Clueless in America. Chapter 53

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53. Le burger et La Crescent.

At the moment I am sitting in a snow-laden cafe sucking down a barely passable cappuccino somewhere on the Baltic coast; thus no free internet, thus no search-engines, which means I am forced once again to write the old-fashioned way and rely on my non-existent research and non-existent notes for this chapter. So in advance please forgive my geographical vagueness.

However this chapter actually starts on the afore-mentioned Baltic coast. We had a friend who lived here. Not having a search-engine means that I cannot research her name, so for simplicity’s sake, lets just call her Natalie. Natalie is one of those people who you just cannot help but like and she had just recently moved from the Baltics to Minisota. I will spell Minisota correctly when I find the internet, but for now you will have to be content with knowing it is the western neighbouring state of Wisconsin. Natalie’s home town was just a wee tad out of our way, so we picked a dot on the map half way between Madison and her town and decided to meet there. The place happened to be just across the great, wonderful, wide and very, very cold Mississippi river from La Cross, Wisconsin. This dot on the map happened to be called La Crescent. One can only presume that with the obvious French and Muslim connections that this particular dot on the map was named by North Africans. However it does leave me rather perplexed as to why the other side is called La Cross. Perhaps it was named in the seventies by refugees neighbouring Mururoa Atoll(153) who were desperately clinging to God in order to survive their very own personal nuclear holocaust. Gosh,  how interesting our world would be if all the search-engines died.

I did not realise we were going to cross the Mississippi and it brought back a flood of memories. Even us Kiwi kids grew up hoping that one day we would float down the mighty Mississippi on a raft, sharing adventures with Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. I had been here a million times in the imagination of my boyhood. I suspect they never rafted at this end of the Mississippi, because if they did they would have either drowned or frozen to death. This end of the Mississippi, in this weather, was not to be messed with.

Gosh, what were those Indians thinking when they put four ‘I’s, four ‘S’s and two ‘P’s in the one word? Perhaps it was something like, ‘If those whities come over here and steal our land we are going to make it as hard as possible for them to write about’. Then along come the pre-emptive text that my computer has and screwed that idea up as well.

Never mind, I am off the subject. La Crescent; let me tell you every thing you need to know about it about it and a wee bit more. The ‘wee bit more’ was the pleasantly surprising delight that her architecture was surprisingly different to its Christian counterpart across the river. And the ‘every thing that you need to know’ is the fact that La Crescent, America’s Islamic African intersection on the map, simply had America’s, Africa’s and indeed the world’s best hamburgers. If I had a search-engine I would be able to find a website that proves that fact. La Crescent had two places to eat, one was called a ‘gas-station’ and the other was called a ‘pub’, though American’s would probably call it a ‘bar’.

Quite rightly the highlight of this day was Natalie, but in a very, very close second place was the burger that I ate in this cutsie gas-station diner. I could go into a long detailed description of the diner for you, but just put America, gas-station and diner in your head and I am sure you will have the right picture, they all look the same. I kind of ignorantly and hesitantly ordered a burger. My not so humble or personal opinion is that McDonalds is an insult and an assault to the culinary world. McDonalds is to the food world what ABBA is to the music world, both terrify me. So, resting my hands on a plastic flowery tablecloth whilst staring down the barrel of a plastic cup, I ordered a burger and quickly qualified it with the line of ‘well, when in Rome do as the Romans do’.

Within a few minutes, two burly chaps lumbered out with a huge ceramic dish which supported a huge bread bun, a ceremonial splash of green, an obligatory pickle and a complete cow that had been recently rounded up, squeezed through a meat grinder, shoved into a bowl with a poultry farm and a wheat field, mixed together, slapped on a grill and then into my oversized burger-bun. You may not realise, but I am exaggerating a little, however I kid you not that this burger was at least a metre round and the beef was so fresh that when I bit into it, the stinkin’ thing mooed. And the best thing was that because I was in a one-traffic-light town, no do-gooder had come along and tried to nancy it up with some lame attempt of a poncy foreign side-salad. Burger, fries and Route Beer, don’t mess with the combination. If this is American food, well then I claim the amendment that gives me the right to honorary citizenship. And from now on whenever I am forced to go to a McDonalds, I will know that it is not the real thing and I will be overly nice to the staff, knowing that they will be suffering being forced to work with the poor cousin of the real thing.

It is quite profound really that perhaps the best American food I have ever eaten, I ate in a gas-station in a northern African Midwestern one-horse town. Pop-psychologise that!

We returned to Madison in the dark, drove past a rather invitingly lit ski-field and generally just spent the trip digesting and buying pyjamas. I realise that previously I gave Madison a good rap for me, ’cause I liked the place, but if you live there you may be feeling a little bit tender after reading my descriptions. Madison does have some beautiful lakes in the centre. We went for a very quiet and peaceful walk out to the end of a peninsular. The lake was just starting to freeze and was quite beautiful. Due to the fact that seemingly outside of Colorado (thanks Sarah(154)) no one in America seems to exercise, we had the place mostly to ourselves. It was cold, it was wild and windy and all this just made it more beautiful.

I really, really liked insecure Madison, the capital of a state that was trying desperately hard to be noticed. Rest well Wisconsin; for what it worth, I noticed you. You ain’t Texas but you’re okay!!! And on that note, with some sadness our time in Wisconsin drew to close. In the morning we were scheduled to drive to Chicago, return Betsie and return to Europe.

Tune in next week for the second last chapter and Betsie’s homecoming..

For past chapters click here. Or look on the side panel.

You may have noticed some bracketed numbers in this chapter. These numbers correspond with explanations and definitions that are in an accompanying glossary. To read the glossary you will need to by the yet to be released book. Sorry!

Thank you so much for reading out for lunch. If you would like to contribute toward the running of out for lunch or donate money towards my writing projects, please click on the donate button. Thanks Kel.

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