Scrap heap

Nov 15, 2004

Erin and I and the girls went to the Q Shack for dinner tonight. I eat at the Raleigh shack (across the street from N.C. State) every other week, but this was our first visit to the shack at the mall near our home. I’m a big fan of North Carolina’s barbecue, and I especially like the pork and chicken at the Q, so tonight was my night to prove to Erin – who is not to hot on ‘cue – that this was good stuff.

We get to the shack around 7. Malia is squawking in my ear, and about to start her loud whine to tell me she wants only to be at home in the bathtub, the place that makes her happiest. As Erin pays, I take Malia and one plate of food to a corner table, drop the plate and walk to another corner to retrieve a highchair. I get back, seat Malia and take a seat myself. By this time, Anna’s joined me at the table, and Erin’s dropped the other plates of food and gone to yet another corner of the store to retrieve forks and drinks.

As Malia becomes louder and Anna’s reaching over to snatch fries off my plate, I become aware that Erin’s in some sort of confrontation over in her corner with a tall, older man. Erin gestures to me, and I think there’s some disagreement over the cold pint of beer that’s just been placed in my hand. I don’t drink the beer though I very much want to. It’s minutes more before Erin returns with forks, and the stress level at our table is palpable.

Erin reports that, in the brief moment I was getting the highchair and she was paying, Anna sat down and started to eat french fries – but at someone else’s empty table with inviting food. This guy was demanding a new plate of food, which Erin offered to pay for but the store manager picked up. Anna felt quite bad for her mistake. Our meal was anything but peaceful. Before we leave, Erin talks to the new-plate guy, who apologizes for over-reacting. He’d been told by someone at another table that Anna had eaten at his plate while he and his wife were getting their drinks.

All of this would have been a minor incident but for a greater reality best exemplified by, of all things, that reality tv show Survivor: Vanuatu. In Thursday’s episode, two women earned a volcano-top picnic of champagne and Buffalo chicken wings1. When they returned from their helicopter jaunt, the two shared leftovers with the other women contestants, and then gave the three remaining men the bones of the feast, not letting on that the women had saliva-free snacks. The men savored the scraps nonetheless.

In May, when I was visiting the Dominican Republic with my dad and Dot, we stopped at a roadside bar for a plate lunch of rice, beans and a peppery pork, and the requisite loud-loud merengue. There were two slim kids hanging around, and a skinny dog. When I was through eating, I still had half a plate of food. I slid the plate to the woman across the bar, and she matter-of-factly slid the plate to the kids at the end of the bar. They relished the food, of course.
fn1. My friends Bridget McGuinness and Dennis Schaefer have a connection to the creation of Buffalo chicken wings: Dennis’s dad was a salesman supplying hot sauce to loal bars and restaurants, including the Anchor Bar; he suggested blue cheese would be a good accompaniment. The rest is culinary history.

Anton Zuiker

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