Cap 'n Dave's Kitchen

I'm man enough to admit it: My swimsuit column idea has been a total flop, and I can't say I blame anybody for not getting into it. The plan, originally, called for thousands of you readers to send me pictures of yourselves in skimpy aquatic outfits. Then I would run these pictures in my column to the general amusement of the residents of the south-central Arizona area.

Well, the deal is a stinker. Displaying a refreshing excess of common sense, the readers of this column have failed to send in a single racy photo. All I need now is a face-saving way out of this whole embarrassing enchilada.

If I were in government, it would be easy. I'd just make up a couple of polls, then blame my support staff for presenting me with the idea in the first place. If I were a serious newspaper columnist, I could blame it on my readers for being stupid hicks, then threaten to move to the coast. If I were in sports, I could blame it on the fact that I am a recovering sex addict and claim that some babe gave me the idea between horizontal wind-sprint sessions down at the Travelodge.

Maybe there is a God after all, because I am none of those things. And speaking of the Big Guy Up Yonder, I've got a built-in way of ditching this swimsuit column idea: I've decided to give it up for Lent. I figure it's the perfect out.

Lent is, what? As best I can tell, it's a long period of time in the spring during which people recover from Mardi Gras. It is also a period of time that has almost expired this year, which makes my timing perfect. Because I hadn't given anything else up for Lent, the swimsuit concept fits in just right. I'm sad to see a great idea die on the vine like this, but if it gets me any closer to sainthood, I figure it's an okay sacrifice. Speaking of sainthood, I was driving down Van Buren the other day on the way to a popular midtown topless bar. My task was to deposit one Judge I-Rankin', New Times thrash-metal expert and my personal spiritual adviser, at the front door of said megapopular butt hut so he could interview for a job as a disc jockey. We were tooling along listening to Jimmy Reed on the radio when a Popeye's chicken shack came into view. There, on the sign in front, like a personal message to us dudes from God or Jah or Elvis or Whatever You Want to Call Him, came these words: Lent Special Cajun Catfish Platter $3.99.

I didn't even touch the steering wheel, my truck pulled itself into the lot and parked. Soon, the Judge and I were ordering.

I am no great fan of catfish, but I figured any kind of fish Popeye might be serving would be deep fried and likely taste a lot like chicken. I let the Judge order it. I ordered a barbecue chicken sandwich, a piece of fried chicken with a biscuit, a jug of cajun rice, a jug of red beans and rice, a side of onion rings, a Dr Pepper and a Coke. The whole thing cost about $13, and it was enough food for about four people, especially when you consider both chicken items come with fries.

The Judge's catfish platter was nothing short of magnificent. It came with several strips of dark, tasty fish, some fries, a little green salad with tomatoes and a handful-size serving of fruit salad. Grumbling about the worthless eating utensil provided--it was one of those spoon-fork combination things you'd just like to poke in the eye of the inventor--he dug in. "This is right respectable catfish," was his statement.

My order wasn't bad either. What I expected from the barbecue chicken sandwich was a Carl's Jr.-style slab of chicken painted with sauce. What I got was a sloppy joe-style scoop of chicken parts floating in a gravy-like sauce, all on a nice bun. It tasted fine, and I suppose this gives Popeye a way of unloading his unspoken-for chicken parts, so I can't fault him. The fried-chicken piece I had was excellent, if a little sloppy with grease. The biscuit was quite buttery in flavor. The onion rings were superb, made from mostly smallish rings and calmly coated with just a whiff of batter. Both rice dishes were very good, although I thought the cajun rice was better for having less of a weird chemical taste than the other. Just call me particular.

I'm not sure if it was because of the Judge's presence or not, but our entire Popeye's experience was revelatory. All of the little things we ate were good or great, and the catfish was among the better fish-related foodstuffs I've ever eaten, no lie. Both the Judge and I are hoping Popeye will keep this one on his menu even after Lent runs out. We both also hope he gets some real forks.

Till we eat again . . .

What's eating you? Is there a groovy gut-bomb out there you're just dying to share with the world? Hash that's a smash? Write to Cap'n Dave and tell him where to go. Send your napkin notes to: Cap'n Dave, New Times, P.O. Box 2510, Phoenix, AZ 85002.