I don't mean to stir up the natives, especially the flesh-eating ones.
Nor do I have a problem with plastic, other than the fact that everything is made of it these days (including a lot of the, ahem, "props" out at Pete's Place), and plastic is made from oil, which is a limited commodity that we might better employ in our gas tanks.
Nevertheless, there is this matter that I just can't seem to let go of, despite its minor role in the big scheme of things. It is the Rim country's use of plastics in inappropriate places and situations.
My journey into this netherworld began a year or so ago when I attended for the first time one of Payson's unique rites of passage -- the $5 benefit steak fry in a local school cafeteria. Here's how the benefit steak fry typically works:
You stand in this interminable line that snakes all the hell over the place, up one hallway, down another, through a locker room and out into the parking lot.
At long last you get to the serving area, where a sweaty lady wearing a baggy on one hand throws a handful of lettuce on your paper plate. Moving down the line, you're handed a lukewarm baked potato and perhaps, if luck is with you, a cold, joyless roll.
But then, at last, you come to the object of your journey -- the entree for which the entire event was named.
Now maybe it's because we Rimaroos are so tough that we can handle a really rasty cut of meat. Maybe it's simply because we're so cheap.
Whatever the reason, they only serve one kind of steak at Payson steak fries -- gristly-tough. Nay, leathery tough. Nay, tough as nails.
To compound the problem, you are expected to cut this item that doesn't deserve to be dignified by referring to it as "meat" with a plastic knife. Yes, I said a plastic knife.
Of course, it's darn near impossible, so the vast majority of steaks are returned intact to be used again at the next benefit steak fry.
But I did see one guy who managed to beat the system. When he thought no one was looking, he reached down into his boot and extracted a steak knife he had brought from home.
I don't know why he felt it necessary to be so secretive. Maybe the steak knife police. Maybe because real men eat their steaks with plastic knives.
This would not have been the stuff to build a column on had it not been reinforced by a subsequent incident involving food and plastic. In the process of doing a recent Roundup story on the opening of the new cafeteria at Payson High School, I was generously given an oriental salad to sample. I was also given a little container of ranch dressing, another of bacon bits (my favorite food in the whole world), and a little cellophane bag containing a napkin and a plastic eating utensil I had never seen before.
It was half spoon and half fork, some kind of combination creature reminiscent of the fabled Minotaur of Greek mythology -- obviously a cheap and sleazy attempt to make one utensil do in lieu of two. I have since been told by the enlightened that what I had encountered was a device known as a "spork."
Actually, the spork works much better on an oriental salad than the plastic knife does on a Payson benefit steak fry steak. But you get my point -- plastic just doesn't cut it in the Rim country.
I mean, this is cowboy country, and I seriously doubt if Roy Rogers or Tom Mix or Hopalong Cassidy, much less the Lone Ranger, ever ate his vittles with a plastic knife, and certainly never with a spork.
So this is about much more than plastic utensils. This is about our very heritage. Therefore, I would suggest some options, the first two of which are actually serious:
- Instead of five bucks, charge us six bucks and serve a decent cut of meat.
- Charge a 25 cent premium for a real knife.
- Replace the benefit steak fry with a benefit oatmeal dinner.
- Draw and quarter the inventor of the spork, and do it with a plastic knife.
- Instead of banning topless joints, the Gila County Board of Supervisors should ban the real menace to life as we know it in the Rim country -- the spork.
- Heck, why not a total ban on plastic. It would have the added advantage of "deflating" business out at Pete's Place, providing a way to circumvent that sticky matter of constitutional rights entirely.