I have a friend who has given up smoking and drinking and is currently trying to lose 20 pounds.
Naturally when we made lunch plans, I played bad influence, suggesting Sweet Teas southern cuisine because no one needs to give up all their vices.
This is a friend as devoted to southern food as I am, a guy who spent the drive over reminiscing about Johnson's Soul Food, a place that kept the Bottom in biscuits and fried chicken for years.
He was skeptical right up until we walked into Sweet Tea's and he saw the cake stands on the counter, the table of firemen and smelled the fried chicken cooking.
Since it was my fourth time there, I took the lead, telling our cheerful server we wanted to begin with an order of their hand-battered onion rings.
My friend was having a hard time choosing an entree and told our server he wanted to taste the rings before making up his mind.
In the meantime, he trolled the counter to check out the dessert offerings, returning to advise, "We're going to need a slice of that chocolate cake."
Something to look forward to.
With a window-side table view of the drizzle and people with umbrellas scurrying by, we dove into the bowl of crispy onion rings, his dipped in housemade horseradish remoulade while I went classic with ketchup.
When our server came over to check on us, I forced his hand by ordering chicken and waffles so he'd have to make up his mind.
Instead, he just parroted what I'd said, clarifying that we each wanted our own.
In the time it took for our chicken to be fried, he told me about some of the lunch spots he'd taken some fellow lawyers to, the kind of places that made suburban men uncomfortable and the kind of places with food too good to pass up because of dated prejudices.
Our Belgian waffles arrived with two enormous chicken wings on each and my friend looked at me, questioning whether these were chicken or turkey wings, which were also on the menu.
After applying massive amounts of butter to each dimple of my waffle, I bathed it in a sea of syrup and began eating my chicken with my fingers.
No amount of napkins is sufficient with this meal.
I looked over at Friend, who was grinning ear to ear and already had a trail of chicken skin crumbles down the front of his shirt.
As it turned out, I finished all of my chicken and 3/4 of my waffle while he finished neither.
You'd think I'd feel some feminine shame about out-eating a man who outweighs me by 60+ pounds, but not so much.
The bad news for both of us was, though, there was absolutely no room for that chocolate cake we had promised ourselves.
He was already considering taking the rest of the afternoon off to "get stuff done," which I took as code for "take a nap on a gray day," since he'd already mentioned how difficult he'd found it to get out of bed on rainy days like this.
Can't relate. I'd bounded out of bed this morning when I awoke to the sound of rain, eager to get out and take a walk in it.
I'd wound up walking all the way to Mongrel in Carytown, enjoying the precipitation every step of the way.
Saying goodbye when he dropped me off, he preemptively said, "To answer your question, I'm not going back to the office."
Pshaw. No more surprised about that than that you ate yourself silly at Sweet Teas.
The way I see it, a friend's gotta have at least one vice or they're not worth hanging out with.
Come to the dark side...we have fryers.