In Seattle recently, my two brothers and I stopped by Dick's hamburger joint right after downing a bunch of oysters at The Walrus and The Carpenter.
Dick's is a traditional favorite of Seattleites. As we received our order, my brother Kevin said something to the effect of, "I hope you're not expecting a good hamburger."
Dick's hamburger, though much beloved, is solidly mediocre, with soggy, kind of tasteless beef, gloppy condiments, fall apart bun, low-flavor condiments, a commodity product all the way…and yet much beloved in this hipster kingdom by the sea.
On Mardi Gras night at Shaw's last Tuesday, we had the usual spectacular oysters, meaty crab cakes and…craw daddies. Though no son of the South, I do like much southern cooking. Craw daddies, though, I can't get seem to get my mouth around. Shaw's did a fine job of seasoning the little guys, but they seemed to require an awful lot of work for very little reward. I sucked the heads, just as I was told to, then I twisted and twirled the body to release the tiny sliver of meat inside the shell. The limp, grey meat had about as much flavor as the spicing added to it, no more, no less. I'm sure Shaw's did as good a job as possible with the craw daddies, but there just was not much there.
My amazement at people's love of White Castle and Girl Scout cookies need not be reiterated here, but I think that such foods fall into the category of stuff people had as kids, foods they're fond of because they played a role in their biography, but foods that are, alas, sad.
I admit that I, too, like some things that many would find appalling. Banquet chicken pot pies, for instance, stir very pleasant memories for me. If Carolyn were ever to serve such a thing (which she wouldn't), I'd gladly eat one. It's food I like because I grew up with it, it reminds me of innocent youth, it's comfort food though it is not, alas, very good food.