I was born a not-Texan, but I moved here from Virginia when I was 4. On one of my first trips to Dallas in the late 1980s, I napped under my dad's chair while he and my mom voraciously ate Tex-Mex at El Fenix. I was a Texan. And yet, I confess:
My name is Nick Rallo, I was raised in Texas, and I'd never been to a Dairy Queen until last night.
I went to the one in Oak Cliff. Walking in and smelling all that fried, I had no sense of when I was. Time is a flat circle at Dairy Queen. It was a fried wonderland of new food experiences, and I was both a kid and a thinking adult. What in the hell is a Dilly Bar? There's a sandwich succinctly named "Dude"! Why did something called "Jalitos" appear on my burger and why the hell are they so delicious? There was a timeline bolted to the wall of how Dairy Queen introduced us to a new world, like Vespucci if Vespucci served Blizzards. Luckily, some friends helped me figure out how to be a better Southerner.
It's safe to say I had absolutely no idea what was going on at the register. New words like Hungr, Bustr, Jalitos, Dippy Cone, Dilly and Orange Julius were bullet-training through my head. I shouted some scared words at the nice lady behind the register. I ordered the steak finger basket and a Jalitos Hungr Bustr with fries to start. The Lady Friend advised waiting patiently, like an adult, to order the ice cream.
Here's what I learned from my first steak finger basket and Jalitos Hungr Bustr burger experience.
- You need two gravys, almost immediately - Steak fingers are as crunchy as a pumice, fried to the perfect shape of a wry smile, and are extraordinary when dipped into gravy - You always, always dip the fries in the gravy - I said, "Why toast?" -- until I realized you dip it in the gravy. - I need gravy with everything now. Haircuts, conference calls, swimming. - The Hungr Bustr, with jalitos, had a spicy, acid edge that made for better fast food eating than most fast foods. Also, let's drop the vowels off on other things to the make the delicious. For example: Stek. Buttr. Bacn. Macarni 'n Ches. Cut to the chase, you know? - Why even ketchup? Gravy. - The burgr ws relly gd. - The steak fingers smelled and tasted so perfectly and crunchily of the best cafeteria food you had when you were a kid. I was a kid. I'm still a kid as I write this, eating the steak fingers in time.
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Then, as advised, I got the classic desserts: the dipped cone and the Oreo Blizzard. At this point, few people were left in the restaurant, and I was starting to feel like I had gone through a portal. A kid next to us was playing with a Transformer. When the Blizzard arrived, the happy woman turned it upside down to show that physics was even out of whack. I was in space.
What I learned:
- The dipped cone is a work of art. It's hard on the outside, soft on the inside, like Michelangelo's statue of David. - Dairy Queen has its own branded and registered long ice cream spoons. It also has its own branded clock. And art. - A strong desire to dip your hand, other things in that chocolate casing stirs up in you. - There's nothing wrong with an Oreo Blizzard. It is a perfect food. - I missed the steak fingers a little. Also, the gravy. - You should be silent when eating Blizzards. There's no use in talking politics, or anything related to politics or life. There is only Blizzard and Oreo.
After polishing off the two ice cream things, we stopped to look at the timeline on the wall. Dairy Queen debuted in the Middle East in 1979, apparently. The DQ was completely empty at this point, like I'd been there for decades or had died. What time was it? Was it time? It really didn't matter. The sun was setting and I was a happy kid.