Today’s Special: Corn Dogs

Months ago, when I contemplated living in Montgomery, I worried about the food I’d find.  Or not find.  Olive oil, good bread, Italian sausage, just to name three items on my worry list.

The good news is that I don’t feel deprived.  The produce is fine, and varied.  Between Publix and Fresh Market, one can find most things one might crave.  Within reason, of course.  You can get “fresh” mozzarella, but it’s the kind of fresh you get in Costco, not the fresh you get in Pastosa.  In other words, it wasn’t made this morning and kept until an hour ago in its watery birthing waters.  But, hey, at least I’m not in Minnesota, where my nephew and his wife report the food outlook is grim.

Speaking of Pastosa, I wouldn’t mind some of those grilled artichokes, or the roasted olives, or the stuffed manicotti. 

On the other hand, the South has its own comfort food.  It’s fat.  In the form of bacon, cheese, mayo, butter.  And its in just about everything. 

One of the best places to experience this is during lunch at the Commerce Cafeteria, also know as the Montgomery Catering Company.   The lunchroom is in the Alabama State Commerce Building, conveniently located right across the street from my office.  Other places for lunch are at least three blocks distant, so this one is the default lunch stop.

There’s a sandwich and salad counter,  a grill counter, a hot food table, and two soups daily.  Brunetta presides over the sandwiches and salads, and apparently prepares many of the special salads too.  On Friday I succumbed to her crunchy/crispy chicken salad–chicken salad with a mayo dressing and cheddar cheese mixed in, served with strips of bacon lying on top.  I went for the lean version and asked for it on top of salad greens.  Other people have it as a sandwich, often grilled so that the cheese melts and binds it together more firmly.

On Fridays, the hot table has deep-fried catfish, which is hard to resist, especially with that tartar sauce they serve with it.  The catfish comes with hush puppies and two sides.  So I got greens–cooked with bacon, of course–and fried okra.

Yesterday, the grill featured corn dogs.  There are depths to which I will not stoop.

Sometimes I long for variety and accompany colleagues to one of the many handful of lunch places downtown.  These are, literally, lunch places.  They are not open for dinner, and few are open for breakfast.  Since Montgomery begins eating lunch at 11:30 and finishes by 1:00, I have yet to figure out how these places make any money.

One, called Mama’s Sack Lunches, offers sandwiches either “sacked” or not.   Sacked brings them in a paper bag with a bag of chips.   By sandwiches, we’re not talking NYC choices:  no Le Pain Quotidien, or Cafe Europa or even, alas, Pax.  No buffalo or santa fe chicken wraps.  No fresh mozz with vine ripened tomatoes and basil on a half french loaf.  No grilled veggies on ciabiatta bread. 

No, Montgomery sandwiches are exotic if they include smoked turkey.  In fact, they remind me of the plain sandwiches my mother made when I was in 5th grade.  For some reason, I think of all circa-1965 sandwiches as plain like these.  Most Montgomery lunch places offer a choice of bread — white, wheat, even sour dough.  Excited by the prospect of a taste of San Francisco, I ordered a smoked turkey and cheese sandwich on sour dough.  What appeared was a perfectly square sandwich on soft bread that looked very white.  Who knew Wonder made sour dough?

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3 Responses

  1. Should I presume that Weight Watchers does a good business in your neck of the woods?

  2. If you don’t start bagging your own lunch soon, Maureen…you are going to be sorry. That fried chicken salad sounds great…and you can feel nearly virtuous eating it, I’ll bet, compared with everything else.

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