by Dan Berkman
One of the best parts about being at Penn is the variety of of food trucks available, and the opportunity each student has to sample food from different cultures, ranging from Chinese to Hemoan. Daniel Berkman reviewed one food truck in particular, and the results were fascinating/delicious.
We have all made some bad decisions in our time. The Red Sox dealt Babe Ruth, Napoleon invaded Russia, Napoleon came back 1815, Mr. and Mrs. Burress named their son Plaxico. Today, Monday, October 29, 2007, I made a bad decision. Hemo’s was nowhere to be found and neither was my dream early dinner. After a few minutes of sobbing and assuring passers-by I was okay and did not need a hug, I wiped away my tears and proceeded down food truck row, which, I assure you, is not quite on par with the Las Vegas Strip or Rodeo Drive. Moving along the Cramps-Elysees, I passed by Khan’s Hotdog Cart, who serves nomadic chow from the back of his horse, and came upon two Mexican places. One did not appear to have a name while the other was named “Lucky’s Mexican Spot” and had a colorful awning. If there is one thing I learned from my preceding Marketing 101 class, a colorful awning could get people to purchase second-hand ranch dressing. Well, I just bought used salad dressing.
We all know a Mexican menu is a list of culinary anagrams, so it really was not important what I ordered. I felt tacos would be a lame choice like getting a bagel and cream cheese at a deli that serves meatloaf nineteen ways. Quesadillas are only slightly more interesting, but even a Dairy Queen could throw together a quesadilla using the ingredients behind the counter. So the choice came down to enchiladas or burritos. One is Spanish for “vomit on your shoes” and other is Spanish for “bathroom tissue exhaustion,” so either way I would be dining with Satan, a risk I was willing to take. I was about to order my burrito with steak when Kazoo, the little green man from the Flintstones, appeared over my shoulder and asked, “why play it safe when you can replay the last twenty minutes of The Departed in your digestive tract?” A convincing argument, no? Hoping to reevaluate my health later that night, I ordered the chicken enchiladas. At four dollars I was not putting much on the line anyways, not counting my life expectancy.
The woman behind the counter, who appeared to be an authentic Mexican or at least a Pueblo Indian whose previous position was dealing blackjack at a government-sanctioned wolf-themed casino, asked if I wanted “_______ sauce or _______ sauce.” I have no idea what she said. She could have insulted Jews. She finally explained one was a green sauce and the other one was “________.” Much was lost in translation. Green can go two ways: fresh or Frankenstein. Plus, she said the green sauce was spicy, and I was not sure how extreme it would be. So I opted for the other sauce. After all the times I have eaten from my fridge at home, nothing could strike me down at this point. After assembling the rice and beans (more on than later) and putting chicken in the tortillas, she reached for the sauce basin. Now a t least this was not a shoebox-style operation a la Hemo, but this sauce was not looking good. She ladled on one spoonful of melted bats and I felt we had reached a good level of sauce coverage. She then lathered on another serving of refuse from an oil change. Fortunately, I had a snorkel back in the room. Still not content, she went for another spoonful of apocalypse syrup. My order of enchiladas now looked like one of those clips from a National Geographic documentary about the externalities of a man-made disaster in the form of an oil spill where Susan Sarandon narrates as a seagull emerges from a black, gelatinous substance while grappling with the plastic rings from a six pack of beer that is now fastened around his neck. I was about to eat that seagull.
So I accepted the bag from the cards dealer in the food truck and headed towards my dorm. I copped a sniff from the bag. Now, sometimes you smell Mexican and you get that beautiful whiff of fresh tomatoes and guacamole. Then, there are those times when you pick up on the scent of a gas station at a farm. You guessed it. I sniffed ADM and Hess.
In the take out container we had two side items: rice and refried beans. If you went to a Home Depot in San Juan and bought a weed whacker, it would come with a small container of rice and refried beans. You cannot mess these up either. I have to admit, the refried beans, which, remember, have been fried an unknown number of times, were black and looked like deer droppings while the slop holding them together was clinic-bathroom grey. Still, they tasted good, especially with the rice.
The enchiladas, though, were not a pride-inducing feat. The tortilla, overcome by a deluge of buffalo runoff, had moved into that non-Newtonian state where it was not really solid, definitely not yet liquid, but in fact an overly worn, old, once-white Jockey undershirt. Inside my steamed undergarments was a portion of animal that was quite certainly either chicken or beagle. Actually, the chicken was not bad and the spice was pleasant. The sauce, however, had sufficiently Valdeezed the poultry to the point where nothing positive could be really salvaged. Also, the women squirted on some white liquid on top of the enchiladas, which I assume was sour cream but was possibly also a Mr. Clean product. The absurdity here, though, was the addition of the sour cream on what was otherwise more of a blunder than the Mercury Topaz was like trying to re-ice a cake after dropping it into a yet-to-empty bathtub.
Now, I finish meals. I finish other people’s meals. I don’t need to know them. I have finished meals where I found out three quarters in it was not food, but I finished on the basis of principle. Lucky and I broke off negotiation talks at a certain point though. This was more surprising than when Barry Sanders retired. I could not take the reduction of Schnauzer sauce any longer. I left behind remnants of the Mexican tee shirt. It was not meant to be.
Lucky’s has been crossed off the list forever. I decided to be adventurous and I knew there might be consequences. I accept that. But I will no longer smile while I eat food that might as well come from a Metamucil truck.