It’s not just the title of a Supertramp album, it’s a way of life. While New Yorkers and Californians pick away at their sissy little yuppie breakfasts of yogurt and double lattes, in the heartland a nation of truckers and farmers and people with two first names is mowing down acres of hash browns and home fries and mountains of omelettes and griddle cakes and rivers of bottomless coffee. As you ponder the question, “Is it really a good thing to get steak and eggs for less than $2?” here are some side orders from the great pancake houses and truck stops of Cholesterol Nation.
Conway, AR: Paula, Paula, Paula. We had a lot of great waitresses on the trip, but your first love is always special, and Paula was one waffle jockey who could bring home the bacon and fry it in a pan. We weren’t the only ones who liked the sling of her skillet, neither. The truck driver a couple of stools down from us actually used such pickup beauties as “Are your eyes botherin’ you, Paula?” “No.” “Well, they’re drivin’ me crazy!” And later, studying the menu intently, “Paula, you know what I need?” “What’s that?” “Your phone number and three hours of your spare time. At least.”
Oklahoma City, OK: Our Waffle House waitress April Mae (get it?) was no Paula, but she did play the Waffle House theme song repeatedly on the jukebox, and sang along every time. (You probably didn’t know the Waffle House had a theme song–several songs actually. Or a jukebox.) Eating here felt like being in the opening credits of a Nashville Network sitcom.
Brownfield, TX: The truck stop here had the can’t refuse slogan: “Eat here even if it kills you–we need the business.” The food wasn’t really lethal, although the plates and mugs might have been: they were as chipped and ancient as Olduvai stone tools. Brown Town was another good place for downhome waitress-customer repartee. “Well, well, well,” said our waitress when a trio of rangy-looking cowboys (not us) sauntered in off the playa. “That’s an awful deep subject,” said one of the cowboys without even breaking stride.
Madison, WI: Derek had never been to the International House of Pancakes, and we all enjoyed saying “IHOP” (“IHOP. IHOP. IHOP.”–yep, still fun), so we’d kept a lookout for one from the start of the trip. Finally, on our second-to-last day, we found one. What exactly makes the IHOP–in some ways the most quintessentially American of restaurants–”international”? Is it like the United Nations? Do they have summits there? Do the employees have diplomatic immunity? Could we claim asylum? The bored-looking janitor we pestered with these questions didn’t have any answers for us. You have to be discreet to work in diplomatic circles.