Travel Thursday: Confessions of a Picky Eater

From 2007: To everyone’s amazement, including my own, I wrote a blog about food to kick off my South America trip. Me, the anti-gourmet!

So I’m having dinner with a friend in a new place, going-away party type o’ thing, and I can’t find anything I like on the menu, so I skip straight to dessert, much to her chagrin. I tell her I would rather not eat than eat something I don’t like, which I would have done, had I not found the cinnamon orange stuff. At this point she can’t keep herself from saying, “I don’t see how you manage to travel and not starve! And don’t say McDonald’s!”
Okay, I won’t. Instead I’ll use two magic words: corn and potatoes.
There’s only been one place in the world I haven’t found corn and potatoes, and that was last year in the Western Chinese desert. In a couple of weeks I’ll be in Machu Picchu, where corn is a sacred crop, and by that time I figure I’ll be hungry enough to save some farmers’ jobs. Or keep them from turning to cocaine as a cash crop.

How much do I love corn? I keep rankings on where I’ve had the best. Here’s the top three:
3) Jimmy’s Diner in Berlin (although that might be because I hadn’t had any in so long at that point) {Update: place is no longer there. . .}
2) A corn festival in. . . I’m thinking Wisconsin, but not completely sure. Some place Midwest. And I can assure you the redhead selling the corn did not influence that ranking (side note: I tried counting all her freckles, but gave up on her lower back at around 1500. . . and she wouldn’t let me mark where I left off with a Sharpie!)
1) Rotorua, New Zealand–they cook it in a geyser!

Some people have gotten on me for a slightly different reason, claiming that part of the lure of traveling is experiencing different foods alongside different cultures. To which the easy answer is “Bullshit!” One does not spend thousands of dollars and travel those same number of miles just to sample the cuisine. Besides, in Los Angeles, where I live, there are restaurants from every country for you to try before heading off for said country; I ran across a Bulgarian place near Fairfax the other day, and there’s an Uzbek restaurant right on Sunset. {Update: not anymore.} C’mon, there are Chinese restaurants in Mississippi! And just because I don’t like eating chocolate covered ants in Mexico doesn’t mean I don’t indulge in the occasional Schnitzel and potato pancakes at the local beerhaus, even if I don’t drink the beer.
Mmmm, Schnitzel. The word alone is magical. . .
Then some true idiots will say–channeling everyone’s mom–how do you know you don’t like it until you try it? (Did you hear her voice? Ugh. . .) Do I look five years old? Why would you assume I haven’t tried it? Maybe I’m so ugly because of all the disgusted faces food has forced me to make in my life!
And what about markets? And I don’t mean the Sunday markets, like the one in Hollywood, where the local indigenous people sell trinkets. I mean places you can buy a packaged loaf of bread and some crackers, or even cans of corn. It’s amazing how people on vacation always have to go to restaurants, like it’s mandatory. Don’t believe the old saying, man can survive on bread and water. . . provided the water’s bottled.
So here’s a story to prove just how far I’ll go when it comes to not eating food I don’t like. Imagine me back in high school, looking unfortunately pretty much the same, except for being thinner with soccer legs (you know what I mean, the kind of muscles that make everything else in the area look small in comparison. . . yep, TMI.). School trip up to San Francisco, group reservations at a seafood restaurant. In addition to being a proud picky eater, I also have a powerful nose, to the point where I can not only tell apart the smells of potatoes and eggs–a lot of people can’t–but can also tell you what type of potatoes are cookin’: fries, tater tots, mojos, baked, boiled, even chips in a bag. In case you didn’t know, fish stink even when not spoiled, almost as much as penguins (oh, wait, fish are why penguins stink). And we were scheduled in that place for two hours, and the chaperones would not let me explore the area for another eatery.
Trying not to feel immensely sorry for myself, but failing pretty miserably, and seeing no one was using the bowl of sour cream before me, I casually scooped it up and somehow managed to keep from scarfing it all in ten seconds; I don’t remember, but I hope I didn’t lick the bowl.
Still casual, I asked the table behind me if they were using the sour cream. The bowl was passed over and another dairy product bit the dust.
Ten bowls later, I was satisfied.
So just to get off on the right track when I arrive in Buenos Aires tomorrow night, I’m going to have a huge steak while watching some tango, juicy meat of another kind. . .
See ya on the other side!

2010 update
That corn at the Warner Park event was so good it has jumped into third place, behind only the New Zealand geyser and the likely Wisconsin state/county fair thing. This drops Jimmy’s Diner in Berlin out of the medals.
I still pine for those awesome tater tots at that mall in Victoria, British Columbia though. . .

2019 update
Rankings have not changed. I wanna go back to New Zealand just for the corn. . .

;o)

Food Review: In-N-Out

I’ve always found that who you eat with can affect the taste of the food. In some cases that includes the staff; if I have a happy joyful waitress, it makes the memory of the meal better, as opposed to a surly server who’d rather be somewhere else. As far as In-N-Out goes, it probably wouldn’t matter because the food is so good, but absolutely everyone I’ve ever seen working there is chipper and glad they’re bringing culinary joy to their customers. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s part of the reason they’re hired, as I imagine they can pick and choose from all the applications they get.
As you would expect from previous food postings, as well as other ramblings, my food orders are simple and plain: either a double-double plain cheese-only or a Flying Dutchman. And of course you’re asking what that is, which could lead us to a long discussion about the not-so-Secret Menu, but you can look that up yourself. A Flying Dutchman is the plainest of the plain: two slices of cheese between two beef patties. . . and that’s it, not even the bread. They give you a fork for this. More importantly, you can taste the freshness.
I am a connoisseur of fries, so I know what I’m talking about when I say these are pretty good but will never taste like the heavenly type they have at McD’s. They’re not supposed to; they have a completely different vibe. They’re earthy, with no preservatives. If you stand where you can see the back of the cooking area, you can watch someone—probably a newbie—placing a fresh potato into a slot and working what looks like a giant juicer to split it into fries. Since I like my baked potatoes plain as well, I’m used to this fresh kind of taste and enjoy these well enough to not be pining for the candy-like treat served at the place mentioned above.
A lot of people go here for the shakes, but I have my own particular kind of liquid refreshment. In a world dominated by Coke and Pepsi, especially in chain fast food joints, In-N-Out is the only place that has 7-Up. I’m sure I’ve previously mentioned how much I love 7-Up, right? Liquid Candy is not going too far as a description.
But more than anything it’s the ambiance. You rarely see angry people here, and it’s a lot easier to talk to those at the next table. To be fair, I can’t remember seeing anyone losing it at McDonald’s, but when you hear about stuff in the news, it’s never here. Again to be fair, there are less of these around, which is a fact that obviously helps with the freshness. It’s well documented that they don’t build these if there supply place is too far away. Another thing you never heard about at In-N-Out is employees spitting—or worse—into the food. The vibe is too good for that. Plus it’s so bright and cheery inside, with the yellow zigzags and palm trees; it’s easy to notice how dark McDonald’s looks in comparison.

5/5 (Did you expect anything different?)

;o)

Travel Thursday Encore–How to mix pleasure with business–Seattle 05, Day 4, Part 2

Finally got to the bottom of Pike Place, but did not go all the way back to the waterfront I strolled by just last night. Instead, checking the schedule, I sat myself down at the stop and waited for the trolley, line 99, once in a while talking to the impatient German or Dutch tourist who claimed to have been waiting for an hour, which I doubted. But he did have a point, the thing did not come at its regularly scheduled time, and when it did, I saw how harried the female driver was, so I didn’t say anything. To my surprise, there was a girl about ten years old–this one was easy to gauge–who took my money and, when everyone was sitting down, yelled, “Go, Mom!” Was it Take Your Daughter to Work day? I really hoped not, because if it was, all my musings about the little brunette fruit seller being legal went out the skylight. Yikes! I do so hate it when a lovely memory is so tarnished, sigh. . .
Got off a few stops later at the ferry terminal, and decided “Why not?” I’d been on Bainbridge Island before and knew a good place to eat, and the boat was leaving in five minutes, so I quickly bought a ticket and hopped on. I’ve got a new slogan for them if they’re reading: Washington State Ferries: Howz a little Puget Sound?
Is there any better way to cool down on a warm day than to let the wind blow through your hair and blast your face? As long as the ship is big enough so you don’t get seasick, there’s no better way to relax for an hour or so than on a ferry ride around Puget Sound. Somehow this was better than the Harbor Cruise I’d taken a few years ago, despite the two redheads I met on. . . but I digress yet again. It seems that when taking a tour you feel like you HAVE to look at everything, all the touristy things the guide points out; this is even true on a boat tour, which is why it’s so much better on regular public transportation, where you can look at anything you want or nothing at all.
I went immediately to the top deck, where I was met–literally ran into–two fully-black-clad, down to the shades, “cops” in short sleeves and shaved heads. If it wasn’t for the Belgian on the leash–a dog, silly!–I’d wonder if these guys were hired actors, they looked the part so well. If it had been hired security by the ferry company, I might wonder if they were trying to stop thefts, but since these were cops–might have even been Feds–the answer’s pretty obvious. Though from my experience I don’t see why a ferry would be considered that great of a terrorism target, but okay.
Like the girl who worked at the Space Needle who was bored at looking outside, there were plenty of people on board who were into books, computers, cell phones, or listening to music with their eyes closed, completely blasé about the view. I can’t imagine getting jaded at vistas like these. In addition to all the preeeety trees in just about every direction, there were plenty of cold rocky beaches, some with timbers strewn about. There was also what appeared to be a small town right on the beach, just one row of large buildings before the cliff, which made me wonder how anyone got anywhere there–no dock, no road, no way to come down the cliff. . .

Seattle, ferry, Seattle ferry

Seattle, ferry, Seattle ferry Seattle, shore, rocky shoreline, mansion, mansions, beach mansions
Since I’m a total explorer I went off to check out every part of the ship, as always ending up in front, where the wind blew my hoodie right off my head the moment I stepped around the corner. Had I put on the cap it would have been at the other end of the boat in a couple of seconds, so I simply stayed there talking to a couple from Montana while my sneering ego wondered if I was going to meet any gal who would take one look at my windblown hair and laugh. . .
The trip back from Bainbridge island was ever better, sight-wise, with a wonderful view of the cityscape, from the Space Needle to all the skyscrapers to Smith Tower, looking all lonely to the right. If you knew enough of the city landmarks you could spot the sports stadiums around Pioneer Square.. . hey, there are much worse ways to spend an hour!

Seattle, downtown, skyscrapers, ocean, Puget Sound

Seattle, ferry, Puget Sound

Seattle, skyline, Seattle skyline, downtown, Seattle downtown, skyscrapers, ferry Puget Sound, ocean
The place I was going to eat at on the island had been closed, and now that I was out of grapes and getting hungry again, I wasn’t about to waste time searching, so I walked the few blocks to the Metropolitan Grill, feeling completely out of place looking touristy and taking my cap off to reveal all that windblown hair.
I am not a food snob by any means–I know the locations of McDonald’s in most major cities around the world–but for once I was going to go to a place I’d always heard of, but never thought I would ever step inside, just for the novelty.
Turned out I was the novelty: every customer there, the women as well, was wearing a suit, but neither the seater nor the waitress–Hi, Autumn!–raised an eyebrow at my touristy garb–shorts and a hoodie, plus camera around the neck–nor made fun of my windblown messy hair; I’m like a dog who likes to stick his head out the car window and smile, but luckily my ears aren’t as long. For such a fancy place all the workers seemed to be pretty laid back, and seemed to genuinely enjoy working there, which in this rarefied type of eatery surprised me–absolutely no attitude from anyone–but pleasantly. And you can tell it’s a pretty ritzy place when a guy dressed as the chef–maybe the chef himself, but doubtful–comes out to deliver your plate instead of the waitress.
Okay, on to the food, which after all is the real reason for coming to a place like this, even if the service can affect how much you enjoy the meal. {Well, I suppose some people eat here to be seen, but to hell with them.} Another thing I’d heard about was that Kobe beef, a specialty Japanese meat where rumor has it the cows are fed beer, was the best tasting in the world, and I believe it. In fact, I ordered the burger without any condiments, just the meat, cheese, and bread–either a naked burger or wearing cheese lingerie, you choose–so I could really get the taste of the Japanese beef. Having never spent more than five dollars on a burger, I can honestly say this one was well worth the twelve dollar price tag. In combination with a Henry Weinhard’s orange creme soda, which Autumn suggested I try, and some really huge table fries, it was one of the best meals of my life! I ate around three o’clock, and didn’t need to eat again till the next morning! And I came back a few hours later to have another one of those orange tongue lovelies in the bar, though the Russian bartender didn’t put any orange sherbet in it like Autumn did.
{As usual, thinking about that meal makes me want a Henry Weinhard’s Orange Crème gourmet soda with orange sherbet right now! Which means I have to get over to the BevMore for a four pack, and they’re really expensive! At least it doesn’t put me in the mood for a Kobe burger, and ever since that day I’ve been thinking of Autumn the waitress anyway, so that’s nothing new.} And I have to say the best moment of the entire meal was when I was paying Autumn and I told her, “I wish the guys from the office were here, so they could see I don’t ask every beautiful woman I meet to pose for me. . .” I may have never gotten a photo, but that mix of surprise and delight on her face will never leave my memory. . .
Next time I’m gonna try the steak. . . and I hope Autumn is still working there. . . though that’s selfish of me; hopefully she’s moved on to bigger and better things.
After that amazing meal, I walked back to the bus tunnel, and while waiting for the green light, my always-investigating eyes looked downward and saw I was standing next to the name of the street, carved into the cement of the corner, in some fancy script. I’d never noticed that before, but could remember glancing across streets and seeing kids seemingly very interested in their footwear. It was an “A-ha!” moment. I crossed the street when the light prompted, of course noticing this corner also had the street name, though having to read it upside down. Either way, nice.
Bus tunnel and then monorail back to Seattle Center, passing by the Space Needle, where I noticed some marionettes dancing to “Ghost Riders in the Thighs. . . er, Sky.” Yeah, I definitely needed a rest, and for once I wasn’t at all tempted as I walked by McD’s. With the grapes and the Kobe burger, and the huge fries that came with it, I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to eat again till I got back to El Lay!

;o)

Heightened Senses

So, I have heightened senses.
The most famous person, even if he wasn’t real, to suffer from this was Usher. . . no, not the rapper, the character from Edgar Allan Poe’s story. That was fiction, of course, because no one could live like that; he would have killed himself a long time before. So yeah, I don’t have it anywhere near that bad, but I still had to grow up with everything being. . . too much.
Why does it suck most of the time?
As I age, my hearing and eyesight are fading, but unfortunately not my sense of smell. That’s as strong as ever. Every time I pass a dumpster, or even a trash can, I have to remember to internally close my nose, otherwise it feels like getting hit by a sledgehammer.
Taste is also hard to deal with. The way you feel when biting into the hottest pepper around is the way I feel with any small amount of any spice. . . except cinnamon. I have to order everything bland; my burgers consist of meat, cheese and bread, with the occasional bacon thrown in. Steaks have nothing on them. Waiters hate me, dates are embarrassed (only one of many reasons, apparently), and no one really understands.
Then there’s the last one: touch. This is the most difficult to explain, as there are two components: touching someone or something, and being touched.
My touching is as strong, or as sensitive, as ever. I’ve pleasured women just by rubbing their eyebrows. Being touched, however, is declining in a bad way.
In talking smack with guys and being honest with ladies—try it, it works—I’ve known that pleasurable sensations are off the scale for me, compared to most. The physical delight people achieve with orgasm, I can achieve with a lot less, so just imagine what a climax feels like. Unfortunately, with great pleasure comes great soreness. Even worse, as I age I’ve lost even more of this stamina, getting sore quicker, in some cases a lot quicker. It’s a bummer, though usually you don’t feel it until after. It does usually preclude an encore, though.
And regular pain? Please don’t pinch me. Getting a flu shot? More like a stab wound. And going to the dentist? No thanks, haven’t in 25 years. I’d rather have my teeth fall out.
Now imagine sunburn. . .
I’m writing this next section while eating at Juanita’s, my favorite place at Olvera Street, in downtown Los Angeles. I’m eating a bean and cheese burrito, just about the only thing on the menu I can have. Even with this relatively plain dish, I’m getting a slight buzz from the cheese. And right after, I go to Kitty’s for a soft serve. . . vanilla, of course.
So yeah, most of the time it doesn’t matter, but that just makes the times it does that much worse. Chronic pain is my closest friend. So for those who have asked me to go out with them, to nightclubs in particular but really anywhere loud, I hope you understand a little better why I always say no. If you invite me to a Cajun or Indian restaurant, I might have to shoot you. So don’t. Leave me alone and let me decide, okay?
;o)

Travel Thursday Encore–How to mix pleasure with business–Seattle 05, Day 1, Part 1

Today on Travel Thursday, the first of five days of intense squeezing-every-moment traveling amidst boring business stuff. So long it’ll have to come in installments, or I guess old skool would call it “serialized.”

MONDAY–LA
I like not having to prepare for a trip. Going to some place I haven’t been to before, or only once, I’d be researching for weeks, make sure I found all the places I wanted to see and made some kind of itinerary. But this is Seattle, a town I’ve been to so many times I probably know it almost as well as I know El Lay. Still, there were some places in the Emerald City I haven’t checked out yet, but I was more likely to get back to the Pacific Northwest–again–than Tanzania, so no big deal.
Okay, there was a bit of preparation, mostly physical. In the two weeks before the trip I took long walks every day, partly to think through all the stuff that had to be thought through–that’s when I do my best thinking, not counting pillow talk–but mostly as conditioning for all those Seattle hills. Two days before I left I went to a UCLA softball game, against the University of Washington, of all things; too bad all the girls I knew on that team had graduated, but that is most definitely another story. The stadium is on a hill on the northwest side of the UCLA campus, and this is one steep long climb, so I was happy to see I was only a little winded instead of gasping as usual. Then on Sunday I went to UCLA gymnastics, and climbing up the stairs in Pauley Pavilion a few times is a similar experience, so I felt I was as prepared as I could be.
But nothing can prepare you when you so hate waking up at six in the morning. . .
After an hour bus ride down Rosemead/Lakewood Blvd., and that is one long boring jaunt when you’re trying to stay awake, still had to transfer to a Long Beach bus to get to the Long Beach Airport. Yes, it was still quicker and closer than any other airport, but. . .
The perfectly named Long Beach Airport was probably built in the 40s and looks it, but not because it’s decrepit, I was speaking architecturally. In fact, it kinda reminded me of the background of the last scene in Casablanca. {I’ve been told since then that it’s built in the Streamline Moderne style, if any of you are into that sorta thing.} After a relatively quick check in–my first time doing it with a touch-screen rather than a human–I marched up the stairs to the Legends of Aviation Restaurant & Bar, and I gotta say, the second floor before entering the restaurant looked even more like a time warp! If the plane has propellers I’m staying home!
But then you enter the restaurant and things are back to normal. Since I still had a lot of time till my flight, though I haven’t gone through Search & Seizure yet, I tried to do everything in slow motion, savor every morsel, watch the planes land and take off–and gawking at my first sight of an actual LANCER!–and check out the waitress as often as possible, but even with all that I finally left and went off to have my shoes checked, along with other things.
Restaurant review: Legends of Aviation Restaurant & Bar
{Find the place where all the planes are taking off. Go into the only building. Climb to the second floor.}
Hey, much better than what you get on the plane!
Nowadays, in most modern airports, you have a large variety of eateries to choose from, most of them either fast food or way-overpriced. But in certain tiny flight hubs you may not get much of a choice, like at the Long Beach Airport, where the Legends of Aviation Restaurant & Bar, on the second floor of the terminal–okay, the only building–is the only game in town. Luckily it’s a good game.
The very cheerful waitress told me to have a seat anywhere, so of course I ambled off to grab a table near the windows that showed a view of the airfield. There was even a patio section, though I can’t imagine who would want to put up with all that noise! There was also a bar, but it might have been a better deal to face it away from the view of the landings and takeoffs. . . I’m just sayin’.
Okay, my waitress was a tiny perky brunette named Jessica who made the meal a lot more fun than I would have imagined. She had this enjoyable way of saying “You’re wel-come!” that I wish I could have taped. It got to the point where. . . there was this woman seated across the aisle from me who looked so totally bored that she was willing to spend a few minutes practicing her flirting technique on me, but the more time I spent smiling and semi-flirting with my waitress, the more pissed off she got.
The very first thing said between us was me telling her to take the previous tip away, because I didn’t want to be tempted. She laughed heartily and whisked the money into hiding, calling me a big goof; I’m surprised she didn’t hit me on the head with her pad. Not being in an adventurous mood. . . well, yeah, I never am when it comes to food, but certainly not when I might possibly get airsick, I had the bacon and eggs with wheat toast. You would think it’d be hard to screw up something so basic, but I’ve had too many bad breakfasts to not know better.
This one was not screwed up, in fact it was damned tasty, aided by the fact they got the bacon exactly how I liked it. While I don’t keep records the way I do with corn, that might be the second-best wheat toast I’ve ever had {the first being at the bus station in Duncan, Vancouver Island, Canada}. And like in all great eateries, the waitress has something to do with it, because if you get a surly server it somehow makes the food taste not as good, right?
And then there’s the view. I’m not a hard-core aviation buff, but I’ve flown on enough of them, especially in the Marine Corps and UN Peacekeeping, to recognize the C-130s and such dotting the hangers on the other side of the field, so no doubt this airport has a military component as well. I had to borrow some binoculars–smart of the restaurant to have them on hand–to see that it was indeed a Lancer off in the distance, the most beautiful plane ever built. It was pretty cool having both my senses of sight and taste so fully engaged at the same time. So if you’re the kinda person who loves watching planes, this is the perfect place for you!
Along with a big glass of milk my bill came to just over seven dollars, which is a great price anywhere but particularly in a spot where it’s the only alternative. And after paying I asked Jessica to put the change in my backpack, which I already had on, so it wouldn’t set off the metal detector when my bod passed through; she laughed and did so, though I can only assume that from the sound–she mighta kept a quarter, but I doubt it. The whole experience left me in a great mood to fly, an auspicious start to the trip.
{note: the restaurant had since been “remodeled,” so I can’t vouch for what it looks like now, or the prices. I just hope they were smart enough to keep the food tasty.
And keep Jessica.}
Back to our story. . .
To my surprise, the security checkpoint looked to be made out of those modular trailers you had in high school when there was no more room in the old buildings, and even more surprising was zooming right through. I guess I’m finally used to doing and undoing the laces on my boots, and luckily I was awake enough to wear matching socks.
As usual getting anywhere early, I spent the time reading, in this case most of the UCLA magazine, before going over to look at the snacks. The counter girl giggled as I bought an orange creamsickle and matching yoghurt–to balance the nutritional content, of course–and especially at my face when I saw that sushi–wrapped plastic container, at least–was on sale there too. I don’t know anyone who would take a risk on buying preserved sushi, but some people like to live on the edge. . . me, I’d like a condo two blocks from the edge. {Sorry, old joke.}
Do you think they have a security camera in the airport restrooms? Considering this would be the place where someone in disguise would change, or possibly let loose a biological or chemical agent into the air vents, you’d have to think there would be, right? But still, what about inside the stalls? Do the guys in the security room develop a fetish? Are there blackmail tapes? Is that how they caught that Republican senator in Minneapolis? Do I really want to know? Bingo.
It wasn’t till I sat back down to finish the other half of the UCLA magazine that I realized I was wearing my heavy Washington Huskies jacket {which I ended up never needing, but more on that later. . . SHIT! anyways.}
Finally on the plane, where everyone settled quickly and efficiently so that we took off on time. Can’t remember the last time an airport and flight went off like so much clockwork, though of course the thought jinxes it for next time. Huh.
Got a damn good view of the Lancer as we taxied–seriously, the most beautiful plane ever, some might dare call it. . . sexy? In the way cars can be sexy, of course.
Flight was short due to talking the whole way.

Next week we’ll finally arrive in Seattle. . .

;o)

Food Review: Juanita’s

A lot of people kid me for not liking Mexican food. Others playfully harass me for not being a foodie, which is harder for me to understand, even when they mention my tastes in literature, music, movies, and so on.
The truth is I’m a man of simple tastes (that includes women, before you ask). I order my burgers plain with cheese only, my country fried steak without sauce, my bacon and eggs without anything else. I could tell you about my hypersensitivity to spices and such, but I don’t want to give you any more easy jokes.
So with all that, Juanita’s on Olvera Street makes the best bean and cheese burritos. Whenever I’m at Union Station with time to spare before going somewhere else, I’ll walk over there and talk to Edward about Firefly or cosplay or something else geeky while savoring the easy smooth flavor the only two ingredients mix into. . . three, if you count the tortilla. This is especially important ever since my favorite downtown eatery, the Yorkshire, closed down, and Clifton’s changed for the much worse.
You may now expect my next food review sometime in the next decade.

;o)

Travel Thursday: Confessions of a Picky Eater

From 2007: To everyone’s amazement, including my own, I wrote a blog about food to kick off my South America trip. Me, the anti-gourmet!

So I’m having dinner with a friend in a new place, going-away party type o’ thing, and I can’t find anything I like on the menu, so I skip straight to dessert, much to her chagrin. I tell her I would rather not eat than eat something I don’t like, which I would have done, had I not found the cinnamon orange stuff. At this point she can’t keep herself from saying, “I don’t see how you manage to travel and not starve! And don’t say McDonald’s!”
Okay, I won’t. Instead I’ll use two magic words: corn and potatoes.

There’s only been one place in the world I haven’t found corn and potatoes, and that was last year in the Western Chinese desert. In a couple of weeks I’ll be in Machu Picchu, where corn is a sacred crop, and by that time I figure I’ll be hungry enough to save some farmers’ jobs. Or keep them from turning to cocaine as a cash crop.

How much do I love corn? I keep rankings on where I’ve had the best. Here’s the top three:
3) Jimmy’s Diner in Berlin (although that might be because I hadn’t had any in so long at that point) {Update: place is no longer there. . .}
2) A corn festival in. . . I’m thinking Wisconsin, but not completely sure. Some place Midwest. And I can assure you the redhead selling the corn did not influence that ranking (side note: I tried counting all her freckles, but gave up on her lower back at around 1500. . . and she wouldn‘t let me mark where I left off with a Sharpie!)
1) Rotorua, New Zealand–they cook it in a geyser!

Some people have gotten on me for a slightly different reason, claiming that part of the lure of traveling is experiencing different foods alongside different cultures. To which the easy answer is “Bullshit!” One does not spend thousands of dollars and travel those same number of miles just to sample the cuisine. Besides, in towns like Los Angeles, Noo Yawk, and D.C. there are restaurants from every country for you to try before heading off for said country; I ran across a Bulgarian place near Fairfax the other day, and there’s an Uzbek restaurant right on Sunset. {Update: not anymore.} C’mon, there are Chinese restaurants in Mississippi! And just because I don’t like eating chocolate covered ants in Mexico doesn’t mean I don’t indulge in the occasional Schnitzel and potato pancakes at the local beerhaus, even if I don’t drink the beer.
Mmmm, Schnitzel. The word alone is magical. . .
Then some true idiots will say–channeling everyone’s mom–how do you know you don’t like it until you try it? (Did you hear her voice? Ugh. . .) Do I look five years old? Why would you assume I haven’t tried it? Maybe I’m so ugly because of all the disgusted faces food has forced me to make in my life!
And what about markets? And I don’t mean the Sunday markets, like the one in Hollywood, where the local indigenous people sell trinkets. I mean places you can buy a packaged loaf of bread and some crackers, or even cans of corn. It’s amazing how people on vacation always have to go to restaurants, like it’s mandatory. Don’t believe the old saying, man can survive on bread and water. . . provided the water’s bottled.
So here’s a story to prove just how far I’ll go when it comes to not eating food I don’t like. Imagine me back in high school, looking unfortunately pretty much the same, except for being thinner with soccer legs (you know what I mean, the kind of muscles that make everything else in the area look small in comparison. . . yep, TMI.). School trip up to San Francisco, group reservations at a seafood restaurant. In addition to being a proud picky eater, I also have a powerful nose, to the point where I can not only tell apart the smells of potatoes and eggs–a lot of people can’t–but can also tell you what type of potatoes are cookin’: fries, tater tots, mojos, baked, boiled, even chips in a bag. In case you didn’t know, fish stink even when not spoiled, almost as much as penguins (oh, wait, fish are why penguins stink). And we were scheduled in that place for two hours, and the chaperones would not let me explore the area for another eatery.
Trying not to feel immensely sorry for myself, but failing pretty miserably, and seeing no one was using the bowl of sour cream before me, I casually scooped it up and somehow managed to keep from scarfing it all in ten seconds; I don’t remember, but I hope I didn’t lick the bowl.
Still casual, I asked the table behind me if they were using the sour cream. The bowl was passed over and another dairy product bit the dust.
Ten bowls later, I was satisfied.
So just to get off on the right track when I arrive in Buenos Aires tomorrow night, I’m going to have a huge steak while watching some tango, juicy meat of another kind. . .
See ya on the other side!

2010 update
That corn at the Warner Park event was so good it has jumped into third place, behind only the New Zealand geyser and the likely Wisconsin state/county fair thing. This drops Jimmy’s Diner in Berlin out of the medals.
I still pine for those awesome tater tots at that mall in Victoria, British Columbia though. . .

;o)