Monday, September 22, 2008

Road Kill

This was a term that I was unfamiliar with, until I came to the United States. Sad mangled carcasses of squirrels, chipmunks, the occasional deer shoved to the side of the road or highway- all these constituted the casual casualties of automotive traffic colliding with the wilderness that the roads supplanted.

We even stopped, for the lack of a standard eatery, at the Roadkill Cafe on 'Historic Route 66' , en route to the Grand Canyon, last month. Their motto:"You kill it, we grill it", inspiring visions of burly rednecks bringing in the carcass of their last encounter with a three-point buck on Route 66, ready to be dressed, roasted and served on a platter to a side of fries and ice-cold beer to wash it all down. But what in the world could a group of predominantly vegetarian customers find in the Mecca of Ribs and Wings?

The menu was eye-popping in its nomenclature - a sampler below:
Crispy Toad
Splatter Platter

Swirl of Squirrel

Fender Tenders

We turned hurriedly to the next page, scanning through all the gag-inducing names till we found 'French fries', 'Rice pilaf', 'House salad' and other innocuities. After checking with the waitress to make sure none of these had meat in them( she did threaten that the salad might have bacon bits in it, unless the cook could confirm otherwise), we placed our orders and examined the one menu card that got left behind at our leisure.

Which is when we discovered that the Crispy Toad was just Jalapeno poppers (deep fried hot peppers with a breaded batter and cheesy filling), Splatter platter was another name for ketchup and assorted deep-fried veggies. We could have actually ordered those, had we not been put off by the names!

So much for the Roadkill quality of the food! We had a hearty laugh out of this dining experience- the food was good, despite the shock we received when reading their names off the menu card.

Which brings me back to a sort of philosophical question that I pondered along with M while driving to the library a few days ago. A red squirrel lay flattened in my path as I drove down the hill.
M : "Poor squirrel!"
Me: " It must have hurt when it died, but right now it doesn't mean anything to it. It's just the body of the squirrel lying there. What do you think happened to the spirit?"
M: "It's gone to heaven. I think the squirrel's at some place where it gets plenty of acorns, even golden ones!"
Me: "But consider, there's no body to feed. Why would the squirrel have a need for acorns once it has no more body and is just a spirit?"

And we stopped it there, because we had arrived at our destination. Is there a squirrel heaven, what would it be like...these are questions to think about for another day, I guess.


ContentedSoul said...


Commenting on your blog for the first time!

Your squirrel story reminded me of the squirrel in Ice Age and Ice Age 2, who is desperately after an acorn, and somehow always misses it. They even have a scene where it reaches "heaven" and finds lots & lots of golden acorns. Have you seen those movies? If not, you definitely should.

And yes, I've also come across restaurants which "spice up their menus" (pun intended!) to follow a particular theme or to make the names more interesting. While it makes for good fun to read some of those names, I wonder if the restaurants may be hurting themselves in the long run, 'cos many customers may not identify with their favorite dishes due to the new names or may misinterpret what the dish is (like what happened to you).

Enjoyed reading your blog...will visit again.

Sujatha said...

Ah, Ice Age- that would explain the golden acorn reference. M has seen the movie on TV a gazillion times by now. She's currently watching a green acorn (picked up on one of my morning walks around the neighborhood) turn brown as it dries out. No hint of gold, sadly enough. Though we did muse over whether a squirrel would assign any value to gold, as we humans do.
As for misinterpreting names, I think another fun thing to do is to take up a Chinese menu and try to figure out what it means from the names. They might induce gales of laughter rather than comprehension. French menus on the other hand, merely are ever so snooty, making even something as simple as beans and cheese sound suspiciously elitist 'haricots verts aux fromage'

Glad you enjoyed reading, congratulations on your new blog- will definitely stop by to check it out.