“A Betrayal of the Spud…Dining at The Bell”
Basse Qualité Cuisine Column
By Bertram Tigot
Born on 21 March, 1962 in the same birthplace as the Apollo space program, Taco Bell is a restaurant that holds a peculiar place in the annals of gastronomy. Having consistently eluded both the Michelin Guide and the Zagat rating scale, it is nonetheless a so-called American treasure. This despite its chefs erring towards the Southwestern palate.
Having slummed it for several months on a Périgord truffle farm in the bowels of the Dordogne, my own bowels ached for a more austere dining experience. Returning to the States, my heart swelled at the sight of one of those humble purple shanties known colloquially as The Bell.
This crossroad cantina would serve as my solace after a sluggish sojourn through the gloriously mediocre chateaus of the Pyrenees mountains. Alas, my culinary ebullience was immediately quelled upon entering the hopelessly smudged front entrance.
The waitstaff was woefully absent, meaning that management had the sheer audacity to expect me to seat myself. After deigning to do so, I was dismayed to find that my perch was fashioned from what could only be described as low-grade aluminum as opposed to the galvanized brushed steel which is my wont.
It was with great effort that I bottled my ire like a fine chablis and settled in to look at the menu. I was aghast when I realized that the menus, like the waitstaff, were in absencia. No doubt, they were sharing a marijuana cigarette in the derrier of the kitchen.
Wringing my hands like one would a dish cloth, I made my way to the front of the kitchen and found an acne-blighted lad in a vulgar mauve visor, his face beaming at me as though I were bringing him news of his father’s whereabouts.
I asked to kindly see a list of their prix fixe menu, but I could see at once that he had no idea of what I spoke. His dull eyes betrayed a sense of mental entropy and I did not want to spend another moment explaining myself.
A cursory scan of their sloppily displayed menu pictures, an array of gaudy images of swollen burritos and spendthrift tortillas left me coming up short, but I was staunch in my intention to consume something distinctly American.
After ordering the Nacho Fries, an item that carried with it the allure of a limited edition, I retired to the rear of the dining room to dig into my sumptuous new treat. Unfortunately, there was nothing delectable about it.
Far from the decadent picture painted for me by the grandiose portrayal of these fries in the gaudy menu images, what I found on my plate was nothing so much as an existential rapier sharpened to nick at what was left of my decorum and aplomb.
The diminutive cardboard container and the contents thereof were hopelessly cold, more gelid even than the Seine in the clutches of late-Autumn. The appallingly sparse sprinkle of orange-red seasoning was a far cry from the generous dusting of pink himalayan salt I am accustomed to.
Unctuous in texture this was not; the coagulated molten yellow cheese sauce was less a ragu and more a melted mass of gelatinous plastic. All things considered, I must give this rather offensive dish a fraction of one star as it troubled me so.
These perfunctory fries have not earned their name as they fail to capture the pedestrian enticement of the nacho, nor do they deserve to wear the crown of French fries as French they most certainly are not. In short, they lack the earnestness of a true russet and fail to appeal to my crestfallen salivary glands.
I beseech The Bell to recall this positively dreadful limited edition straight away. It is time to reinstate bacon, for only the slaughtering of a fattened beast could cleanse the Etruscan plank of this most odious of comestibles.
Va te faire foutre.
Bob Freville is the co-editor of Silent Motorist Media. A writer and filmmaker from Long Island, NY, he is the author of the urban crime novella “Battering the Stem” (Bizarre Pulp Press), the short story collection “The Network People” (Psychedelic Horror Press) and the political satire “Celebrity Terrorist Sex Bomb” (Bizarro Pulp Press). Freville’s horror-art film “Hemo” is available from Troma Team Releasing. Send him dirty pictures or death threats at: email@example.com