mars Company did some more snipping just recently, shaving the size of its Snickers and Mars bars—merely for health reasons, mind you. “Having taken product reformulation as far as we can for now without compromising the great taste,” a company spokeslizard said, “we have reduced the portion size of Mars and Snickers to bring down the calories.” Right.

 

The soft drink guys did it, too, long ago—under the guise of moving to the metric system. If you’re old enough to recall, family-size cokes once came in one-gallon containers. Touting their shift to the sleek three-liter size bottle as a consumer-friendly move to a more efficient, easier-to-tote container—at the same price!—the cola industry failed to mention that customers were now getting precisely .793 of a gallon of coke for the gallon price. But what’s .207 of a gallon between friends?

 

It isn’t just at the grocery store, though. The scam is everywhere. Corporate lizards abound. If you don’t pay close attention to your wireless service bill, for example, you’ve probably been crammed. We were crammed recently, but thank goodness the wife caught it before it went on too long. In fact, T-Mobile just got slammed by the Federal Trade Commission for cramming. Sounds physically painful, I know, but cramming hits you only in the pocketbook. It’s the practice of stuffing hidden fees into your bill for services you didn’t request—hence the ugly terminology. It’s often difficult to spot the hidden fees because the wireless companies will not itemize them; rather, they’ll show up as “Use Charges” or some other ridiculous, nebulous category.

 

The list goes on. Premium gas, college textbooks, bottled water, anything and everything that movie popcorn manshows up on your hospital bill, automotive cabin air filters, shipping and handling (what the hell is handling, anyway?), hotel taxes, cable activation fees, time shares, movie snacks. It’s a mine field out there, people. It’s a dirty, slimy mine field full of lizards, to mix a metaphor or three.

 

I think I need another shower. Hey, this shampoo looks good…

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

 

 

Dad’s ‘Stairway to Summer’

3 Feb

by Roger White

 

Now that we’re in the dead of winter, and those despicable, horrid, scorching temperatures of mid-July are long gone, I truly miss those despicable, horrid, scorching temperatures of mid-July. This always happens, and I always know it’s going Zepto happen. I am now officially sick of winter. I dreamed of grilling out in the backyard recently. This wondrous dream was even set to music—à la Led Zeppelin. I call this wondrous nocturnal fantasy “Stairway to Summer.”

 

Note: If you can’t play “Stairway” in your head as you read this, this will make no sense to you whatsoever and you will become convinced that my mind has been eaten by worms. The latter may be true, of course, but read on if you will:

 

“Stairway to Summer”

There’s a daddy who’s sure all that sizzles is gold,

And he’s grilling five pounds of heaven.

 

When he gets there he knows if the propane is low,

With a card he can get more at Walgreen’s.

 da grill

Oooh, oooo-oooh, and he’s grilling five pounds of heaven.

 

On his grill there’s some mush, but with his handy wire brush

He scrapes and, oops, he just lost one patty.

 

In a tree by the grill, there’s a songbird who sings,

And, uh oh, the bird just soiled another patty.

 

Oooh, oooo-ooh, and dad’s grilling three pounds of heaven.

 

There’s a feeling he gets when meat falls through the slats,

And his spirit is crying and bereaving.

 

In his thoughts he has seen the grill smoke through the trees,

And the voices of those who stand drooling.

 

Oooh, oooo-ooh, and dad’s grilling two pounds of heaven.

 

And it’s whispered that soon, if you use a big spoon,

You can salvage those patties in the fire.

 

And a new day will dawn for those on the lawn,

And the backyard will echo with laughter.

 

Did anyone remember ketchup?

 

Oooh, oooo-ooh, and he’s grilling a half-pound of heaven.

 

(picking up the tempo now)

 

If there’s some gristle in your ground chuck,

Don’t be a dumb schmuck,

It’s just a sprinkling of tendon.

 

Yes, there are two paths you can go by,

But to use care,

Well done’s safer than rare.

 dead patties

Oooooh, but it makes him wonder.

 

His head is humming on his fifth beer,

But have no fear,

The wifey’s calling him to slow down.

 

Dear Daddy can you smell the gas now?

You’ve burned a whole cow,

Your burgers are lost on the whispering wind.

 

(kicking it in!)

 

And as we settle down to eat,

Everything’s ready but the meat,

 

There sweats dear Daddy in the heat,

Who shines bright red in drunk defeat.

 

Did all that sizzle turn to ash

grill oopsIn a propane-fueled flash?

The answer comes to him, behold!

There’s fried chicken on the stove,

So let’s have that last Michelooooob!

 

Ooooh, and dad’s scraping the burnt remnants of heaven.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

 

It Takes a Village to Save the Squirrels

18 Nov

by Roger White                                                                              

It dawned on me the other day, as I was returning yet another socket wrench and assorted metric sockets to my neighbor Jim, that regarding many things about life and the cosmos I’m mostly talking out of my, uh, hat.

This particular moment of clarity came to me as I realized, watching my long-suffering and patient neighbor reseat his tools into their precise positions in his immaculate garage workshop, that as vociferously as I rail against modern society and pine for the days of yore, I would have lasted maybe a week and a half in the a slow squirrelolden times. My family would have lived under one of those quaint covered bridges. We would have subsisted on wild turnips and slow squirrels. Oh, who am I kidding? I wouldn’t even know how to trap a squirrel, much less cook the thing and eat it.

You see, I have no skills. Zero. Nada. Bupkiss. Save helping you proofread your short story or guiding you through the distinctions between the possessive apostrophe and the contraction apostrophe, I’m about as useful and handy as excess nose hair. I don’t build things. My attempts at simple home repair often conclude at the minor emergency clinic. I don’t use a miter box. I’m not even sure what a miter box is.

woopusThe point is, I understand now that I should be thankful to the Large Kahuna that I live in a time and place where hammering nouns and verbs into place can actually put food on the table for me and mine. I’m sure the squirrels are thankful, too. Especially the slow ones. Life in the era of barter and wampum and manual dexterity would have been a tad severe for yours truly. As Quint said to Richard Dreyfuss’s character in Jaws, “You have city hands, Mr. Hooper.” City hands, indeed. And a city brain.

And thus, with this dawning, came the glow of appreciation for guys like Jim. This may also be a Large Kahuna type of thing, but is it mere happy circumstance that so many of my family’s friends and neighbors are people who can really do things? I mean, criminy, there’s Jim next door, who can fashion anything from an acoustic guitar to a backyard deck from a piece of tree bark; there’s Matt across the street, who’s fixed our computer so many times that when I call him now, instead of saying hello, he simply says, “I’m coming.” There’s our friend Rodney the homebuilder, who put our bedroom ceiling back together that time I fell through the attic. And there’s neighbor Glen, whose truck has saved us so many delivery fees through the years that we’ve been able to buy a new dryer. Oh, about that truck this weekend, Glen…

You get the picture. Sans our friends and neighbors, we’d be out several grand a month just keeping the place running. Ya ever try to bargain with a refrigerator repairman by offering to conjugate his verbs?

I’m astounded at the amazing people around me—not just because they can actually accomplish the things they do with their minds and hands, but because they have such generosity of spirit. I think sometimes if I were Jim, and the clod next door rang my bell yet again beseeching me to diagnose his ailing garbage disposal, I’d seriously consider feigning a communicable disease. Or keeping the lights off until my nettlesome neighbor went away. Not Jim. Not Matt or Glen or Rodney. They answer every time.

i build sentencesSo yeah. Color me humbly mindful that it takes a village. It takes a village of wonderful folks to keep me from having to wear “Will Edit for Food” signs on the streetcorner. I’m earnestly thankful. As are the squirrels, I’m sure.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Dead Cars Are Today’s Coalmine Canaries

9 Sep

by Roger White

 

You see them more and more these days: dead cars by the side of the road. Sure, the cops and the towing companies attempt due diligence, but they can’t keep up now. There are just too many croaked clunkers all over our highways and byways. I sat and thought about it the other day; you know what the proliferation of all of these deceased vehicles means, don’t you? That’s right, we’re all poor now. Well, 98.8 percent of us.

 he dead

It’s just like the canaries in the coalmine. Miners in our grandpappies’ day used canaries (those brave little birds) to make sure the air was breathable in their unbelievably dangerous underground offices. If Tweety Pie stopped singing and was suddenly on his back with his widdle feet in the air, it was time to haul out of there—the air had turned bad. Well, all those roadside stalled Chevys, puffing smoke with their widdle tires in the air—they’re today’s coalmine canaries. It ain’t good, folks. The air has turned bad.

 

The simple reason for this phenomenon is that our economy is barely breathing. There’s no more economic oxygen. Prices for staples such as groceries and gas are unacceptably high; cost for basic medical care is astronomical—and the whole system of for-profit care is at the very least misguided (and at worst, utterly evil); wages are stagnant; and jobs are about as scarce as an untattooed NBA player. Add to this the fact that the stock market today goes haywire anytime a terrorist sneezes in Yemen—and everyone’s retirement account is somehow inextricably tied to the market—and you have all the makings for a slippery slide right back into 1929, only perhaps worse.

he dead too 

Hence all the inert autos floundering near parkways hither and yon. It’s all about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, 21st-century style. People are barely keeping their heads above water. It’s all most of us can do to feed the family, pay the mortgage, and keep the electricity on. Ancillary things, such as regular car maintenance, swiftly fall by the wayside when the money is just not there. And so, kaplunk. The trusty old Ford keels over because its financially strapped owner couldn’t afford to change the timing belt—which, by the way, costs approximately a cool grand including time and labor and all the extra nebulous charges your friendly fix-it shop always manages to throw in.

 

Unfortunately, we can’t really hightail it out of this particular coalmine, can we? And from all appearances, it’s a damn deep mine. In many ways, it’s downright disgusting. There truly is no middle class anymore; there are the mega-uber-wealthy, comprising less than 2 percent of the population—and there are 250 million shades of poor in these United States. The average corporate CEO income today is about $4,615 per hour; minimum wage is $7.25, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

 

the trapMore and more of us are carrying four- and five-digit credit card balances and are using credit cards often to pay not for entertainment or the occasional luxury item but for groceries and monthly bills. In many cases, it’s unavoidable. My neighbor down the street recently posted on Facebook that her electricity bill for one month was more than $400—and her home is less than 1,900 square feet. AARP magazine noted that in 1963 a 49-ounce box of laundry detergent cost 69 cents; today, it costs $8.00. A movie ticket in 1963 was 86 cents; today, just under $10. Even adjusting for income, we’re much worse off now than we were 50 years ago. Boy, it’s getting tough to breathe in here.

 

Keep your eyes on the roadside, people. The air has surely turned bad.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

Ketchup on Your Dog? NOT in Chicago. It’s the Law. I Think.

17 Jul

by Roger White

 

Salutations, my carefree cadre of cosmic cadets. Oh, mi amigos, sometimes the fates simply will not let you escape what you’re trying to escape from because there’s just no escape from the thing you wish to escape. From. Dig? I’ll give you an e.g. Take the heat. Spouseman had a quasi-business trip to Chicago recently, so I folded the family into the Samsonites and jaunted off in earnest hopes of glorious non-triple-digit climes. Hah. The Big Guy doth chuckle. We stepped out of the cab from Midway Airport onto the baking intersection of Grand and Michigan and promptly melted into the pavement. Seems I packed the heat wave in with the family and the underwear. Thus I believe we lent a new meaning to the term “packing heat.”

As we admired the downtown skyline, 29 cars, buses, and taxis immediately honked at us to get our Texas butts out of the road. Welcome to the City of Big Shoulders! There would be ample honking and sirens as the days progressed.

Actually, as the week went on the temps smoothed out a bit, and the constant Lake Michigan breeze felt downright nice. But Chi-town its own self was quite the learning experience.

Much of the Chicago scene involves eating. It’s good eating, too, but there are rules. Statutes and laws even. For example, under no circumstances may anyone in the greater metropolitan city limits put ketchup or any squashed-tomato-like product on a hot dog. It is strictly verboten. Vendors display large signs to this effect. Onions, relish, mustard, pickles, peppers, paprika, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme are all fine for your frankfurter, but no ketchup.

To wit, our stroll through Millennium Park near the hotel on our first day was jolted by the sight of two of Chicago’s finest cuffing a man lying face-first in the grass. Uh oh, we thought. We’d been warned to be wary of big-city crime.

“What happened, officer?” I asked a backup policeman standing nearby.

“K.O.D.,” the officer replied grimly.

“K.O.D.?”

“K.O.D. Ketchup On Dog. Stand back, please.”

“I swear, I thought it was the mustard,” the guy pleaded, his mouth and hands smeared a ghastly, guilty red. “It was a mistake!”

“Take him away.”

Chicagoans take their dogs seriously. There’s even a Wikipedia entry:

“A Chicago-style hot dog, or Chicago Dog, is a steamed or water-simmered all-beef frankfurter on a poppyseed bun. The dog is topped with yellow mustard, chopped white onions, bright green sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices or wedges, pickled peppers, and a dash of celery salt. The complete assembly of a Chicago hot dog is said to be ‘dragged through the garden’ due to the many toppings. Some variants exist, adding ingredients such as cucumber slices, but the canonical recipe does not include ketchup, and there is a widely shared, strong opinion among many Chicagoans and aficionados that ketchup is unacceptable. A number of Chicago hot dog vendors do not even offer ketchup as a condiment, while those who do often use it as a litmus test.”

Or as part of a police sting, as the case may be.

There are plenty of culinary delights besides the eponymous dog, including some of the best Italian food west of New Jersey, but, again, there are attendant rules and regulations. Please pay attention, because although the folks we met in Chicago were friendly and affable, when it comes to food they mean business.

Near the famous Lincoln Park Zoo, for another e.g., there’s a terrific pub/eatery called R.J. Grunt’s. And at R.J. Grunt’s, where the proprietors claim to have invented the modern-day salad bar, you can pile everything from aardvark shavings to zinnia petals on your scrumptious salad, but if you’re caught sharing with a non-salad-bar patron—even your mom—you will be hauled off on an S.S.B.

We’d been in town for a few days by the time we hit Grunt’s, so we were practically Chicagoans ourselves by this time. As they took away one particular crouton criminal, a wide-eyed tourist sidled up to me.

“What happened?” he asked.

“S.S.B.”

“S.S.B.?”

“Sharing Salad Bar. Stand back, please.”

But far and away our most exciting brush with Chicago’s culinary commandments was at the one and only Billy Goat Tavern tucked under the bridge on Michigan Avenue. Yep, this is the place that inspired the classic Saturday Night Live “cheezeborger, cheezeborger, cheezeborger” skit.

It’s all true. Except it’s “no Pepsi, Coke” instead of the “no Coke, Pepsi” John Belushi recited in the SNL skit. Apparently, Belushi figured “no Coke, Pepsi” sounded funnier, and who can argue his comedic brilliance? All the rest you remember from the skit is right on, however. The waitress bullied us into not only “cheezeborgers” but double “cheezeborgers” at that—and they were worth it. I’m doing a Pavlovian salivation thing right now just typing about them.

And yes, there are no fries. No fries, cheeps. There’s a great big sign warning you, so you’ve only yourself to blame if you get hauled away on an F.F.T.

“F.F.T.?”

“French Fry Try. Stand back, please.”

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.