When someone asks me if I’m a foodie, I find it hard to come up with the words that will shape a satisfactory answer. I’ve decided that from here on in, when I’m faced with this question, I will not discuss the terminology of the foodie and preempt judgment with a metaphysical discussion of the American meal. I will not try to qualify my peculiar obsession with food or explain my habit of photographing the most mundane of meat pastries.
Instead, I’ll ask a more important question: what is the best meal you’ve ever had?
The best meal I’ve ever had is purchased on Jewell Ave. in Lakewood, Colorado. It is packed by the employees of White Fence Farm’s carry-out counter with knowing care and even more knowing promptness into a white box and placed into a white plastic bag for my convenience. It is half of a chicken, flash fried, a bowl of mashed potatoes, a cup of pickled beets, and a small tray of flash fried corn fritters for $7.25.
The best meal I’ve ever had is ordered at the carry-out counter because the exact same meal in the restaurant would cost double the money and require a tip. It’s stowed into the passenger’s seat for our trip to the nearest strip mall, where I park my car in the middle of a nearly empty Safeway parking lot and retrieve a bottle of orange juice from the gas station across the way.
The best meal I’ve ever had begins when raindrops begin to slip through my windows, which I’ve opened just a crack in hopes of preventing myself from smelling like a country chicken dinner for the rest of the night. As the clouds grumble and shed more water upon the city of Lakewood, I am deftly opening up the carry-out box and sinking my incisors into a heavenly wing of deep fried poultry. The chicken is perfectly cooked: The battered skin is weightless and greaseless, crumbling delicately as I pierce through it and into the juicy, cooked-just-right meat beneath its folds.
I take all of a minute to finish the first piece and move straight to the breast, using the largest bone of the chicken wing as a makeshift spoon to scoop up and wolf down my mashed potatoes and gravy. Halfway through, I reach for one of the corn fritters, pleased to discover that these sugar dusted hush puppies are as fluffy as cornmeal clouds, with an outer crust more gently fried than the chicken itself. I open the cup of pickled beets and pop an entire slice into my mouth, which, after a whole-hearted serving of the savory, is all too happy to greet the sweet tang of a nutrient-drained vegetable. Fingers darting between chicken, potatoes, fritters, and beets, I make quick work of the carry-out box and toss it perfunctorily into the gas station’s garbage can.
This isn’t the best meal I’ve ever had because this is the best chicken I have ever had. This isn’t the best meal I’ve ever had because White Fence Farm is a stunning restaurant, nor is it the best meal I have ever had because White Fence Farm is Denver’s least publicized hole in the wall. This isn’t the best meal I I’ve ever had because the cashier mistakenly charged me $3 for the $7 blackberry cobbler-in-a-jar I decided to buy before leaving the carry-out counter.
This is the best meal I’ve ever had because I am hungry. This is the best meal I’ve ever had because at this moment, there is no other meal that can take the place of this chicken dinner, no restaurant placemat that can take the place of my dashboard, and no condensed atmosphere that can take the place of the raindrops streaming down my windshield. This is the best meal I’ve ever had because every bite of it calls to mind other best meals I’ve ever had and fills me with anticipation of future best meals I will ever have, making space at the table for every best meal I’ve ever had to stretch its arms, unbuckle its belt, and settle in for the long drive home.
This is the best meal I’ve ever had because it stole this question from the back of my mind and turned it on the tip of my tongue before I had the chance to take a single photograph of what I was eating.
I don’t know if I am a foodie, but I do have an answer for the more important question. Every time that answer changes, I’ll find myself one best meal closer to not caring.
White Fence Farm
6263 West Jewell Avenue
Lakewood, CO 80232