April 22, 2013 § 4 Comments
I once read a poem that equated Valentine’s Day with venereal disease. I thought that experience would be an isolated event, but a trip to Portland proved me very wrong.
Most people don’t go on vacation expecting the topic of sexually transmitted diseases to be a prevalent motif of the trip. I certainly didn’t. What a fool I was. I should have known; the very purpose of my visit to the west coast’s hipster mecca was to attend the Sigma Tau Delta (STD) English Conference. Evidently, when the initials didn’t tip me off, the universe figured I needed more obvious hints.
In a conference wide meeting, I was inundated by a flood of innuendos, or in-your-windows as my mother is wont to call them.
“STD! Spread the love . . . of literature”
“We always test positive!”
Needless to say, I got it. At which point someone attempted to coerce me into buying a bright red t-shirt with the words “The Dickens are bigger in Texas” scrawled across the chest in the Bleeding Cowboys font. There were so many things wrong with that. From the red to the font to the words to the fact that the seller’s eyes were borderline rapey.
It was all very scary.
In any case, we eventually ended up standing in the seemingly infinite line in front of Voodoo Donuts, in a dim alley in the middle of Portland, OR. A pink sticker on the window said “Get VD in Portland” in bright, cheery letters. A few drunk partygoers stumbled out of their limo and into the line behind us. Someone told us this was the best donut shop in the world.
Ten minutes later, with an Arnold Palmer donut in my hand, I understood why. I only caught blips of the conversation around me as I reveled in flavor. I knew I’d regret it later, but donuts are about living in the moment, so that’s what I did.
Thirty minutes later, the conversation about cannibals and trust finished with a suitable but inappropriate bang and we followed the cold back onto the street. I was somewhat listlessly following my group when one of the men leaning cold against the brick wall caught my eye, his blonde hair curling with his grin.
“Spare a dollar for a donut?” he asked, pulling his ragged sweater closer around his body. I grinned back. Spread the love, right? I handed him a few dollars and a smile. A few minutes later, he emerged, bright faced from the warmth of Voodoo donuts, opening a paper bag to share his haul with a couple friends.
A little lesson about the small things, I guess.
April 22, 2013 § Leave a comment
I’ve always been a bit of a traditionalist. Cakes in cake pans, muffins in muffin tins, and pies in pie pans. It’s just logical that way. But last weekend, I experienced a paradigm shift that went straight to my hips. I had a Meers burger. You know, the famous Oklahoma burger that challenges you from a 8″ pie pan? A monstrous concoction of fresh-off-the-farm Texas Longhorn beef, red onions, tomato, and lettuce in conjunction with a whole wheelbarrow of fried okra. They cut it into quarters as if that’ll make it less embarrassing to eat.
Meers has been dubbed the home of Oklahoma’s best burger. Located in the Wichita Mountains, this down home restaurant has the rustic feel that every stereotype of Oklahoma includes. Animal heads, ancient photographs, license plates, and a variety of business cards litter the dark-stain walls. Our server handed me a big mason jar with ice clinking against its misty sides. Grinning, I traced my fingers down the greasy sides of the menu, settling on the one-and-only Meers burger. All or nothing.
When our burgers finally arrived, I had to laugh as I reconsidered the current size of my stomach with the size of the monstrous burger in front of me.
“There’s no way you can eat that whole thing.”
Challenge accepted. Every leaf of lettuce, every scrap of juicy beef and tomato.
The look of disgusted respect was worth the twenty plus pounds I felt gathering in the pit of my stomach. I felt myself descending into a food coma, but morale had never been higher.
We paid the ticket, drinking water in small sips, unsure how much space was left in our stomachs.
“Well, let’s go,” he said, slipping a tip under his water glass. I looked despondently up from the rickety chair. I was going to need a crane or a Hover-round to get out of there. I felt like I’d eaten an entire grass-fed cow, along with all the love that went into raising it. I was a happy camper, but I was also an overfed camper with no future in walking.
He pulled me up, gingerly, laughing as I painstakingly put one foot in front of the other.
I didn’t appreciate it. Some of us just can’t handle half a pound of beef in one sitting. Call me a pansy, but I’m a fruit-fed thing.
Good thing we had a two-hour drive ahead of us. Moving wasn’t really on my agenda for the next three weeks.
April 22, 2013 § 1 Comment
He didn’t understand why we had to take a tram, two buses, and then our feet for another three rainy blocks just to get to another coffee shop. I told him it was different.
He said the croissant was too crumbly – not enough chocolate for what looked like a day-old pastry. The coffee was too black. He felt judgement emanating from everyone else when he just thought about adding cream and sugar.
“I’m comfortable with my uncultured taste buds,” he said. But he didn’t move. He just sat there instead, grimacing through a dark, nutty Girasoles.
At least it was hot.
My short legs, ringed by purple and vagrant goose bumps, twisted themselves around the icy metal of the hand-wrought wood table. It was good to feel something tangible against the numbness, even if it was just more cold.
Ahh. An El Ischo steamed on the rough-grained wood of the counter, waiting for me. I wrapped my hands around it and took a tentative sip. Butterscotch and peanut brittle rolled across my tongue, luring a bubbly pear flavor after them. I was happy. Happier than I’d been the entire day.
He watched me, unable to make heads or tails of my affinity for coffee.
It’s a strange thing, really. Without a cup of coffee in the morning, I’m unwilling to recognize the passing of time. Without coffee, time stops, ceases to limit me, and I move like a character stuck on repeat in a Japanese anime film, shooting through lines of neon space and never getting anywhere.
Coffee is a relationship, then. A relationship with time, a relationship with people. Coffee is a culture, a feeling, an instigator of late night conversations and unexpected A’s on papers. For Coava Coffee Roasters, it’s a relationship with the growers that constructs a community for the roasters and thus, the drinkers.
“Coava couldn’t roast the finest single origin coffees in the world without the hard-working farmers who grow the coffee. At origin we cup through hundreds of samples in search of the coffee that best represents each growing region with a distinctive personality and we get to know the farmers. Most of our coffees will only be found at Coava because we create exclusive, long-term relationships with our growers.”
Located in the industrial district of Portland, Oregon, Coava joined the coffee culture circle of Portland back in 2010 and has been transforming coffee culture in all the right ways ever since.
April 14, 2013 § 2 Comments
Taco Tuesday is undeniably the worst day of the week to squeeze into immaculate white pants. One day, I will successfully eat one of Iguana’s gourmet dollar tacos with class and grace and a spotless lap. Unfortunately, white-pants taco Tuesday was not that day.
The salsa teetered precariously on the edge of the chip for a brief, panicked moment. By the time I’d realized what was happening, the salsa leapt gleefully from its proper place, probably screaming “YOLO” the whole way down to my poor once-spotless pants. Chaos. For a birthday dinner, this wasn’t going quite as planned.
My dinner date nearly choked on her Philly cheesesteak taco when she saw the devastation in my eyes. She didn’t say “I told you so,” but the smirk at the corner of her mouth did. I blotted up the mess as best as I could and turned to my tacos to soothe my misery. Since they were Iguana tacos, it worked. Philly cheesesteak, BBQ flank with pineapple relish, and vegetarian stir fry. Foodies would describe this culinary experience with a lot of fancy metaphors about the way the flavors interact with your taste buds and how you feel when your mouth gets groped by a cocktail of sweet and savory. I, on the other hand, lack their skill with language, so all I have to say is that those tacos were delicious and I’d pay five dollars apiece for that kind of fabulous.
Two baskets of chips and salsa later, we were rocking out to the in-house DJ and eavesdropping on the drunken conversations around us. Iguana is loud, vivid, and a wonderful respite from the gloom of my messy apartment. There’s nothing quite like eclectic decor and drunk OKC trendsters to make you forget about papers and projects.
When we finally left the little taco stand by the railroad tracks, we were completely stuffed and comparing levels of culinary impregnation. I won with a decisive three months next to Ivy’s one and was conflicted between feelings of pride and shame. I settled on contentment. It’s not often I find Mexican food that doesn’t result in a night spent on the fake tile of the bathroom floor. Iguana certainly deserves the title of “Best Downtown Restaurant.”
Fat and happy, we eased into my car and headed home, the very picture of class as we proceeded to have a burping contest the whole way down I-77.
mon through sat // 11am – 11pm
sun // 10:30am – 8pm
It’s advisable to call ahead and reserve a table, especially on Taco Tuesday. For that, here’s their number: 405.606.7172
April 13, 2013 § Leave a comment
We practically flew through the bright doorway into Petunia’s Pies & Pastries as we sought to escape the wintery mix of rain-snow-sleet-wind-what-have-you whisking down Portland’s 12th Avenue. Inside, we gingerly wiped away the involuntary tears of winter from our chapped red faces and coaxed back our steady breath, which the west coast wind was so eager to steal. As the fog crept from the lenses of our glasses, we took stock of our pale green and pink surroundings.
My eyes focused on a glass case of delectable pastries, behind which stood a young blonde in a frilly green dress, smiling invitingly at my friend and me. On the ornate white shelf, a chalkboard advertised a selection of roasts from Stumptown Coffee Roasters. I leapt to the counter, debit card at the ready and “GivemetheGuatemalanplease” spilling in an almost indiscernible rush from shivering lips.
She looked at me like I was a crazy person. And rightly so, I suppose. I repeated myself, slowly, adding a polite request for a slice of the walnut banana coffeecake that’d been grinning at me since I walked in the door. Money and thanks were exchanged and I left my celiac friend at the counter, asking the usual questions about what would and wouldn’t kill her while I snuggled into the back corner at a pearly white table.
My friend joined me shortly with a huge pastry in her hand and the most joyful expression on her pixie face.
“Everything is gluten-free,” she said in awe. “Everything.”
As she took a tentative bite of her cupcake, I saw tears form in her eyes and spill over. I vaguely remembered the first time she discovered Udi’s gluten-free bread and couldn’t stop talking about how it tasted like “real bread.” I had a feeling this was another one of those moments when she could recall the taste of real pastry.
I understood the emotional connection with food. Up until the age of fourteen, I ate wheat, dairy, and soy-free against my will. While all the other kids got their Wendy’s chicken nuggets and Oreo frosties, I’d sit there dejectedly munching an almond butter and jelly concoction spread between two slices of dry, crumbly bread. Everything tasted like dust or cardboard and my relationship with food was based on the fact that I needed it to live.
When I was fourteen, by some miracle I managed to sneak a box of chicken nuggets under my mother’s nose. My taste buds were opened up to a whole new world of horribly delicious breaded fried processed foods. I was especially excited when eating the entire box had no affect on my stomach, my mental capacity, or my ability to walk in straight lines. It really was a miracle. Needless to say, I branched out into the world of gluten and dairy and as the allergies begin to return five years later, I find letting go of bread and ice cream to be one of the most difficult experiences of my adult life.
That being said, I understood the tears. Gluten-free is typically billed flavor-free, and for good reason. Petunia’s, however, a frilly haven for celiacs, overcomes the stereotypes, literally bringing tears of joy to at least one customer’s eyes.
We left laden with pastries to take home, not sure what made everything so friendly to digestion and simultaneously so delicious. We called it magic and left it at that. We don’t question culinary miracles.
tues – thurs 9am-9pm
fri – sat 9am – 10pm
sun – 9am-79m
April 10, 2013 § Leave a comment
Art doesn’t stand still, they tell you. It paints itself salmon red, instead. It claims to comment on racial stereotypes of Native Americans while ironically, it stands immobile in a window display.
The little boy staring open-mouthed at the enormous red man in the window is more art than the piece itself, however. After all, performance art is about audience reaction, anyway. So I stop scoffing at the painted man and watch the small blonde child. He’s out of place amid the black and white ties and heels of OKC art goers and I wonder who thought a late night art show would be a place for a five year-old.
We keep bumping into each other as I wander the various galleries that represent the forefront of Oklahoma’s young artistic talent. The small rooms are packed with OKC natives who nod knowingly at the stacks of wood and twists of chains on the teal wall, as if to assure themselves and everyone surrounding them that they understand. Due to some higher development of the brain (or greater consumption of highballs), they find life-changing meaning in a triptych of mismatching lines. The little boy catches my eye again as he frowns at a smeared charcoal canvas with a spotlight shining on it. I understand his disapproval. There’s an air of trying that makes me tired, but I nod at the wall anyway and shift on my tall black heels.
I stare at a wall-tall canvas of mixed media, recognizing the name of a guy I had dinner with once. I remember liking his astronaut piece, but this one reminds me of moldy chili exploding in a microwave. Colors and raised patterns and words here and there. Maybe I’m just tired, maybe it’s just me, but art looks like it’s trying too hard.
The last room. A kelp forest, painstakingly cut and pasted from 100% recycled paper. The point is to immerse the viewer in a world he or she wouldn’t otherwise experience. I didn’t expect kelp to be rough, but I close my eyes a wriggle through the thick forest anyway. I run into the little boy again in the hiccuping blue lights of the projector. He catches my eye and pretends to drown, arms flailing dramatically. I smirk. He grins. A piece of ‘kelp’ twists around my neck and I mimic his panicked death scene. He giggles. I smile. We’re friends, and that’s cool.
He disappears when my friends materialize out of the green darkness of the corner. Andrew throws the art in my face and for a minute I don’t know what I ‘m experiencing, but it makes me react, so I guess it’s art.
We stand at the drinking tables for a while, drawing things. Our smiley-face wristbands, obnoxiously yellow, advertise our youth. We stand out in sobriety. Art exhibits always make someone feel different. We like it. The difference, that is, even though the tall, elegant women make drinking look like an expensive accessory. I see one woman strolling slowly through the crowd with a highball in hand and I envy her. Not for the drink, but for the cool sureness on a face that stands an inch above everyone else. I watch her move, lithe, graceful despite the spikes on her heels and it occurs to me that half the ‘art’ in the gallery is talking about the rest of it.
|art doesn’t stand still|