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The Traveling Gourmand

20 May 2005

Brownwood, Texas

I'm here for my annual pilgrimage to the Gomez Cafe. It's right on Hwy 84, on the west side, just before you climb up the big hill toward Ballinger. There's plenty of RV parking out back.

The Gomez is an old-fashioned place. There's a big menu, of the roadhouse variety. All the food that's fit to fry. It's the sort of place where, when you ask about salad dressing, you are directed to the orange stuff in the refilled ketchup bottles.

I've tried out most of this menu over the years - steak, chicken, Mexican, burgers - and it's all plenty good. Emphasis on plenty. These plates are piled up high enough to set off plate tectonics. As part of your continuing education, let me describe the architecture of my modest supper - fried chicken livers, a fairly typical entree at six bucks.

In the first place it's a platter, not a plate. The bottom is covered with thick slices of buttered Texas Toast. These are necessary to catch the drippings. On top of that is a hefty pile of home-made french fries. No krinkle-kut frozen tasteless taters here. And no care is taken to leave room on the plate. This is a perpendicular exercise. If nothing falls off on the table, you got took.

On top of the fries is about a pound of chicken livers, crusty and tender, fried to perfection.

At this point, apparently, someone is employed to make a small fist and push in on the side of the mountain. That's where the salad goes. Gravy comes in a side bowl, just in case you prefer ketchup. Or if, perchance, you are particular which goes on first.

The first time I brought Jan and the kids in here, back in the '80s when we went to Taos skiing every year, their jaws uniformly dropped when the food arrived. I seem to remember six-year-old Sean actually laughing out loud when the waitress asked the cheery improbable question: "Can I get you anything else, Sweetie?"

A restaurant exists to serve its customers. I don't think I've ever seen a skinny adult in here. Perhaps not a skinny child. Nor many a tucked-in shirt. Zaftig ain't in it. They come in substantial crowds, doffing their gimme caps, patiently negotiating the front door, proceeding with a rolling gait and serious mien.

Food is not a laughing matter for these folks.

I rather like the rare experience of being the lightweight in a room. After 3 heart attacks, it is entirely possible I shall end my days right here, face down in one of these bowls of gravy. No doubt the other patrons will solemnly gather to pay their respects, upturning the occasional chair, nodding solemnly to their neighbors and muttering "Don't he look natural?"

But not this time. This time I've made it back to the parking lot, surviving once again to eye the waiting seatbelt askance, uttering under my breath the Glutton's Prayer: "God, I can't believe I ate the whole thing!"

Bob, whose mileage is now suffering.

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