A Street Food and Photo Adventure.
By the mostly thundering silence from the last post it seems we're all a bit worn out with reading about the technical side of riding. I concede that reading about building skills can seem like work. Guess it's time to take a break and think about stuff that's more fun. Things like street life, food, and photography. Sometimes you just need to park the bike and wander around. I'm finding that candid people shots and street photography are the real draws for me. I just need to get faster with recognizing good composition and dialing in the camera.
In pursuit of those goals I've been taking some online photography classes. Somewhere in the process I became a member of the International Travel Writers and Photographer's Alliance. Those good folks sent me an official ID badge to wear proudly around my neck. It's even more impressive with half of it written in a foreign language. French, I presume. Of course, not speaking French, I don't know what it says. For all I know it's telling everyone that the wearer of the badge is a dufous. I'm not really sure what all this membership means or how I should take it. To quote Groucho Marx, "I wouldn't belong to a club that would have me as a member!"
A couple of things happened in near coincidence to each other that inspired this post. Firstly, being a person who really likes to eat these days, I was watching the Cooking Channel. There's a program called "Eat Street" ( or something like that, I think ) that spotlights food carts all over the country. This particular show featured a food cart from Portland. Which just happens to be about an hour and half north of me. Secondly, I just happened to have a service call scheduled the next morning at the U.S. Bank Tower, a 39 story building three blocks from this food cart.
The beginning of a rather obvious plan took shape.
Wearing my ID badge over my pride swelled chest ( ok, not really, but it makes good story fodder, doesn't it?) I set out on my mission. I'd check this place out, eat one of their outrageous burgers, take some photos, and write about it. That's what travel writers do, isn't it?
The name of this place is the Brunch Box. It's one of several food carts living in this particular block. A young couple living slightly outside the mainstream of life run the place. The big draw is their imaginative burgers. I imagine the health insurance industry hates them. The Final Resting Place people probably love them. Oh, the food won't kill you on the spot. It's actually quite good. At least the beastly burger I ate was. If a person is a regular customer, though, better eat fast. One could drop dead at any time from clogged arteries.
Interestingly enough, the place has its own website. You can see it and the menu here.
The menu includes such monstrosities as the Youcanhascheeseburger. Or the Redonkadonk burger. The two have slightly different ingredients. For example, the Redonkadonk is an Oh My God Burger with a twist while the Youcanhascheeseburger is more like a traditional cheeseburger with a twist. What they both have in common, though, is the "twist:. The "buns" are actually made of two Texas grilled cheese sandwiches. That's right. Picture two grilled cheese sandwiches acting as bookends to other cholesterol laden ingredients. I'll tell you more about the Oh My God burger in a bit.
According to the owners the reason they picked the name "Redonkadonk" for the one burger is that it eating very many will give a person a big bedonkadonk. This term came from a song on the country charts. I believe it refers to the back side of a person. Particularly that section between the top of the thighs and the back of the belly button. In plain english, eating very many of these burgers will cause a person to grow a Giant Ass.
I bravely took my place in line and ordered an OMG burger from this guy. He's not the owner, just his loyal minion. This guy was pretty good natured for somebody serving death disguised as greasy delights. I explained why I was there and asked if I could take some photos of him. That's the second part of being a travel writer, isn't it? First you travel. Then you have to do something to write about and then take pictures to prove you did it.
I was prepared to wait for a while but the sandwich was served up quite quickly. Perhaps the burger was left by a previous customer who chickened out at the last minute. The burger felt hot in my hand which was good enough for me. I clutched my prize and went to find a place to eat it.
There's this ornamental fountain a couple of blocks away from the food carts. I had previously cased out the place and had a reasonable assurance that the fountain didn't actually spout water. Had that happened I can assure you that it would really have brought the enthusiasm level down.
Secure on a dry concrete step I savored my impending feast. The burger looks pretty innocent just sitting there in its yellow wrapper. With saliva flowing in culinary anticipation I began to unwrap my treat.
There are two regular hamburger buns marking the boundaries for the greasy goodness. The layers of flavor reveal themselves as I run my eyes over this creation. A gentle start is made with lettuce topped by a fresh slice of tomato. A hamburger patty acts as a stage for the other players to cavort upon. A layer of melted American cheese serves as a secure resting place for two pieces of crispy bacon. To bring a layer of softness as a perfect counterpoint to the boldness of the bacon some ham is added. Just to make sure the two differing porcine personalities get along some pieces of fried spam cover the bacon and ham. The spam brings its own character to the mix along as working as a catalyst. As a final touch in rounding out all the flavors a fried egg sits on top like a crispy crown. It actually makes sense. When I think of ham and bacon there is always a fried egg hovering around the edges.
I took a bite and pronounced it good. With a sense of quiet rapture I did utter the phrase "Oh my God" to myself. A bite and a photo wasn't enough. I felt this overwhelming urge to go to the next level. A simple photo was not enough. This creation called for some up-close and revealing food porn. Which proved to be easier said than done.
Grease is slippery as you may have noticed in your travels. The lense on my camera was a 70-200mm. Not an easy situation to work with. First I had to put the burger down. Then I cleaned the grease off my right hand with a napkin and some water from my bottle. Picking up a huge burger like this with one hand and holding it at arm's length without having the burger fall apart is a struggle, to put it mildly. While that is going on the right hand needs to hold the camera close to my chest after approximating a field of view. The final result is neither a technical or artistic masterpiece. I assure you, dear reader, that I did put my very best heartfelt effort into the venture.
The burger went down very well. I did, however, found myself with the urge to promise not to eat for the next two days. I sat in stuporous contentment for a solid twenty minutes afterwards. Culinary afterglow minus the cigarette.
Finally bestirring myself, I headed back towards the bike. Along the way I made some photos of the side dishes to street food.
One thing I have always enjoyed about Portland is the diversity among people. Like this couple.
This young woman had such colorful pink hair. I waited until she walked into a patch of sunshine then snapped the photo. I wanted to do justice to the brilliance of her hair coloring efforts.
There are times when a woman just can't decide which color she prefers. Pick some favorites and enjoy them all.
I met this young woman as she came out of a building. The contrast between the sexy way she was dressed and the utility of pulling this awkward hand truck intrigued me. I watched as the load tipped over on its side twice. By the second time I had caught up with her. Being every bit the gentleman I righted the load. Then I showed her how making sure the cargo was more balanced would really help her cause. They are hard to see in the photos but there are a couple of small elastic bands holding the load onto the cart. The young lady was impressed by my intelligence and manliness. At least I think so judging by the way she kept staring at my extended zoom lense. Being thus impressed she allowed me to adjust her bungies.
You can see that she still doesn't quite trust it all to work as she steps off the curb.
Reassured that my fix can be trusted she confidently heads across the street. I swear I only took this photo as a way to test my mastery of shutter speeds.
It's amazing to see how many people come out to obtain lunch from the food carts. There's a whole block of carts, each with their own cuisine. There's an equal abundance of willing customers.
There's more than one way to make an income from a row of food carts. This enterprising guy was offering music to eat by. A generous tip would not be discouraged, mind you. The woman looked like she was either going to make a personal request or show him how to finger a certain chord.
Something I find really interesting is that people always seem to notice the camera. The D7000 with the larger lense looks like a professional camera. I tried to keep some distance while using the zoom lense for my shots. For more personal photos I like to get close. For street scenes the zoom works well. Somebody's always staring at me, though. Like this guy.
Check out the guy with glasses to the left of the flag.
Also, this guy in the blue shirt. I don't know if it's simple curiosity, mistrust, or the hope of getting "discovered".
Not to be forgotten are two places around the corner. Got a hankering for Creole or Cajun? Check out the Swamp Shack. That's my idea of a food cart. Honest, I'm not lazy. The lack of exterior upkeep is simply a purposeful part of my decor! I didn't have the polarizer filter with me so I apologize for the glaring spot of sunshine. I'm actually just dang thankful there was some sun in the first place so I didn't want to do anything to insult it and make it go away.
Next to the Swamp Shack is a pizza place. Must be a hard choice. Hmmm, do I eat pizza or get some boiled crawdads? Chew through cheezy crust or pinch the tail and suck the head?
This is a Czech place, I think. Either way, I'm a firm believer in the "If you can't pronounce it you shouldn't be eating it" theory.
By the way, I'm now a professional photographer. I made a bit over thirty dollars for some downloads of photos I had uploaded to a stock agency. I expect the respect level from you all to go up accordingly. Notice how I used the word "up".
Hope you enjoyed my first travelogue and food review as an official member of the International Travel Writers and Photographer's Alliance!
Time to go ride some more. Maybe I should push the bike to burn off all these calories.
Miles and smiles,