Monday, August 13, 2012

I'll Eat At A Hole In The Wall Anytime

I've been watching a lot of Anthony Bourdain's show No Reservations lately in an effort to try and catch up on the last two seasons. I'd seen some of season seven before but not all of it and none of season eight. Watching the European episodes brought back memories of my two years in Germany from 1988 to 1990 while in the U.S. Army. Mainly it was how Tony likes to go somewhere at the end of a night of drinking and get some food, preferably street food, to "soak up" the alcohol. Back in those days I used to drink but no more. Still, I have a certain amount of fondness for things that happened in those days.

On my first Friday night at my unit I was taken by a team member into Stuttgart from Boeblingen because he wanted to show me the ropes. At the end of the night he decided that before we caught the Bahnhof (think above ground subway) back to Boeblingen he just had to show me a food stand that he said was amazing. The only problem was that he had consumed a large amount of beer and couldn't quite remember where the stand was. We went up one street and down another and eventually we found the stand in question.

At the time for some reason I thought the food was called Hackfleisch and that perhaps it originated from somewhere in the Mediterranean. I was wrong about that. Now I know that Hackfleisch literally means "hack flesh" (the Germans can be so straight forward in their descriptions) which really means chopped meat so I'm not entirely sure what it was that I was eating back then. I am sure however that it was delicious. That was the first of many times that I visited that stand late at night to taste their wares. One bad thing about the night though was that it took so long to find the stand that the last train had left and we had to spend the next four or five hours sleeping on the benches at the Bahnhof station. A small price to pay for the culinary delight I was shown.

My other favorite place to eat was at a stand at the Bahnhof station in Boeblingen that served currywurst. Their version was fairly straight forward. The wurst was cut into small pieces and a sauce comprised of curry and ketchup covered it. It was outstanding! I always made sure that I had room in my belly when I was using the Bahnhof to go into or come from Stuttgart. Once and only once I ordered currywurst at a nicer sit down restaurant thinking that it would at worst be comparable and at best be much better than my beloved version from the Bahnhof booth. I was wrong.

The nice restaurant version was just the wurst cooked with some curry and you had to try and add ketchup to make your own sauce. It just wasn't the same. That experience was one of many that taught me how simple I am when it comes to food. I very much prefer street food or hole-in-the-wall restaurants over fancy gourmet places. As a matter of fact I have no use for gourmet restaurants at all. They just don't appeal to me. Too often they seem to place the look of the food and the ambiance of the experience over the taste of the food. I'm all about the taste, as my belly can attest.

Thinking back it seems to have always been this way. In college my favorite place to eat was Jerry's, a greasy, run down place with cheap food and low prices. In Washington D.C. after a night out there was a hamburger place that my friends and I loved to go to. It didn't look like much on the outside but the waitresses had sharp tongues to go with the great food. Here in Tulsa my favorite Mexican restaurant (Rio Verde) looks like a rundown joint on the outside and that I'd be the only gringo there but once you get inside the food is great and authentic and people from all races can be found.

I guess this all ties into my personality. I just have a preference for the simpler things and could care less for anything flashy. What's most important to me is not outward appearances but what's on the inside. I'm not out to impress anybody, I just feel that the best experiences in life for me are the simple ones and the best food is usually in the least likely places. Give my theory a chance, you might be surprised at what you find.

Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.

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