Tuesday, February 24, 2004

House of Meat
As we get older and body parts either start falling off or continue their downwoard spiral into numbness, our taste and our fondness for foods changes. As a kid, eating an oyster was swallowing sandy phlegm; now it's a ticklish delight as it eases its way down the throat. Tootsie rolls and tri-colored corn candy were foody gold at 7 years of age; now they're the sworn enemy of dentures and capped teeth.
A special category of food are those meals sent to the witness protection plan of college life. It seems like food you knew in your early teenage years...but the identity's been alterred for its own safety. And then, you do recall that you've never seen that food group boiled and then bread-crumbed before.

Now, there's at least one thing that you do recall with fondness and, dare I say, dire addictive need. This thing is individual and particular to each student during their (traditional) 4 year plan of attendence. Thinking of it and, even better, munching on it brings back the good memories of that life without pressure (Well, that's the way that that life seems from the perspective of post-college life). And, if you're really lucky, that particular food item even tastes great now, when your taste buds have gone the route of your 29 inch waistline (speaking of which...note to self: It IS time to go through that box of jeans and get rid of those old friends you won't be having long philosophical discussions over drafts EVER AGAIN).

That's the way things have worked out for me, at least. My Mecca is Schwartz's on Rue St Laurent in Montreal. As a devout pilgrim, I hope to make at least one more hejira to this wondrous place before I leave for a Schwartz's-less place. I will queue up with the rest of the food needy travellers, keeping a handkerchief handy to pat away the drool as I wait to be seated. I will deal with the unibrowed waiters of inscrutable cultural background, their hairy knuckles, their blood (customers'? meat? contracts?)-stained aprons, and their no.#2 pencils and green-barred order pads. I will jostle and elbow,with relish, the other poor addicts at my long planked table as we bark, like seals, our meal orders to the unimpressed wait staff. I will even pleasantly exchange banter with the patch-eyed fellow across the table in a language neither he nor I understand the words of, since we are heaving and grunting in monosyllabic notes. Meeeeet! Meeee! Moooore! MMMMMM! (Mastering the letter "M" will provide all of the communication skills you'll need here)
It is the SMOKED MEAT that we all wait for. We don't see it being made. We are not sure as to what beast was rendered for it. We are not aware if the Canadian FDA has approved the chemicals/salts/magic sauce used to smoke it. We are hungry, we are ignorant, and we are in bliss.

I always order some of the hand-peeled (is this a word? I see the guy in the back sitting on an empty 20 gallon pickle barrel, peeling the Mount Royal of taters the using trusty manual method, so it's o.k., I guess) fries to surround, like a starch moat, my Smoked Meat order (Medium/Lean) and a pickle of artillery shell size, to further protect my sandwich from the prowling fingers of my seatmates who have already devoured their smoked meat and are scavenging for more. During winter time visits, the fog of cold air waiting outside the double-doors sometimes sneaks in for a smell. It hovers over our heads, like heaven's clouds, protecting us from the Outside. Out there, where there is no......Smoked Meat.

Open Wide and smile...

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