American cuisine is dead

Vegan Tamale

I have been in the US for four days now and I’m finding it very hard to eat anything. Let me explain. I arrived in Las Vegas on 2nd October and stayed at the Double Tree by the airport ready for a quick trip to the Grand Canyon the next day. I decided on room service (a hideous error I know) and had a chicken Caesar wrap so vast and revolting I was dumbfounded. The chicken tasted like a gel bra insert that had been briefly grilled.

Then I hit the road and every single stop was Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, Burger King, or Subway. Nothing else. I would stop every hundred miles across Arizona and almost resorted to beef jerky but thought I’d wait for my nice hotel.

Sadly, the Bright Angel Lodge was a disaster as I couldn’t eat there as every time I tried I was told it was a 45-minute wait. Next morning I left for Monument Valley and sustained with a Snickers I avoided the endless Egg McMuffins on offer and made it to The View Hotel where I feasted on very good Quesadillas for supper. Huge, rather sickly but actual food. So far I’d eaten two meals in three days so pressed on to Albuquerque and ended up in a sushi bar for supper. Bliss. Fresh crunchy ginger, salad and green tea. At last, I’d had a good meal, in America, albeit a Japanese one.

The next day I had an astonishingly good and messy pork and bean burrito at the Balloon Fiesta but as I felt it congeal in my insides I thought about the other food on offer. Most of it fried and huge. I watched people eating deep fried turkey drumsticks, churros with powdered sugar and chocolate sauce not to mention varieties of fried cheese served on crisps (chips to Americans). The smallest drink size was a pint the largest about the capacity of a hot air balloon at 100,000 cu ft.

On Sunday I explored the Railyards Market and had a Vegan Tamale for breakfast hitch was fresh and delicious and in the evening another sushi restaurant, desperate to avoid anything fried. For lunch I went to the Church Street Cafe in Albuquerque hoping for new, Mexican cuisine what I got was old New Mexican cuisine. Cheese beans, beans, cheese plus suspect meat. Tasty but as satisfying as Benny Hill. Good for a few minutes but you’d rather not make a night of it.

Hipster beer in a Kilner jar

On the way back to Vegas I stopped in Flagstaff and stayed in the Weatherford hotel that was built in 1896 which they thought was historic. No, just a fairly old hotel and nothing special. I ate at a southern BBQ place and asked for the smallest amount food I could get. Six brontosaurus ribs arrived surrounded by a couple of pounds of fried okra. Why fried !!!!! Still delicious but two ribs would have been enough. I asked for a beer and was presented with a Kilner jar full of beer. I know Flagstaff is trying to be achingly hipster but why? In fact, the whole town thinks it is a junior Seattle as I discovered when I tried to buy a coffee and was asked if I wanted a cold pressed, aerochinno, steel press infusion or a slow drip, mountain water, deep steep or some equally stupid offering. All I wanted was an espresso with hot milk. No chance and no Starbucks either. Still, Flagstaff is a pleasant place to break a 700-mile drive.

Eventually, I made it to Vegas and checked into the Bellagio. That will be the subject of another post but I went to Cafe Bellagio for a sandwich. I had a Bloody Mary which was excellent and a turkey club with Parmesan fries that wasn’t. The food tasted like room service food served at a table. Is it just me but does room service food tastes like the air in an aeroplane lavatory, slightly recycled and containing dubious ingredients? The sandwich was so dull even the hickory smoked bacon was drowned out by the blandness of the turkey. Everything was just limp. I didn’t care but at $23 it wasn’t worth it.

For dinner, I went to Yellowtail and had a well-grilled aubergine with miso paste and a good-ish sushi. Not up to Albuquerque standards but what is.

So, in conclusion, the food in America was a huge disappointment. The Mexican and Native American food suffered from a belief that there is no such thing as too much cheese or too many beans. That is true in the depths of winter but when the thermometer is touching 90 degrees it isn’t. The traditional American food was just revolting either poorly prepared or fried. We make jokes about deep fried Mars bars but in the South West, they would deep fry anything from auto parts to roadkill.

So I’m flying home dreaming of fresh vegetables, salad and a simple roast chicken. It’s a sad day when a Brit dreams about good fresh vegetables. So farewell USA, I won a few dollars in Vegas and lost a few pounds along the way.


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