I was out of town attending a festival in East Tennessee. Even though we made reservations months in advance, that was not soon enough. We ended up staying away from the center of activity in a tiny town in a middle-class motel. It was actually okay as all we needed was a bed for the night and a place to eat.
“Is there a good restaurant around here?” we inquired of the desk clerk. “There’s an Italian place right across the street, and…” He covered his mouth and whispered, “They serve alcohol.”
Apparently, a restaurant that serves alcohol is a rare commodity in a small East Tennessee town. We really were not looking for a night out on the town, if you could call it a town. We just wanted food. But we decided to give it a try.
The restaurant was less than impressive, to put it kindly, but the smell of yeasty bread baking drifted out of the kitchen and by now we were starving.
“Booth or table?”
“Oh, a booth would be nice.”
“You’ll have to wait while I clean one off then.”
Dozens of empty tables and we had to ask for a booth, we thought, as the host/waiter/cashier/busboy cleaned dishes off one conveniently located next to the kitchen door.
Finally, seated, we looked at the menu. I decided to play it safe and order spaghetti. Surely I couldn’t go wrong with spaghetti at an Italian restaurant.
Honey asked what kind of wine they had, as if this step-child of a truck stop had a wine cellar.
“We don’t have wine – just beer. You are welcome to bring your own, though.”
Unfortunately, we were already there. I guess they meant next time — as if there would be a next time. I sort of wondered if they served Pabst Blue Ribbon in a can, but I figured I’d better just go with iced tea and leave redneck tradition alone. Such jokes might not be appreciated in this environment.
While we waited for the food, we were treated to the conversation of the cooks in the kitchen as they yelled back and forth, discussed the trials and tribulations of a mutual friend, and banged dishes. I won’t repeat the conversation, as you would not want to hear it. Besides, Mary Lou is over her surgery and doing just fine now.
The salad arrived. It was crisp and the bread was crusty and hot. I was beginning to feel more optimistic.
Finally, the food arrived. It was a bowl of spaghetti large enough to feed an entire family. The waiter sat it in front of me. It had one of those round spaghetti spoons that you use to help wind spaghetti on your fork. I was impressed. At least they knew how to serve spaghetti.
The spaghetti was good and I ate and ate. But the more I ate, the more spaghetti there seemed to be. I ate and it grew. I ate more and it grew more. I ate more and more and it grew more and more. Finally, I could eat spaghetti no longer. I could not even miss what I had eaten. In fact, I’m certain there was more now than at the beginning.
I asked the waiter to take it away before it outgrew the dish. “It was really good,” I apologized. “I just can’t eat that much.”
“It soaks up the sauce,” he mumbled.
Honey’s fettuccini grew too, but he managed to stay ahead of it somehow.
He got out his American Express card to pay. I nudged him, and frowned. He got my drift, and put it away and got out cash.
We paid and escaped quickly before the spaghetti could grow out the kitchen door and follow us home.
I’m still afraid that I will pick up the paper one day and read about a small Italian restaurant somewhere in East Tennessee where the spaghetti grew so incredibly large that it pushed off the roof and nearly killed several customers.