Thursday, May 03, 2007

When the Highlight of Your Day is Eating Gas-Station Catfish

That last post? You're all off the hook. Almost all of you, anyway. You other two know who you are. Send chocolate.

Bella had a "sick day" today, and while she wasn't really "sick," so to speak, she did have an upset tummy, which is the genteel Southern way of saying diarrhea. Except we don't say it. She came and crawled into bed with us around 5:00 AM, complaining that she "didn't feel good," was "sick," her "tummy hurt," and that she'd had TWO bad dreams. Well, that's just a pile of yuck all at once when you're four. Add that to the fact that I am a colossal pushover, and you've got a kid staying home from preschool. I don't think it will affect her college applications.

So we had a pleasant, low-key day that effectively wiped away a lot of my angry from yesterday, and involved a lot of reading, role-playing, singing, eating soft foods, and hugging. Lots and lots of hugging. She's good therapy, is that child. We didn't turn on a television or computer until after 4:00, at which point we played a little Peggle and watched some Ninja Warrior. Bella not only enjoys watching Ninja Warrior, she fully intends to become "a little Japanese girl" and compete on Mount Midoriyama herself.

Alex called on his way home, giddily announcing that he'd won $188.20 from a radio-station giveaway. So even though he had a hectic day, he was now in a good mood. I may have mentioned it before, but sometimes, the only thing worse than Alex in a bad mood is Alex in a good mood. Same thing we used to say about my dad. He went on at length about his windfall and his new upcoming lifestyle as a hundredaire, until he stopped at the feed store.

A few minutes later, he called back, and said, "Well, I just had a conversation of several minutes with UNCLE DEAN!" I knew immediately who he was talking about, even though it was someone we'd never met before, because we've been passing by Uncle Dean's place of business every day for a while, said place of business being inside a truck-stop near where we live. "Uncle Dean's Catfish & Such 2." We have no idea what happened to Uncle Dean's Catfish & Such 1, or why every restaurant in this area has to use the phrase "and more" or "and such" at the ends of their names, or the identity of other person on the Uncle Dean's signs and fliers.

because Panther Family already took "AND MORE"

Uncle Dean's is one of a handful of eateries inside the local gasoplex, at least one of which is run by a family of panthers. We have long joked about the gas-station restaurants, and honestly, I blame my father for this. When Andrea and I were just kids, we used to travel up to the north part of the state to visit his family, and we had to pass through Bald Knob on the way. That's right, there's a town in Arkansas called BALD KNOB. Just a few miles from the exit for Possum Grape, I kid you not. Anyhoo, in Bald Knob there was a giant Texaco station. That sold fried chicken and all the fixins. This cracked our whole family up, as the concept of gas-station food was relatively new back then, at least around here. One day, we happened to be in the Bald Knob Texaco at exactly the right time to see a grey-haired woman behind the counter battering chicken pieces to fry. Dad waited until we got back in the car to inform my mom that she'd missed getting to see "Granny Texaco" whomping up some of the secret Texaco Family Recipe fried chicken, and Andrea and I dutifully laughed until we cried for the next 20 miles, and from then on any time anyone mentioned "Granny Texaco." Dad always threatened to take us there to eat, but that was never going to happen during the glory days of Kelly's Restaurant (although as far as Andrea and I were concerned, we might have been better off with Granny Texaco).

Turns out that Granny Texaco is real, and her name is Uncle Dean, and he makes catfish. Or something. Alex had stopped for gas, and got into a conversation with Uncle Dean, and the guy was just excruciatingly pleasant, so end result? TRUCKSTOP CATFISH FOR DINNER. That's right. All you urbanites living in your fancy-schmancy "Restaurants Bring Pizza Right To Our Door Anytime We Want" neighborhoods aren't feeling so cocky now, are you? Why, we can get deep-fried fillet of bottom-feeding river-fish just a few miles away during reasonable business hours on certain days. Seethe with envy, all of you.

Alex reports that the catfish was actually on a par with what we had during our vacation, at a much fancier place than the gasoplex (as fancy as catfish places get, anyway). Alex is the catfish arbiter around here now that Dad's gone, and I take him at his word, because catfish ain't my thang. The hush-puppies and green beans were good, though, and Bella ate a good portion of her weight in baked beans. I guess you could say that Alex ate catfish, while Bella and I had "and such." Most importantly, no one got sick, and we made a new friend in Uncle Dean, who was beyond thrilled at Alex's patronage.

Come on, city people. You know you want to visit. Uncle Exxon is waiting, and we have $188.20 burning a hole in our pockets.


  1. I can't send chocolate yet, I don't have the address to send to. I totally would though. Mail-chocolate is way better than gas station catfish any day. Besides, there is no way I would deprive another creature of the sweet ambrosia that is of the cacao tree.
    On another note, wasn't it a bit risky to be feeding beans to a 4 year old that was already cocked and loaded?

    Gas station catfish and intestinal distress...Y'all live on the edge.

  2. You said you were headed North to Bald Knob and had to go by Possum Grape to get there. That's interesting since Possum Grape is 15 miles North of Bald Knob. I remember the gas station/lunch counter that was at the bend in the road there on old Hwy 67. Now the new 67 crosses the White River near Possum Grape.

  3. OK, I think I missed something here. Alex won 188.20 from a radio station, stopped at Uncle Dean's, got fried Catfish-n-such, and still came back home with 188.20. Are you trying to tell me that the Fried Catfish-n-such was FREE???

    What kind of world do you live in where they give the food away?

  4. Tom: We DO live on the edge. It's soooo exciting.

    Anonymous: I'll take your word for it, since even after 40 years I still get lost occasionally between Jacksonville and the airport. Now that I think of it, when I took this picture out the car window a couple of years ago, it was on the way back to Jacksonville from Newport...I'm guessing between Newport and Bald Knob? So yeah, going the other way, we'd have had to turn off to Bald Knob well before Possum Grape. I'll correct the post.

    Avalon: Alex has yet to pick up his humongous winnings, since the radio station is in Little Rock.

    Man, you guys are on the ball catching me in mistakes and inaccuracies today! Knock it off.

  5. Uncle Deans #1 is over on 2nd Street! :-)

  6. AH. I knew there had to be another one somewhere! So is the other person pictured on the sign manning that location? Because the person on the left is definitely at the gasoplex.

  7. Okay, for little places like this you haven't been to central Florida or Alabama yet, have you? A client told us that Polk County was the little Alabama of Florida, which my sister can verify as her in'laws live in Alabama:o)

  8. I keep meaning to tell you, but my grandfather and his family were raised in Little Rock, Arkansas. I think some are still there, but all of his siblings are dead now.

  9. Isn't Ninja Warrior that crazy game show with the wacky obstacle course that only like one person has ever completed?

    And if it is ... what are you doing watching that with a child!?! lol :)

  10. Okay, I'm only laughing because, while you can get catfish at a gas station where you live, we get chubs -- smoked fish.

    Crazy ironic!

  11. Kim, I think you're right--I've been to Florida, but not *central* Florida, and Alabama is something that you pass through in order to GET to Florida! ;-)

    Dan, Ninja Warrior is 9 kinds of awesome. Bella LOVES it. It's actually pretty wholesome, and I love the fantastically florid language of the announcers. Oh, and hey--now there have been TWO competitors to complete the course! Since 1997, and through 18 seasons.

    Dana--I hadn't ever even heard of "chubs!"

  12. Around here, we like to say "my stomach is mad at me" and that is our code ;).

    I just went by a gas-o-plex today in San Diego County and one of the eateries was called "The Gasoline Alley Bistro" the gas station. Bwahaha!

  13. Hmmmm. "Gas Station Food" does not = "Bistro" to me. Next it'll be the Maison du Petrol.

  14. The person on the right looks Asian...and the lady working at the OTHER Uncle Dean's is Asian. So maybe??

  15. Maybe this place should be featured on the Food network or the Travel channel (on that weird places to eat??)?

  16. this site is muchos interesting. it's like a little dose of daily southern culture for me. thanks for including the little details about where you live. some of them really surprise me. Without you, i would've gone another month without considering american truck stops. but now i'm daydreaming about how i secretly held the fantasy of becoming a truck driver at one point ;). In switzerland, to be an American Truck Driver is the big pie in the sky. They worship american truck drivers, carry US flags in their trucks. The trucks here are teeny things, rickety and sad. If you put a Swiss truck driver next to an american semi, I think he'd wet his pants.

  17. Oh, Belinda, I hate fish, but I'd totally eat hte "and such" with you and Bella.