opinionOne meal shifts writer’s culinary expectations

By McDaniel Hartranft

It came unexpectedly. Doesn’t it always though? The usual, cliché phrase “It-found-me” proved to be true. I don’t remember what day it was, or what the weather was like. All I remember was finding it.

My family and I were driving down to South Carolina one summer, and we pulled over for lunch. The usual quarrel about where to eat took place. Not being able to stomach one more Big Mac, I decided to take charge. We drove around and surveyed our options: Arby’s, Wendy’s, Long John Silvers and Hardees. In simplest terms, the moment looked grim for me and my family’s taste buds.

As we were about to give up, we saw a building. The unfamiliar structure had pale beige walls and a blue sign that read “Zaxby’s.” Without a word or a whine, we pulled into the parking lot, unknowing of what was to await us. As we walked in stretching out our wobbly road-trip exhausted legs, we were instantly greeted by the smell of the greatest food revolutionized by Mr. Colonel Sanders: fried chicken. My eyes jumped from chicken sandwiches to chicken on salads to chicken with crinkle fries. Yeah… I said crinkle fries.

At that moment it happened. My eyes saw something that I couldn’t resist. I had never had this feeling before but, I knew I had to make the first move. “May I have the House Salad?”

Dear Reader, hold back your sighs of disappointment because it was only a salad. It wasn’t just a salad. I don’t even like salads. The only reason I ordered this salad was because all of the previous McDonald’s cheeseburgers I had ingested that made me need something vaguely healthy. Thank goodness I did though, because it changed my world.

I held my fork over the mountainous bowl with uneasiness, for they gave me grilled chicken instead of fried. Did you hear me? Instead of fried! My voyage started with a fork as I made my way through this uncharted food. Mixed greens, red cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, Roma tomatoes, cheddar and Jack cheese, fried onions and grilled chicken with Texas toast on the side. This was it. The one for me. I had been waiting my whole life, it seemed, to find a salad just for me. The juiciness of the chicken, the freshness of the tomato and the crunchiness of the fried onions basically had my head in the bowl. If you haven’t jumped to conclusions yet, fried chicken and I share a special bond. I can always go for a Caniac from Canes or a family-sized bucket from KFC, but Zaxby’s house salad: I would die for it.

Much like most Nicholas Sparks books, my love story has a tragic ending. You see, Zaxby’s is only located in 18 states and Ohio isn’t one of them. It’s definitely hard but I get along OK. I have my good days and my bad days. Some call me a survivor, and I don’t disagree with them. I yearn for the summer and the long road trips that always lead me back to Zaxby’s.