I was having coffee this morning with a dear retired guy from our community (over at Provisions in the 5th St. Market which has a delightful salted caramel latte, wowsers, the amazing coffee in this town!) when we started talking about our past lives. In my first job, I lived in Arlington VA. I loved that city. I had a palace of an apartment on the 7th floor of a high rise. It had a hallway, a gas stove, a balcony, and it was 800 square feet of heaven. I lived above Bob and Edith's diner (which was across the street). And just down Columbia Pike, there was a sweet little Thai place.
Being single, I resolved I would not allow myself to molder alone in my apartment. I took myself out to dinner at least once a week, table for one, thank you. The Thai place quickly became a favorite.
I love Thai food, and my little benchmark is the panang curry. I don't care about anything but how they make their panang. If the panang is good, I return. I know this is illogical and probably bad form and that judging a Thai place on the strength of the panang curry is probably like judging a Mexican place on the strength of its frozen margaritas, but this how my taste buds work and I stand by my unfeeling snap judgements. Be glad that I'm a priest and not your kid's elementary choir director, ok?
I had always considered myself an adventurous eater, and in fact, had visions of being the sort of person who would walk into restaurants, be greeted by name by the hostess who would show me to my favorite stool and give me a drink and a Christmas card, and then be welcomed by the chef, who would (in my fantasies) come out of the kitchen for me, his most adventurous customer. "Ach," would say the chef, "You are always such a delightful, unpredictable person. I revel in the fantastic flights of creativity to which you inspire me!" And I would try every dish on the menu.
Until the day came when I walked into my favorite Arlington Thai place, and the waitress greeted me by name, showed me to my favorite table, and, giggling, said, "OK, I get you your panang now, OK?"
To my abject horror, I was in a rut.
I stuttered and got a menu, and ordered a pad Thai even though I don't like pad Thai and wasn't eating chicken at the time, because it was different gawdammit and I was going to be unique.
I swore I'd never be in a rut again. At least not foodwise.
Here in Eugene, I read a blog post by a parishioner in which she references the Oscar Meyer wiener song. Being overcome by the desire for a hot dog (I usually never eat hot dogs and don't really like them all that much, but sometimes, desire is inexplicable and visceral, and I am very sorry), I headed across the street to the closest place I know for hot dogs: Dickie Jo's.
Dickie Jo's holds a special place in my heart. On my interview weekend, the priest-in-charge took me and Martin there, and I walked in, and saw an entire row of jars and jars of Siracha sauce. In Connecticut, people make fun of me for my deep love of Siracha, and here it was IN PUBLIC. My heart sang, and my spirit rejoiced. And they have an excellent veggie burger. Since then, Dickie Jo's and I have had a very special sort of relationship.
Today, I walked in, and the counter staff's eyes light up and they greet me and start pulling out the water glass and say, "The veggie burger for you today?" And I shuffled my feet and stared at my grey cowboy boots in shame, and discovered...
I now have a food rut here in Eugene.
And I stammered out, "Actually, no, I'm here for a hot dog today. And no fries."
That'll show them how wildly adventurous and creative I am.