“I can’t believe I just ate two and a half feet.”
That was from a young 20-something guy who sitting on a barstool in one of America’s great icons — an A&W Root Beer Stand, this one in Sharonville, Ohio.
I overheard this as Dad and I were leaving the stand after gorging on loaded chili dogs — footlongs with chili, cheese, mustard and onions. I always tend to go a little overboard with this treat, as I helped myself to not two but only one and a half feet during my yearly trip to the stand.
And to tradition, the stand also makes their own root beer on location. While I’ve never been a big fan of the carbonated drink, this stuff is irresistible. Very little carbonation and rich with a caramel-vanilla aftertaste. Dad and I drank part of a half-gallon jug on the way home.
But besides visiting the favorite haunts, going home means homecooked meals. With Mom, that means a slow oven-baked pork loin with cherry sauce one night and homemade lasagna the next. Of course, with Mom and Tom, it also includes the trip to Graeter’s, the local ice cream parlor famous for its sweet creamy treats and decadent chocolates. Of course, I devoured a luscious turtle sundae.
As my father says to those who visit his house, “If you go hungry here, it’s your own fault.” And it truly is. The man is mad about barbecuing. He constructed a grill last summer he lovingly named Engine No. 9, which can fit about three whole chickens and a rack of ribs.
Unfortunately, Engine No. 9 was out of service this time, so he had to fire up the Weber instead for chickens, steaks, beans, corn on the cob and baked potatoes. And yes, it all fit on there. Nothin’ like cheap beer and a rich barbecue on a muggy Sunday afternoon with a border collie and beagle at your feet.
But after I got home Aug. 27, my gorging did not stop. After a two-day rest from the Ohio trip, I hopped in the car with the boyfriend and headed to Mason Lake for the Labor Day weekend.
When we go to the lake to visit his friends, he always proclaims, “We eat like kings.” This time around, we were more like the “Rib Kings.”
Ribs on the grill was the first order of business when we arrived Saturday afternoon, complete with a view of the busy lake, families having the last summer hurrah and the great anticipation of spending a couple afternoons diving off the bow of a boat.
Thinking the rest of the weekend would be chicken, we didn’t expect more rib meat for our meals — except for when two visitors brought their kids and about 30 pounds of ribs, a crockpot of baked beans and what seemed like 10 pounds of potato salad.
Surprisingly, no one was stung by the bees that befriended the deck filled with six kids and nine adults eating like monstrous carnivores. But that didn’t slow us down at dinner about five hours later when we had grilled chicken, corn on the cob and Caesar salad and macaroni salad.
After all that, I’m actually ready to go back to my simple caloric intake of yogurt, sandwiches and pasta.
But the craving for homemade food will prevail occasionally, as I’ll pull out my pot and spoon for some homemade zucchini and potato soup and try my hand at Mom’s pork loin with cherry sauce.