With an unusually strong craving for a grilled pork chop over rice driving me back to Atlanta’s Buford Highway, I entered Lee’s Bakery at #4005 under the same cloudlike haze as Homer Simpson dreaming about a doughnut. If this had been a cartoon, you would have seen the words “Mmmmm. Pork chop” shimmering inside a text bubble above my head. From that point on, all I vaguely remember is the marginally friendly woman at the cash register saying something about “none” and then so adroitly steering me away from a succulent strip of marinated pig, I hadn’t even realized I ordered the lemongrass chicken over vermicelli.
Yes, lemongrass chicken over vermicelli. To be exact, this was an almost $8 portion of poultry, lettuce, and noodles that could feed a family of four in the Mekong Delta. Does this dish even exist in Vietnam? If one does, Buddha help anyone who crosses path with this salt packed mess in Saigon. A sauce coated the chunks of dry chicken in such a greasy red splendor I feared spilling any on my khaki shorts. And as for the nuoc cham…Remember when your mom told you if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all? Let’s heed mom’s sage advice on this one. Try as I might, I just couldn’t finish this one, and what I did eat brought me to my knees in misery.
Never in a million years could I have fathomed water retention to be a most hazardous byproduct of eating my way through 365 meals. Ladies, I fully understand your plight now. If I never before showed any empathy, I do humbly apologize, for now I have swam a few waterlogged miles in your shoes. I must have consumed two liters of water after this latest meal, and I want to know where in the heck it all disappeared inside me. I didn’t want to move; I felt like someone injected water into every fiber of my being; and even my cheeks felt bloated! How can one simple serving of lemongrass chicken surpass the salinity of the Great Salt Lake?
I remember once upon a time in the 1980s Nancy Reagan had public service announcements on TV telling us kids to just say no to drugs. Well, Nancy, over 25 years later your words still bounce around in my head from time to time, and today I channeled your message to remain strong. I said “no, nyet, nein, khong” to this lemongrass chicken and fed it to my garbage disposal. All I want is good Vietnamese food in America! Why is this so hard?