Tuesday, September 6, 2011

West Coast Wrappers

I’ve been known to make some interesting decisions in my life.

It was very early on when I decided that ice cream is more important than boys.


Or the time I read in a magazine that pure coconut oil should be used as a body lotion, and I decided this simply must be tested. By me. I bought a jar. I used it. I went to bed. I slept zero minutes because my entire body smelled like a Samoa Girl Scout Cookie, and I just couldn’t cope. You try smelling non-existent samoas that you can’t eat all night long, see where it puts you. It’s a kind of torture, really. I’ll meet you at Denny’s for some Moons Over My-Hammy and thirty cups of coffee the next morning and we can compare notes.

So that was a decision I regret, obviously.

Also, I chose to buy a mini stapler at OfficeMax for no good reason, instead of the scotch tape that I knew deep down I would probably have more use for. That one came back to haunt me last weekend as I wrapped a wedding present with Hollywood Fashion Tape.

But whether you find yourself with sheets that smell like cookies and insomnia, or giving an un-openable present, regardless of the thought and care you put into them the decisions you make will usually lead you somewhere unexpected.

As a result of my decisions, last year was a peripatetic one for me. I bounced from place to place like a boxcar child, my car filled to the brim, a bag of clean underwear and hairspray in the passenger seat. I drove around LA knowing that if I ever rear-ended someone, the result for me would be having my undergarments hairsprayed to the inside of my windshield for all to see. Needless to say, it made me a very cautious driver. 

I house-sat, I crashed, and I spent time with friends I am more than lucky to have. During this time I also lived a strange food life out of necessity, and learned a lot. Trying to embrace my hobo status I learned that the protein plate from a starbucks drive-thru is a damn good breakfast on the go. I think it provides all required daily amino acids or something, and what is IN that muffin-biscuit thing?! I learned that Kosher salt MUST be kept in a ziploc bag in the trunk. And an opened (?!) bag of those crispy soy crackers from Trader Joe’s will keep for a shocking 8 months, especially when forgotten about in the back seat under a stack of all your childhood pictures and fancy party dresses. In fact, they may never go bad.

At any given time I knew where the best cappuccino in a 5 mile radius was, whose freezer I left a bean and rice burrito in, and which 7 elevens carry the fudge graham zone bars. That last one is important, because some only have the chocolate peanut butter kind. No, seriously. 

So for most of 2010, I was literally a Hungry Nomad.

So technically this is the first food truck named after me.

That's just between us, obviously.

The Hungry Nomad Truck is “a mobile spin-off of Sasoun Bakery, a family owned and operated Armenian/Lebanese bakery with 8 locations – six in the LA area and two in Lebanon.”

The quotes indicate that that last part came directly from their website. It’s in quotes, so I’m covered. Can’t Touch This.

Whenever a child cries out in sorrow that their ice cream has fallen from the cone, I am there to help them scrape off bits of street and shame so they can eat the salvageable portion. Whenever a frequent flyer hits the bottom of their allotted bag of peanuts with disappointment, I am there to pass them the bag set upon the fold-out out tray of the sleeping passenger on my other side. And whenever a bakery goes mobile, I am there.

I’m just there. No heroics this time. I’m just there to eat.

The Hungry Nomad uses family recipes, and considers their truck’s migratory nature, to be a representation of the Armenian people. Again their mission statement claims: “Hundreds of thousands of Armenians have left their homeland and spread throughout the world, picking up hints from each country they settled in. Our original cuisine is the product of a mix of cultures and flavors that tells the story of our people.”

And all that wrapped up in festive checkerboard paper.

So it was just me and hundreds of thousands of Armenians all wrapped up in soft baked dough, on a warm summer street in Pasadena. I treated myself to the beef wrap: beef and finely chopped vegetables with lettuce, tomato, and mint, on their yeasted dough. Almost a pita, not quite flatbread, I just refer to this as dough because I think it allows it to escape the cruel limitations of labels. Closest to pizza dough really, but guarding its little bundle of minted beef and seasonal tomato with a fierceness that pizza dough can only admire from afar.

I took my wrap to eat on the steps of the Pasadena Playhouse, which are stubbornly unphotogenic. So lovely and magical at night in real life, they are like the child who picks their nose in a family photograph, openly and without reverence. It’s a phase. Just can’t take a good picture, can you?

The wrap: scrumptious. Layered for the benefit of excitement in each bite. Fresh, with hot parts hot, and cold parts cold. And tidily compact, like a getaway car meal. I always like that for some reason. Should I ever find myself in some kind of getaway car, I will not be bothered with make-your-own thai lettuce cups. Sorry, P.F. Changs.

And as I sat on the charming steps on a charming street in a charming city, a cosmic reversal of fortune occurred. After roaming and migrating and chasing for so long, food came to ME.

Timothy, my old friend from The Flatiron Truck, also serving on that street that night, brought me some of their special that night: Oxtail Mac and Cheese. But-aren’t I supposed to be racing somewhere to catch something delicious, or at the In-N-Out Drive Thru, for the millionth delicious time?

Not on this magaical night. Tonight, for some reason: Food. Comes. To Me….

It was a heady moment, and I was still pondering this odd inversion, when I took my first bite. By the time I hit the second bite, I knew I could never love anything as much as this mac and cheese. The third bite was pure salty emotion, and left cheese in a nice attractive string down my chin.

When they finally catch me in my getaway car, with my Lebanese wrap, a bag of underwear, a can of hairspray, a ziploc bag of Kosher salt, and no thai lettuce cups, I will ask for this oxtail macaroni and cheese for my last meal.

Don’t get me wrong, there are 7-23 other things on that list as well, but this will come first.

I felt more settled than I have in a very long time on those steps, with happiness in my heart, and cheese on my face.

                                                             Your Weekly Misfire:

1 comment:

  1. Frances, we've enjoyed reading your blog! Sounds like last year was quite an adventure! ~Brittany @ZonePerfect