My drag name, if I ever need one, will be nothing if not Mary Brown. It might sound a little plain and spiritless at first glance, until you find out what it means, and what she represents, to me and my people.
First off, you should know that Mary Brown’s is a magical place full of dead poultry and dead potatoes, deep fried and handed to you, for a small fee. So now you at least know it’s a chicken restaurant, and the fictional Mary, who looks like Debbie Cooper in her heyday, feeds us all when we need it most.
Anyone who’s ever experienced Mary Brown – it’s mostly an east coast Canadian thing – knows how incredible she is. It is legitimately the best fried chicken on the go anywhere, hands down, mouths open. And the taters. My god, the taters. All this without even mentioning the gravy. Mouths are now watering throughout the land. It’s intoxicating just thinking about it, imagining the sweet brown liquid coursing through me, venally and arterially and capillaryly.
However, for all its beauty, there is this one thing the company has held on to that I’ve never understood. With each meal also comes a salad, and you get your choice of three: Potato Salad, Macaroni Salad, and Coleslaw. But they call them by slightly different names, all inexplicably consisting of three words.¹
- Potato Vegetable Salad: Nobody calls is this. We all know a potato is a vegetable. It’s not a tomato, for jaysus sake. But either way, it’s like they started with the potato vegetable salad and then decided they needed consistency in the number of words per side dish.
- Tasty Macaroni Salad: Here they figured they’d just sneak in an adjective – tasty – for all those who had up to this point held plain macaroni salads in low regard.
- Fresh Daily Coleslaw: At this point they realize that coleslaw is only one word, and doesn’t even contain the word salad. But they still need those three words, so let’s double up on those adjectives. Fresh AND Daily. Come on!
There was a pretty crazy month a few years back where Mary Brown’s bought up every KFC in Newfoundland, at last monopolizing the fried chicken market that they were dominating even with competition. It was a bold and flavourful move, but the right one. MB’s popping up everywhere, each with different branding, some sort of test that I think we all passed. On a side note, KFC used to be called Kentucky Fried Chicken, but too many people called it Kenturkey Fried Chicken, so they shortened it to KFC.
A fine tradition takes place in St. John’s every December 23rd. It is a glorious event called the Big & Mary Lebowski, where attendees play bowling and eat MB’s and laugh at the good time being had. The went-aways in Vancouver who don’t make it home for Christmas usually attempt a semblance of an homage at Commodore Lanes with Juke’s Fried Chicken, but it’s never the same. Still, a couple of years ago, I wanted to surprise everyone on the special occasion with the real thing and see if that would lift the spirits. Now there happens to be a Mary Brown’s franchise in Chilliwack that I normally only get to eat if I’m passing through or if I think I might die in two days and need one final spicy Big Mary combo. So I posted a Craigslist ad looking for a Chilliwacker to pick up a great feast from his nearby Mary’s and deliver it to us bowlers in a miracle of glory. They were to be compensated with some east coast delicacies, a gas rebate, unlimited drinks and a few new friends. I received an affirmative response from an enthusiastic reveler and I sent the man $80 for the food. Alas, he never arrived or responded to my pleas, and that is when I lost all hope that this Santa guy existed at all. Not that I could ever blame my girl for that.
In Newfoundland, the Colonel is dead, Mary is Queen, and more than ever I am missing my chicken and tateys and needlessly-worded salads. Enough that I felt the need to show it with a song.
The scholars out there might wonder if all of this is making me homesick. And I wonder it too.