My Shameless and Ongoing Quest to Eat Lunch at the Pioneer Woman’s House

I wrote this review last year after a trip to the Pioneer Woman’s Mercantile on the Merc’s Facebook page. The nice lady, Morgan, who manages her facebook page seemed to really like it. She said “Jon—this may be the greatest thing I’ve ever read. Your review of The Merc is honest, detailed, and of course positive (yay!). I emailed this to Ree. I want to make sure she and Ladd both read this.”

I may have read too much into that but I assumed it meant I was the godfather of their children. At the very least I thought there’d be a lunch on the ranch in it for me. Alas, a year has passed and I’m still hungry (although, full disclosure, I just polished off a biscuit, chicken, and 2 orders of eggs at Chick Fil A.) But you know what they say, “If you believe in yourself, and want something bad enough, it will happen.” However, “They” are idiots. I’ll never play goalie for the Preds, become a taster for Chick Fil A, or be a designer for Nerf and I have wanted that stuff like crazy!. 

But Ree, Pioneer Lady, Wife of Ladd, for all the dreamers out there, let’s make this happen. I’ll keep my elbows off the table. I’ll rustle cattle. Although I’ll have to do it on foot. I don’t think you have a horse up for that challenge.

Wow! Reading back over this I come across a little, no, a lot needy. Nevermind. I can’t show my face at your house now. Let’s compromise with an autograph. Can I have it in gravy on one of those fried pork chops please? 

Let’s get something straight. I’m a man’s man. I think I rank around number 7 on the list of all-time manliest men in the world. I’m right behind John Wayne and Chuck Norris and just in front of Clint Eastwood and Rocky. You’ve never heard of the top 4 men because they live alone on top of various mountains and refuse to bathe. It’s important for us to establish my masculinity for you to truly appreciate this trip. I took a little ribbing when I planned what has been lovingly called a “Ladycation.” It was a trip to a couple of destinations that are owned by women with shows on cable channels. But I love my wife so I figured just this one time, I could handle a trip whose destination wasn’t a knife store, beef jerky proprietor, or restaurant that gives you your meal for free if you finish the 14 pound steak they lay out for you.

Our second stop on the Petticoat Parkway was Ree Drummond’s Mercantile. We have been fans of the Pioneer Woman for years. She cooks delicious food that is fairly easy to recreate at home. It’s not fussy. It’s not diet. It doesn’t even consist of expensive ingredients. The beauty of her show is the little hints she gives you that make huge differences. Such as, “Get the skillet really hot before you throw in the two sticks of butter to cook your steak.” Those quotation marks don’t really mean she actually said that, but that woman ain’t afraid of a stick of butter. She has that unique ability to make you think you are her best friend, although her actual best friend is way cooler than you. (Her best friend is Hyacinth by the way. And now as I think about it, knowing that little tidbit probably doesn’t reinforce my manly factor.)

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I had a feeling “the Merc” as she calls it, was going to be an estrogen filled tourist trap of Gilmore Girl proportions. The drive to Pawhuska from Tulsa where we were staying is awesome. It’s impossible not to feel like you’re an early settler who could be attacked by bandits at any moment as you make the drive through the rugged hills.…in a good way. We arrived at about 9 on a Tuesday and I was shocked to see that Ree and Ladd (her husband and probably my future best friend) had apparently purchased land all around the downtown area to offer FREE parking. Everyone knows the first rule of running a good tourist trap is to hit people with 8 bucks for parking. The beauty of charging huge parking costs is that no-one needs to know you own the parking lot. You can just pretend like someone else is gouging them. Not the Drummonds.

After 18 selfies of us in front of the cool corner sign on the Merc to make our friends ultra jealous, we made our way in this neat building. Granted I’m a sucker for old multistory downtown buildings, but this place is really, really cool. Inside there was tons of kitchen stuff, jewelry, and all the little accoutrements that you would expect at the Pioneer Woman’s place. And let me take this opportunity to apologize for correctly using the word “accoutrements.” One section had these shirts that Ree always wears. I saw those shirts and began to notice EVERY CUSTOMER IN THE STORE WAS WEARING THESE THINGS. The next thing I noticed was EVERY CUSTOMER IN THE STORE BESIDES ME WAS A 40 YEAR OLD WOMAN. That’s an exaggeration. Some of the women were older. But just as I began to feel a little awkward I found the man section. Ree had a case (I wish there were a better word) of Case knives. She also had these really cool leather cased journals that look like you would carry them in your saddle bag on the side of your horse named “Hammer.” She also had a really cool toy section.

But let’s get to the food.

They were serving breakfast in the dining part, but we wanted lunch so we walked upstairs to the bakery, and now that I type that, it sounds odd to say “We didn’t want to eat so we just got a Danish and waited for lunch.” Holy mackerel it was cool. I had the best Danish I’ve ever had. You can walk around to a window and watch about 4 people making the stuff in the back. Ree, I apologize for the nose mark I left on your glass, but that girl started rolling up those cinnamon rolls and I was in a trance. There are two crazy things in this area. One is they don’t sell you water. They just have beautiful jugs full of it with cups there for you to serve yourself. It’s full of this crushed ice they have which makes it almost frozen. And it’s FREE! It’s right beside this metallic looking plastic silverware they give you for your danish that is higher quality than the best stuff we have at my house! They also sell candy in the bakery. It looks like the counter where Laura Ingalls used to buy a peppermint stick for nickel. AND THE PRICES HAVEN’T CHANGED MUCH AT THE MERC! I bought this little awesome bag of watermelon Jelly Belly jellybeans and it cost 2 bucks. Seriously? That’s cheaper than I can get them in bulk. I could’ve brought them home and sold them and made money! We enjoyed our breakfast on the huge leather comfy couches that litter the room with their delightful smell and rugged feel.

Okay, skip this paragraph if you are not prepared to get nitty gritty with me. In a tourist trap the bathrooms are literally port-a-potties, with rolls of toilet paper the size of bus tires that, coincidentally have the softness and absorbance of bus tires as well. I entered the bathroom in the bakery and was greeted by the warmth and love of the most delicious candle that has ever been dipped. The bathroom stalls are private and spacious. Now to the grit, I don’t pay top dollar for everything but I refuse to skimp on two things: salsa and toilet paper (which may be related in some horrible way.) I often wonder if Donald Trump has access to better toilet paper than I. I considered running for president just to find out if there is something better out there. But I’m saying, I buy the good stuff! Listen to me as I tell you this: Ree Drummond buys MY paper for her customers! Ree, why? I’m not trying to be crass. I’m telling you this little detail is a snapshot of what is going on here. I think Ree is really wanting you to enjoy your time with her more than she wants your money. It’s incredibly refreshing. And honestly, I’m not even sure if I’m talking about Ree’s attitude or the toilet paper now. They’re interchangeable…in a good way.

We got in line at 10 for lunch. They start serving at 10:30. But can I tell you something crazy? Waiting in that line was probably our favorite thing! Janet Lightfoot is the line tender. She is awesome. She knows waaaaay too much about Pawhuska. And by “too much” I mean exactly enough. She was hoot. And then we got lunch. We started with nachos. It’s like this. Chips. Delicious chili. Chips. Delicious chili. Chips. Delicious chili. Delicious chili. All the cheese in Oklahoma. Chili. Good stuff. More good stuff. Sour cream. Crazy Good. Then we had the pork chops and chicken fried steak. I don’t have time to tell you how incredibly delicious this was. And it was cheaper than a restaurant half as good with half the portions.

So listen, if this trip cost me my man-card so be it. I got a manly journal book and gained the greatest 5 pounds of my life and most of all got a text from my wife yesterday saying I am the best husband ever. So keep polishing those man cards, dudes. I’m busy planning our next trip. Thanks Ree Drummond. By the way do those cool shirts you wear come in men’s?

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Approximately 8 Reasons CPAP Machines are Barely Better Than Never Sleeping Again

Sure, being middle aged and out of shape has its advantages but there are some pretty lousy things about it too. For instance, going to bed one night with perfect vision and waking up the next morning needing bifocals kind of stinks. So does standing on your tippy toes to reach your favorite popcorn bowl and completely wrecking the arches on your feet so bad you have to crawl to the living room to watch your nightly 6 hours of Netflix.

Those things are pretty depressing, but none of them compares to having to use the CPAP machine. “CPAP” stands for “Craziest contraPtion Anyone ever Put on his head.”

If you’re unfamiliar with how a CPAP works let me explain it to you. You strap this Darth Vader style mask to you cranium with 17 wildly uncomfortable straps, taking great care to line the nosepiece up with your nostrils so the 9000 mile per hour wind can blow your lungs up to the size of three Good Year Blimps. Now, lay down. After 4 days without a wink of sleep based on the fact that air is now escaping out of every possible cranny in your body you will finally pass out at around 3 a.m. on day 5 from pure exhaustion. Sure, it’s not real sleep and you wake up more tired than when you went to bed, but the fact you survived the equivalent an internal F-5 tornado makes you feel more alive than ever.

Like I said, the mask basically sounds like Darth Vader. And I’m not talking about the “Empire Strikes Back Vader” in his prime. You sound like your wearing that mask Kylo Ren snatched off the funeral pyre with all the air holes all melted together and stopped up.5625baf8dd0895bd698b471b-750-307

The good news is lots of ladies love this look on a man. And by “lots of ladies” I mean Maranda Tate, also known as Talia al Ghul from Batman, who is the only person on earth who loves the hideous character known as Bane who wears a dreadfully large and obnoxious CPAP mask. This poor guy almost destroyed the world and killed Batman all because of his brave struggle with sleep apnea.8589130429320-bane-batman-mask-wallpaper-hd

Even if your wife were willing to give you a goodnight kiss it’s physically impossible because you’re wearing a Chrysler on your face. The good news is a kiss isn’t realistic anyway due to the fact she despises you and your CPAP base that sits on the nightstand which has two settings: ear piercing teapot or den of hissing cobras. It’s basically a white noise machine…if you’re a reptile who builds slide whistles for a living.

Traveling with a CPAP is exciting. Try going though airport security with black bag containing a dynamite shaped box with 19 miles of wires and tubing coming out of it from every angle. Unfailingly every trip ends with the guard saying “Sir, we are going to need you to put this on and plug it in to prove it’s an actual CPAP machine…that, and also we are trying to win America’s Funniest Home Videos and we’re pretty sure you’re going to lock that up for us when we get a vid of you in that ridiculous thing.”

One night I had a dream my wife was suffocating me with a pillow. I woke up just before death realizing the power was out and my CPAP had quit working. Another time I had the same dream but when I woke up I realized she actually was trying to smother me because the nose piece had slipped out of place and she was about to lose her mind. 12 similar cases of wives murdering CPAP husbands have gone to trial and each of them have been ruled justifiable homicide. One of the women got the congressional medal of honor for it, which I think kin of sent the wrong message.

Another time the hose got wrapped around my neck and the very thing giving me sweet life almost killed me. Which is basically the relationship I have with French Onion Dip.

I guess what I’m saying is the CPAP machine is a classic example of a give and take relationship. It gives you a little restless sleep with less snoring and it takes all your happiness away. I guess that’s a fair trade. As my dad always says, “Eat the plum and spit out the seed.” Actually I have no idea what that means but in his defense, Dad also has a CPAP and is tired most of the time too.

Let Your Kids FAIL

If we allowed our kids to fail in safe spaces, your flying car would be reading this to you right now while you cruised carefree around Jupiter. It pains me to think of where humankind might be if we allowed kids the opportunity to feel the sweet pain of coming up short.

If Thomas Edison had been born in 2007 instead of 1847 I’m so afraid on his 45th try at the incandescent bulb his mom would’ve said, “Tommy, you’re so smart. It’s my fault we can’t afford the platinum you need for that bulb. Not to mention the neighbor’s dog barks all night and you can’t be expected to concentrate with all that going on. Let’s just call it good, Sweetheart. You’re so smart. Let me snap a quick pic for Instagram. Go have a Go-Gurt.”

If I could communicate one thing with parents of young kids it would be this: Adolescence is designed to be a safe place to learn through successes, failures and everything in between.

This is what I’m talking about. I just sat down to lunch after leading 200 fourth graders in a time of games in a gym. Yes, I’m tired and I smell like a foot.

One of the games we played was “AHHHHHHHHHH.” I’m terrible at naming games. You play it by taking a deep breath at the baseline of a basketball court, then run as fast as you can while screaming. When you run out of breath and stop screaming, you stop running. Kids take turns trying to make it further than the last kid. If I didn’t already have a game called Zombie Apocalypse that would probably be a fitting name since it sounds like you are running for your life from a horde of undead.

The kid who started the game reminded me of the 4th grader I wanted to be when I was 11. He was obviously an athlete. He had a little swagger. I don’t think he would’ve been my friend when I was in the fourth grade. Don’t hold that against him though. I don’t like my Fourth Grade self much either. Anyway, I apparently explained the game poorly and the kid took off and only made it a few steps before he stopped screaming, and grabbed a quick breath. I said, “Whoa, you are back here. Come mark your spot.”

A nearby adult was visibly annoyed and said, “Hey, I don’t think he understood the rules. It’s not really fair for him be penalized for that, do you think?” And with that came the demise of the United States of America. We are terrified to let our kids fail, especially if something was not completely fair.

If you haven’t realized this already I hate that you have to hear it from me but, life is not remotely fair. My metabolism alone is proof of that. I can eat a 1/16 ounce jelly bean and gain 8 pounds somehow.

So God gave us adolescence so we could learn from safely failing. Sure, Yoda gets credit for saying “The greatest teacher, failure is.” But I like the way Solomon says it in Proverbs 24:16, “…the righteous falls seven times and rises again.” (ESV)

I’m the softy at my house. I try to bail my daughter out of difficult situations such as, “‘Hey Dad, we are out of little trash bags.” You will never hear, “Hey Mom, we are out of little trash bags,” because my daughter knows her mother will say, “Hey Sweetie, problem solve.” Tim Gunn gets credit for the phrase “Make it work” but I’m pretty sure he stole it from my wife. Any tenacity my daughter possesses is purely because her mom is strong and wise. Don’t get me wrong, she may line the trash can with one of my t-shirts, but it’s a safe failure.

So come on parents, don’t fear the fail. Let them work out small problems through failing. That tiny bitter taste of failing makes the sweet flavor of victory even sweeter. I really want one of those flying cars before I’m 80.

Extra Extra Extra Large

Breaking News: I just moved down a shirt size. But let’s keep it real. Before we bust out the party hats and put me in a commercial with Oprah, I am now in a 2XL. Yes, it’s better. No, it’s not time to celebrate.

Oh and also, this shirt fits pretty ok when I’m standing up, but after lunch when I got into my car I noticed each button was straining his guts out with gaping expanses of t-shirt showing between him and every one of his buddies. So I guess I should say I’m kind of wearing a 2XL. It’s not comfortable for me or the shirt. If one of the threads holding these buttons gives way I’m going to need a new windshield. Also belly is going to come spilling out of the ensuing hole like inmates breaking out of a manhole at Arkham Asylum.

“2XL” is a peculiar way to describe a size isn’t it? It’s actually kind of rude. I get calling something “small” and “medium,” but don’t you think it’s a little mean to say, “Oooh, you’re LARGE?” It’s an awful word. It’s like a tub of lard married a massive barge and had a kid. “LLLAARRGGEE.” No doubt some “Small” guy came up with this system.

Large is nothing though. I’m struggling to be “extra EXTRA large.” Clothing sizes are the only thing we describe like this. Nobody says, “Oh Mr. DaVinci. That Mona Lisa is extra EXTRA beautiful.” The whole world is extra extra extra concerned about offending people, but they have no problem whipping out the adverbs when it comes to how large I am.

Ladies sizes are a little better. Men’s sizes are the actual number of inches their belly is. Well…they are the actual waist size. Belly is a whole different zone. But did you know that a lady can be a size 0? This is a size. ZERO. I have no idea how that works. I visualize a lady going in store and asking the worker where the 0 section is and the worker then leads the lady to a completely empty shelf and says, “Isn’t this spring line absolutely adorbs!?”

This problem of hurtful size names is fixable. I have some ideas if you’re interested.

I think we can keep small and medium. Then let’s change “large” to “average when you were in the 9th grade.” Man, that was a good year for me. This is too wordy. Let me lay it out.

  • Infant
  • Eat a Biscuit for Goodness’ Sake
  • Small
  • Medium
  • Average 9th Grader (replacing large)
  • Solid (replacing extra large)
  • Super (replacing extra extra large) (“super size” is easy to remember because that’s the way we get our McDonald’s combos)
  • Comfy (replacing extra extra extra large) (I admit this title is selfish, since that’s already what I call 3X shirts.)

But seriously, to my “super” “comfy” friends, hang in there. I understand the struggle. I started writing this before Christmas. I have been getting up at 4:13 three times a week to work out. I never missed a workout until I fell in a terribly ugly snowboard incident last week. It was actually a sled I was using as a snowboard. But it was ugly. The dent I left in the snow looked like a jack-knifed tractor trailer incident on I-40.

But even though I had been working out all the way through the holidays I have moved back towards size comfy before I could finish this blog. It is a struggle. And it doesn’t help that 7/8 of the skinny people in the world give you advice. Some of you reading this were already getting your comments together, weren’t you? Please understand, skinny friends, I love your heart. I just hate your abs.

People make changes in their lives when they decide it is time. And then they struggle. I’m not just talking about our physical fitness here. The changes you need to make in your spiritual life are waiting too. Habits, addictions, and omissions in your Christian walk, all obey you. Make up your mind to do it and then, struggle. Sure some people can just put down that last can of beer, but most people struggle. Struggling is not losing.

So hang in there comfy friends. When you are ready I will be cheering you on with my chubby little hand waiting for you to fist bump it when you are ready to replace the #1 Chick Fil A combo+a side of nuggets and 2 CFA sauces and 4 Honey Roasted BBQ’s with a soul crushing salad. Oh man, how long til cheat day? STRUGGLE!!

 

What I Read in My Dad’s Private Prayer Journal That Changed Me

I was 15 in 1988, which was a really cool time to be 15. It’s the year Kirk Gibson, who had been injured in the NLCS, pinch-hit the walk-off home run in game one of the World Series and was barely able to make it around the bases with two injured legs. The NBA champs were the Lakers, who had a team full of guys who were so colorful they were known by one name like, Kareem, Magic, and Kurt. Well, maybe Kurt was better known for his wreck-specs but I loved him. Gritty, uncoordinated, not too good looking, and well versed at giving up the ball to the incredible athletes on his team, he reminded me of me.

That stuff was cool but the best thing about 1988 to me was a small console about the size of a shoebox. Nintendo was released about 3 years earlier, but it takes things a little while to make it south Arkansas.

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This is a Wikipedia image. My Nintendo has scuffs from me frustratedly throwing the controller at it because it’s almost impossible to get past those hammer throwing turtles.

We had two TVs. One was in the living room. The other was in my mom and dad’s bedroom. Since I wanted to play RBI Baseball or Tecmo Bowl or Mario literally every waking moment, Dad hooked up our Nintendo to the TV in their bedroom. I’m typing this on an iPhone 6+. For reference’s sake, understand the TV screen I’m talking about was probably about the size of two of my phone’s placed side by side. This also probably explains why I’m staring at my iPhone 6+ through strong bifocals.

To be fair to me, I actually only played Nintendo about 14 hours per day. The other 6 waking hours were spent blowing in cartridges (ask your parents), holding the reset button for 5 seconds, and adjusting the cartridge with the delicacy of brain surgeon to get the Nintendo to work.

One day when I reached to plug in the gun for Duck Hunt, I noticed my name in a paragraph halfway down the yellow legal pad on my mom and dad’s dresser. Legal pads were everywhere in our house. Dad would scribble sermon ideas down at a moments notice so there was always a pad nearby. I never really paid much attention to what was written on them, but on this day the presence of my name caught my eye.

I looked to the top of the first paragraph and realized quickly this was a prayer that Dad had written out as part of his devotion time. The thought occurred to me that this might be private so I did the appropriate thing. I appropriately kicked the door closed so I wouldn’t get busted. I skipped over the boring parts about my mom and sister (Sorry La, this is before your time) and got down to the good stuff. The stuff about me. And what I read completely blew my mind.

I don’t remember the exact words but this is how it was written on my heart that day.

“Lord, be with Jon. I KNOW he is at the age where he is facing serious sexual temptation. Keep him pure and focused on living a life for you.”

WHAT?! Wait, Dad knows there is sexual temptation in the world? And not just in the world, IN ME!!

Dad and I had talked about the basics of these things a few years before this but his voice had been replaced by the voice of my guys on the bus headed to baseball games and the ever growing influence of TV and other dumb voices I was turning to.

As great as 1988 appeared to be, there was a war going on. And I’m not talking about the Cold War. Have you been a 15 year old boy lately? I remember some of what it was like. The basic thought process is girls girls girls fun girls girls girls fun girls girls girls. (I’ve wrestled with whether this next thought is a little too base to say out loud, but I think it’s important to give you a glimpse into the struggle.) I mean you go to class to learn, but at some point in the day, out of the blue a thought like this hits you. “Hold on. I think all the girls in here with clothes on are not wearing clothes under the clothes.” If you’re a guy, try to remember one thing you learned in the 8th grade. Isn’t that sad?

Being a young teen is a tough time. So tough, that if you are a guy trying to do right, it will almost feel like you’re losing your mind. I had no idea anybody had ever faced that kind of temptation. I felt bad just for being tempted by the stuff. What kind of low-life thinks something like that? Nobody understands that battle.

Then I saw my Dad’s prayer. And although he was just praying for my strength, to me he was saying, “Jon, you’re not a crazy, unsalvageable low-life. You are in a normal struggle that I understand.” It meant everything to me. It was new life to me. Even though I felt guilty for invading his privacy every time I read it, I went back and read it time after time until the notebook was moved.

I don’t know what to do with all this. What is my point? I think if Dad had come to me and said these words I’d probably have been too weirded out to take them in. I think the best takeaway from this is to pray for your kid in their current season. I think that in a cool twisty way Dad’s prayer was answered by me reading the prayer itself.

Or maybe the takeaway is to be sure to write “PRIVATE-DO NOT READ” as the heading of any document you want your kid to notice. We might as well cash in a little on depravity.

What Churches Who Think Like Chain Restaurants are Missing

Chain restaurants do not become chains by having bad food. Actually if you took the sign down off Olive Garden and hired a 67 year old Italian couple to welcome the guest as they came in, you’d probably say, “We have the most wonderful little family Italian place.”

The problem with chains is that if they don’t have a button on the cash register for it, they can’t make it.

I went to a fast food place that has branches all over the world. I asked them for some chili cheese fries. They said that they didn’t have chili cheese fries. I explained that I could see all three of these ingredients from where I was standing and with a long enough ladle I could make them myself. “I mean, we have chili, cheese, and fries but we don’t have a way to charge you for them,” the guy said.

My favorite ice cream place is locally owned. I love Golly G’s for many reasons. I believe I already mentioned the ice cream. Their cinnamon rolls the size of my head are pretty cool too. The people there are awesome. But the greatest thing about the people there is that they are allowed to use their brains to serve me.

They are more than willing to venture off the menu to make you something you like. They have this grape soda there. One day I asked them if I could have one of those soda’s mixed into a shake to make me a purple cow. Thomas said, “Hmm, sounds good. I’ve never tried it, but we’ll give it a shot.”

I have no doubt I could ask for a sugar cone filled with chocolate turned upside down with a scoop of ice cream spiked on top of it and in no time I’d be eating a “Snow-capped Lookout Mountain.” (I am really good at naming things.)

I’m pretty sure there is no Purple Cow button on the cash register. I’m positive there is no Snow-capped Lookout Mountain button. And yet they figured out a way to type in the concoction in the cash register. Sometimes when you make up a new item they might wildly undercharge you for it the first few times. Sometimes you may pay a little more for some of these creations. It can get a little messy. That’s what I love about it.

That’s the way I want my church to be. We live in a world of broken people. These broken folks visit our churches. When they do, it is tempting to say, “I wish we could help you, but we don’t have a button for y’all. Your past is just so yucky, or we’ve never dealt with a child with that need.”

To which these folks reply, “I’ve heard you say the gospel is the answer. I can see it right there. You have it. Just give it to me.” But because this ministry can be messy, we just kind of keep our distance until “the problem” goes away, literally.

Not a single person is expendable. Not one. Listen, I know that saying, “Just rub a little gospel on every difficult situation and you’ll be good” is an oversimplification. But I do know this, I want to do all I can to meet the deep needs of the people I come into contact with, even if it means getting a little messy in the process. We are far from perfect, but I’m so thankful I work for a church that allows that kind of ministry and especially for great folks who are willing to dig in and do the work.

Golly G’s is opening its second location soon. I can’t wait to go in and ask for a Purple Cow. Joey, if they tell me they don’t have a button for it I may go all “money changers in the temple” crazy in that place!

By the way, Courtney and Kamryn whipped me up a Snowcapped Lookout Mountain and it was incredible.

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Chick Fil A’s Fish Sandwich Review (with a side of “Plea for a Friendship with Dan Cathy”)

I still run into people from time to time who have never been to Chick Fil A. My response to those folks is always the same: “Dude, when are you going to stop wasting your life?”  I love Chick Fil A. Wait, I’m not sure you hear what I’m saying. I fear that the word “love” has lost its meaning in our culture. So understand I’m not using the term flipantly like, “I love walks on the beach,” or ” I love playoff hockey,” or “I love my mother-in-law (that was for a chuckle. I do love you Ms. Viv).” I mean it like, “CFA, you..complete me.” And when you love someone or some fast food place you give it the benefit of the doubt. That’s what makes me nervous about this blog.

I do not want to hurt Dan Cathy’s feelings. I hope to shake his hand someday and thank him for all he has done in the field of poultry frying. Who am I kidding? I hope to hug his neck one day. I’m just hoping I’ll be able to restrain myself from a curtsy like people do when they meet the Queen of England. I’m pretty sure that last line is more likely to get me a restraining order than a meeting.IMG_9015

But here’s the thing, recently I tried the Fish sandwich at CFA. It was good. It was really good actually. The fish was flaky. There were two filets. It came with two little tartar sauce packs that said “tartar sauce” in that beautiful CFA font. What is that font? I drool every time I see it.

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Brace yourself for the first negative statement I’ve ever made about CFA (other than the whole “Sunday” thing.) Here’s the problem. The whole time I was eating that fish I was thinking, “I know they have CFA chicken strips right back there. I can see them! What am I doing, eating this stuff I can’t even put Polychicknesianaise (my soon to be patented sauce) on?”

Going to Chick Fil A and ordering fish is like going to the Disneyland parking lot, parking your car, and then walking down the road to ride some pretty fun go carts. It’s not a bad thing but there is greater joy to be had.

This is what I feel like, Danny, (may I call you “Danny,” Mr. Cathy? Feel free to call me Jon or bestie or heir or whatever.) I feel the same way Michelangelo’s friends must’ve felt when he painted “the Conversion of Saul.” It’s an incredible masterpiece, but he had made the mistake of setting the bar at a crazy level when he painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel a few years earlier. I can hear them saying “Mike, this painting of Saul is awesome but, Dude, that chapel ceiling is just, WOW.” Yes, I just compared a chicken sandwich to the ceiling the Sistine Chapel and Dan Cathy to Michelangelo without a hint of sarcasm.

IMG_9020But Here is the good news, just as I started to beat myself up for ordering something I couldn’t use CFA sauce on, the light bulb came on. “I wonder what CFA sauce tastes like on fish?” Turns out, I’m a genius. I think my next blog is going to be about gross things (not that your fish is gross D-man, it’s awesome) you can make delicious by slapping a little CFA Sauce on it. I may have just revolutionized the rice patty business.

So my advice is this, go to CFA, order the fish AND the tenders, and if you know Dan Cathy share this blog with him. You can’t avoid me forever, Michelangelo!!!

Everything You Never Wanted to Know about My Gallbladder

Do you know how incredible your body is? Wait, let me rephrase that so I don’t sound like a weirdo or John Mayer. Let me get a little medical on you for a second. You have some crazy junk going bananas inside of your guts right at this moment. From what I understand that’s the opening statement in medical school.

You have awesome organs working away nonstop that are life-giving and beautiful. They are instruments in the finest tuned orchestra in the universe that play in rhythm and on key without us even giving them a single thought. See what I’m saying. Your body is incredible. Nope it still sounded weird. My point is, God made you a masterpiece. He said it was very good…and then he installed your gallbladder.

Seriously, what is up the gall bladder? Other organs sound so cute. The kidneys sound like “kid knees.” What is cuter than a babies knees? Or how about the heart. It is “he art.” And you need the liver to “live…er something.” But there is no getting around it, the gallbladder is a bladder of gall. We might as well call it the “yucksack.”

And, my friend, it is not beautiful. My yucksack has been flaring up lately.

If you’ve never had gallbladder trouble let me tell you what it feels like so you can know what to look for. Although I have never been great with child, a gallbladder attack feels like you are carrying a tiny yet deadly trained ninja in your stomach just below your right ribs. And this little murderer cannot stand it when you drop a French fry on his head. For every fry you eat he spends 30 minutes punching your rib cage in furious anger.

I had a physical two days ago and told my doctor about this little guy I’m carrying around. Would you like to know what this doctorate carrying physician who took the hippocratic oath told me? I’ll paraphrase and cut through all the medical jargon. She said, “Toughen up buttercup. You’ll know when it’s time for surgery because you’ll notice that you are writhing in the floor with a fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. Until then, buck up.” Now, I’ve never hit a woman, but this lady is lucky my side hurt so bad or I would have probably considered…actually no, she looks pretty tough. I think I need a pediatrician or something.

This is usually the point in my blogs where I try to end with some surprise spiritual application that blesses the socks off of you, but I’m sorry. The gallbladder is just dumb. In a best case scenario they remove it and I HAVE NO PLACE TO BLADDER MY GALL! Gall everywhere! And we do NOT want that!

Wait, I’ve got it. Has your yucksack hurt you today? You’re good right? How wonderful! Today give thanks that your tiny ninja is resting comfortably in there. And I apologize that you are going to be singing “Hold me closer tiny ninja” the rest of the day.

Chick-fil-A’s 6 Most Poorly Guarded Secrets

FullSizeRenderI have been blogging for about 5 years. I use the term “blogging” loosely. It’s mostly me talking about how miserably my latest diet is failing.

I have posted 41 blogs on my page.  In the five years before this week I’ve had around 18,000 views of what I’ve written. That’s a little less than 10 views per day.

It sounds respectable until you realize that 9 of those 10 daily views are my mom clicking on it to show both friends and complete strangers that her boy is so famous he has his own blog. I don’t have the heart to tell her that my mayor’s cat has a blog with more followers than I have.

That all changed this past week when I wrote about the thing that truly inspires me- Chick-fil-A Sauce. I drop the name “Chick-fil-A” and people go CRAZY! At the time of this writing I have had 24,446 views on my CFA post. I know that because I checked my stats 3 times while typing that sentence.

I’m no mathematician but that tells me people need more CFA in their lives. And, by George, I will panderingly ride this horse made of delicious chicken until it drops completely dead, which could very well be in the next paragraph.

So with that being said, I give you Chick-fil-A’s 6 Most Poorly Guarded Secrets.

Secret #1. CFA employees agree to genetic modification to make them the nicest people on the planet.

CFA, where are you finding these people? For those of you who have never been to Chick-fil-A [observes moment of silence for these tragic empty lives] let me fill you in. You can ask them to do anything remotely within their power and the CFA employee will smile and reply, “My pleasure.” And you know what? I kinda think they really mean it!

I consider the workers at “my” CFA (I don’t actually own a CFA but I am there more than the actual owner if that counts for anything) as my best friends. Let’s put it this way, if I were to renew my vows next week, no less than 5 people who work there would be in my wedding party. And that doesn’t count the catering crew.

I asked 9 of them to be pall bearers at my funeral. I know it should only take 8 guys to carry you but people, that SAUCE!

Don’t get me wrong, I know they don’t really know me. I guarantee you when I’m not around I’m known as “the 21 packs of sauce guy.” But it just feels so good in there. Maybe it’s the real flowers on the tables (seriously), or the instrumental contemporary Christian music in the background, but it just feels like home.

Do they have that music at your CFA? I have a theory that CFA may actually be a karaoke bar for really shy Christians that fell back on their delicious chicken when the self-conscious Christians never sang.

Secret #2. There is an unpublicized menu item called the #64.

The #6 is chicken strips on the menu. The #4 is the spicy chicken sandwich. Put them together and you get the #64 spicy chicken strip meal!

Okay, this is a lie. Spicy chicken strips do not exist. And it bothers me. A lot. By the way, I’ve given this way…way too much thought.

You know they have the technology to make this happen. Are their tenders actually so tender they cannot handle having the spicy red stuff that we have come to love on the #4 placed on them?

In the hours of meditation I’ve done on this subject I’ve come up with a theory. CFA refuses to make spicy tenders because it just wouldn’t be fair to every other restaurant. If these dudes produce a spicy chicken tender the entire thread of our economic system will be unraveled by the closure of every other restaurant.

Know what? I can live with that. Give me a spicy tender Cathys! (If CFA comes out with spicy tenders and put it on their menu as a #64 those 9 dudes at the Madison Street CFA in Clarksville, TN I’ve talked to about being my pall bearers better be well rested because I would not be able to deal with the coolness of said moment.)

Secret #3. Their sweet tea reacts in exactly the same way as holy water when thrown on a vampire.

Here’s the problem. If I’m drinking a CFA large sweet tea with a splash of lemonade in there (yes, they’ll do that, it’s “their pleasure”) and I find myself being attacked by the undead, if there’s any chance I might escape or even be able to finish my tea, I’m not wasting it!

I’d be like, “Vlad, do what you got to do, I’ve got to knock down this Arnold Palmer.”

Secret #4. Sometimes, when no one is looking, I rebuild whole potatoes out of my waffle fries before I eat them one layer at a time using a full package of sauce per slice.

You know what? Forget this one. That was actually one of my most poorly guarded secrets and not CFA’s. Sorry.

Secret #4b. Breakfast platters exist.

Order one. TOMORROW MORNING!!

It’s like 6 scrambled eggs, a chicken patty, a biscuit, and a side of gravy! Tell them to dice up your chicken into small pieces to eat with your biscuit and gravy (their pleasure). Put a little Texas Pete on those eggs. And yes, I do consider us best friends forever now that I’ve given you this info.

Secret #5. CFA made a mistake one time.

Before you get the pitchforks and torches out, let me explain.

For a while CFA had mouthwash stations in the bathroom. This sounds ridiculous. If you’re not familiar with CFA I know you’re thinking, “A fast food place, spent money on a mouthwash station?” I’m not lying. It was there. I used it…once.

It didn’t work out. This is why. As awesome as it was, it washed away all the delicious polychicknesianaise taste I was savoring.

I have been known to keep a nugget tucked between my cheek and gum for up to 5 hours, savoring the taste.

Why would anyone wash away this flavor? The mouthwash machines are now hand sanitizer, which I doubt will last much longer either because when we leave CFA, let’s be honest, we enjoy the finger licking as much as the meal.

Secret #6. CFA has 8 ounce bowls of their sauces for sale.

Buy these and in so doing, live the life you always knew awaited you.

I have three more secrets. One of which involves C.S. Lewis being inspired to write about Narnia when he walked into the play place in Belfast, but I think I’ve revealed plenty for today.

Also I have to go study my Greek and Hebrew to see if I can find a loophole in the “Sabbath Laws” to convince CFA to give me a decent chicken sandwich on Sundays. Wish me luck.

The Overweight Guy’s Authoritative Guide to Chick-fil-A Sauces

Stop whatever you are doing and before you read another word, go to Chick-fil-A, walk up to the counter and say, “Give me a family platter of nuggets and one of each of your sauces, please. And don’t forget the Roasted Honey Bar B Que, Sweetheart. I know you hide the good stuff.”

I know that sounds a little pushy. And if you were at Zaxby’s you’d be looking at dropping a couple bucks on sauces alone. But my friend you are at CFA. No sooner than you ask for it, the girl who taught your kid in children’s church yesterday will say, “My pleasure,” and hook you up.

On your way to your seat stop by the condiment station and pick up a CFA Mayonnaise, one of those futuristic Buck Rogers Ketchup packs, a thing of Texas Pete’s hot sauce and a pack of mustard to grow on.

So now you should have a platter of nuggets sitting to your left and a smorgasbord of sauces on a tray to your right. Don’t worry if your nuggets spill out onto the tray. That paper they line those with is surgery grade sterilized…I assume.

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Take the BBQ sauce, Buttermilk Ranch, and Honey Mustard and throw them away. You can get these anywhere.

According to their website, these are by far the healthiest sauces CFA offers. And it shows. I mean they are better than other restaurant’s best but, people, the BBQ Sauce actually has 6% of your daily vitamin C. How good can it be?

Now take the Buffalo sauce back up to the counter. I have no idea what part of the buffalo they are mining this stuff from but it’s a little bitter and from what I understand those things are endangered anyway.

Let’s focus our attention on what I call the Delicious 3: the Honey Roasted BBQ Sauce, Polynesian Sauce, and obviously, the Chick-fil-A Sauce. I went through several names for these sauces that included the word “trinity” but scrapped them all due to sacrilege.

First, let’s talk about the Honey Roasted BBQ Sauce.

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It is often overlooked and even laughed at by it’s other sauce brethren due to the fact it comes in a plastic pillow like mustard instead of the little tray we have come to love.

The other thing it has working against it is the fact that apparently CFA employees must give account to Truett Cathy himself at the end of every day for every packet of this stuff they give away. They’re handing out drink refills left and right, giving free cheerios to kids hand over fist, passing out coffee and ice cream cones like water, but ask them for some of this stuff and they disappear under the counter for 10 minutes and reappear all sweaty and out of breath with one packet.

Once I ordered 60 sandwiches for an event and they gave me 3 packs of Honey Roasted BBQ. They told me to keep the $200 warming bag I took the sandwiches in, but if I had any of the HRBBQ sauce left to drop in their overnight box on the side of the building.

My theory is angels are syphoning this stuff out of the fountains of heaven and they can only get so much of it at a time.

If I had to describe HRBBQ sauce I’d say, “If Spicy Chick-fil-A sauce and dessert CFA sauce had a delicious baby, this would be it.” Try it on a Spicy Chicken Sandwich and pair it with a nice half unsweet tea, half regular lemonade. Welcome to life.

Next, let’s look at Polynesian Sauce.

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I didn’t look this up, but I’d guess that Polynesia is the capital of the mythical paradise of Atlantis. In this land they enjoy the sweetness of 10,000 pomegranates with all the savory finish of pork belly.  It sounds plausible to me.

This stuff is sweet and sticky and if it gets on your shirt don’t even try. That shirt was doing nothing for you anyway and the Polynesian is now fulfilling your wildest dreams.

Actually I just remembered I took Greek in college and I can parse the word Polynesia for you.

“Poly” means many, as in polytheism, which means many gods. “Nesia” is the ancient word for fat rolls. You know what, on second thought let’s move on.

Finally, we have Chick-fil-A sauce.

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Let’s be honest, it’s Duke’s mayo mixed with Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce…plus something that makes it yellow. Probably gold.

This stuff has 140 calories per pack!!! Would you like to know how many packs I eat with a combo? Mind your business!!

Which of these Delicious 3 is my favorite? Answering that question is like me saying which of my future grandchildren will be my favorite. Actually the answer to that question is whichever one of those I’m consuming at the time. That illustration broke down, sorry.

Although it’s tough, I will rank my top two sauces for you now.

#2. Roasted Petey

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This is a combination of Roasted Honey BBQ and one of the packs of Texas Pete they have at the condiment station. I would describe it as robust, hot, sweet, and a little oily. Remind you of anyone?

#1. Polychicknesianaisse

This is a container of Chick-fil-A sauce with about half of a Polynesian poured in, finished with a stripe of the Chick-fil-A mayo on top.

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It’s also known as Genesis 1:31b sauce.  “and behold, it was very good.”

You’re welcome.