Guy Lancaster

Soon after I turned 40, I found myself at the doctor’s office for an overdue physical. He looked over my records and sat down in front of me with a serious demeanor. “You’re getting of an age,” he said, “where you will start to see some changes in your body. I don’t want you to be alarmed. These are natural changes.”

“Doc,” I said, “you make it sound like I’m going through a second puberty.”

Advertisement

He thought about this for a moment. “That’s actually not a bad analogy,” he said. “You’ll be getting hair in new places, but it won’t be sexy places this time, like your face or your chest. Instead, it’s going to be coming out your ears and nose. And there will be stuff creaking, but it won’t be your voice; it will be your knees. Yeah, in many ways, middle age is just a shitty second puberty.”

I think of my doctor every time I face a menu featuring a healthy array of fried foods, because if there is one symptom of this shitty puberty that has most got me down, it is a growing intolerance for deep-fried delights. For whatever reason, the fried offerings of certain establishments leave my stomach upset; perhaps it is the kind of oil used, or how often it is changed. Whatever the reason, I have learned, when visiting a new place, to experiment with an appetizer at first, just to see if the gastric juices stay settled, before next time diving into the fish, chicken, chicken-fried steak, or whatever else may be on offer.

Advertisement

So when The Prickly Pickle showed up downtown, part of a Wednesday food truck rota hosted by the Main Library of CALS, I initially approached it with some trepidation. After all, here was an establishment where everything on offer was fried: fried chicken sandwiches (regular or buffalo-style) served with their own fried dill potato chips, as well as a rotation of fried appetizers. I could well predict how my stomach would handle this: “Outlook not so good,” says the Magic 8 Ball.

Guy Lancaster

So I ordered myself the buffalo chicken sandwich and some “Tex-Mex Toothpicks” (being an assortment of fried onion, jalapeno, and cactus) and I had to admit, everything was fried to perfection, with the right amount of batter, cooked long enough to tenderize things while keeping in the moisture. The “toothpicks” were a toothsome snack that I could not stop eating, while my sandwich came dressed with enough pickles, lettuce, and tomato to offer a crispy contrast to the fried filet of fowl they accompanied. Once I took the first bite, I forgot the care with which I was supposed to approach such meals and simply gorged myself.

Advertisement
Guy Lancaster
Tex-Mex toothpicks

And then I waited. And waited. And waited for the first pangs of abdominal anguish. But they never came.

So the next time the ol’ Prickly Pickle made a Wednesday appearance on Rock Street, I decided to put it through the paces. I again got a sandwich, got some Tex-Mex Toothpicks, and threw on top of that something new they had: fried pickled okra. As before, everything was delicious, but the fried pickled okra was transcendental. Sometimes, two things that are good on their own do not need to go together. Root beer is good. Tequila is good. Mixing them together is a drunken college mistake that will never be repeated. However, sometimes that goodness can be magnified. Fried okra is good. Pickled okra is good. And this fried pickled okra captured their respective characteristics without diminishing either one.

I scarfed it all down, along with the dill potato chips that came with my sandwich, firm in the knowledge that I wouldn’t regret this at all even if I did push my tolerance over the top. But everything was just fine, and now I have a place where I can indulge in all kinds of fried goodies and remain entranced in the moment of each bite, without the least thought for the future.

It’s enough to make one feel younger, if only for the moment. Just don’t tell my doctor what I’ve been eating for lunch.

Advertisement

The Prickly Pickle will be at the White Water Tavern Farmers Market at 2500 W. 7th St. this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Follow the truck’s weekly schedule here.

Guy Lancaster