My gastronomic experiences in Nova Scotia ran the gamut from the one at Fat Frank’s in Halifax to one in Shelburne. I ordered salt cod because I hadn’t had it since I was young. This was the most inedible meal I have ever been served. The chef had no idea how to cook salt cod; he had merely heated it up. Salt cod that has not been soaked and re-soaked and cooked and fussed over is like cotton fiber, or the choke part of artichokes or milkweed pod fiber. If I had tried to eat it, I would have surely choked. When I pointed this out to the waitress, she saw immediately what the trouble was. She brought me another meal and didn’t charge us for either mine or Bill’s.
Once in Maine I had a bowl of fish chowder (ordinarily one of my favorite dishes) that didn’t have even one tiny speck of fish in it. I am not exaggerating. That however was edible. To be fair to Shelburne, the most delicious fish chowder I ever had was in that lovely town.
In rural Quebec I had spoiled chicken. Even though I had never tasted spoiled chicken before, I recognized it after only one bite. It has a disagreeable vinegary taste to it. The waitress didn’t speak English, so I used my French: pointing to the chicken, I said, “Poulet est mauvais.” Our kids thought this was hilarious, and the phrase has become part of the family lexicon. The waitress did understand me.
Fifty years ago, in Austel, Georgia, we stopped to eat at a Greyhound bus station. There was hardly anything on the handwritten menu, and when we ordered, the waitress whispered, “I wouldn’t order that if I was you.” What would you suggest? She told us. The meal was awful, but I can’t remember what it was because for fifty years we have wondered what the other meal would have been like.
The most disgusting meal I ever saw was one Bill was served. We decided to try the new Brazilian restaurant, but when we arrived, they apologized over-profusely, saying that they didn’t have anything that was on the menu. They suggested two things they could make. I had one, Bill the other. I don’t remember what I had because the appearance of what he had was so astoundingly repulsive. It was an egg dish, the eggs barely cooked, with a plain tomato sauce over it. The tomato sauce mixing with the runny bright yellow yolk and the transparent white of the uncooked albumin turned my stomach. Bill didn’t mind it, he said.