We were dining at Ted’s Montana Grill this evening, celebrating our friend Gary’s birthday. Not to give anything away as regards his age, but he now can feel an especial kinship with a famous American highway, one that runs from Chicago to Los Angeles. (Oopsie.)
As we waited for our orders to be taken, I spied a small placard on the edge of the table. It was an advertisement for Ted’s new Bison Nachos, and it set my mouth to watering.
There was a photograph of a plate of nachos, heaped high with cheese, meat, and jalapeño slices and decorated with an artistically arranged splop of sour cream. Underneath the photograph, the text read as follows:
Introducing our new Bison Nachos. We smother a stack of freshly fried, yellow corn tortillas with our Signature Karen’s “Flying D” Bison Chili. Then we top it with grated Pepper Jack Cheese, vine-ripened tomatoes, shaved green onions, freshly sliced jalapeños and add a dollop of sour cream. We’re raising nachos to a whole new level.
Indeed, I thought. And then I remembered a summertime long ago — three decades ago, in fact — when She Who Must Be Obeyed and I learned a lesson about the Pernicious Power of the Nacho.
It was the summer of 1980, and we were visiting SWMBO’s parents, then resident in Beaumont, Texas. Her father had, two years prior, taken on a Serious Gig with the Beaumont school system and had moved the family there from Fort Worth. Neither SWMBO nor I cared much for Beaumont… I suspect her folks didn’t, either, but a Serious Gig is a Serious Gig.
Beaumont suffered from the same monotonous scenery and vile climate as Houston, but without the cultural amenities. It did, however, have its redeeming qualities. It had Sartin’s, then located in Sabine Pass. Sartin’s was one of those all-you-can-eat treif seafood places where, in 1980, you could stuff yourself into a Food-Stupor for about a sawbuck; what made it exceptional, though, was the quality and variety of the food there. Shrimp, oysters, fish — those were expected. But they had frog legs, too, in a delicious breaded coating. They tasted like chicken… provided chicken could be raised in a swamp. And, best of all, they had barbecued crab, really nothing more than thin-shelled blue crabs that had been dredged in Sexton’s crab seasoning and dropped into boiling oil until cooked through. You would go to Sartin’s, park yourself at a picnic table, grab a roll of paper towels, and then eat to a fare-thee-well.
(Sartin’s is in Nederland, Texas now. Whether they are still as good as they were in 1980 is anyone’s guess, but their prices have, alas, gone up along with everything else.)
But we were talking about Beaumont. Beaumont not only had Sartin’s… it also had Unlimited Nachos.
It seems that one of the amenities in the In-Laws’ wonderful new home was a built-in microwave oven, an appliance that we ourselves did not yet own at the time. And we discovered that one of the special talents of a microwave oven is its ability to convert a handful of tortilla chips and a pile of shredded cheese into a heap of hot nachos. Even better, the process (excluding assembly) took a mere 45 seconds.
Cheese nachos. Bean-and-cheese nachos. We cranked ’em out by the plateload, limited only by how fast we could pile a plate with chips, bury them with shredded cheese, slice up and deal out the jalapeños, and mash the “start” button. And Gawd, were they yummy.
Within the space of a single week — the duration of our visit — both SWMBO and I had each gained ten pounds. Ten. Fricking. Pounds.
And so, as the image of Nacho Nirvana summoned up memories of limitless microwave nachos… and the ass-fat they gifted us with… I turned my gaze aside. Just in time for our server to arrive.
“I’ll have the grilled salad,” I told her.