Drunk food. We all know it. We all love it….because when we eat it, we are, well, DRUNK. I have spent a lot of time in bars in my twenties.
I have been a bartender, cocktail waitress, patron and football (soccer for all you Yanks) fanatic, so I have been around the bar block a fair few times in my life. Most of these experiences, I would say 90%, are wonderful memories. Friends made, passions and chanting, lamenting the losses, telling people you love them over and over again, dancing, being silly or just escaping the mundane outside life. I can wax nostalgic about all the pubs I love, and shall, in the course of this endeavor at Forage, review, recount and revisit the best and the worst. No doubt about that. However a fabulous couple of sense memories came to my attention this weekend that I simply must share.
My husband and I attended the “Rocktoberfest” on Torii Beach this last Sunday and I was pleasantly surprised with some fantastically yummy ghosts of my past while visiting the food vendors. So I have broken this down into two little mini reviews/stories.
WHY I LOVE DONNER KEBAB
It was sometime around 2004. I had been living in London for a long time and my visa had not gotten renewed, thus I was not working, and even more scandalously, living illegally in London on my friend Tammy’s sofa.
Now Tammy is, well, she is the gal who taught my father the importance of the word “innit.” To this day my dad attempts a cockney accent because of my great, awesome and eccentric friend Tammy. Tammy has a big heart and opened her doors to me when I needed it the most. And hell did we have fun….innit! We would close down the pubs with our friend Vic and occasionally a certain member of Parliament I was “dating” who shall remain nameless (hey, gotta leave some mystery) and on our way home we would hit up the Donner Kebab Shop that had, get this, the best slogan: “Probably the Best Kebabs in London.” Probably. They weren’t sure. But we sure as hell liked ’em. We would roll in, or stumble slightly and Tammy in her great big cockney accent would demand “We want donner kebabs with everything!” Then we would all go up to her apartment and make big sloppy messes of ourselves as “everything” came oozing out all over the place.
Now for those of you who are unfamiliar, Donner Kebab is a Turkish hunk of meat on a vertical rotating roaster spit that is sliced off and put in a pita with all sorts of yummy condiments…particularly in the UK it comes with a spicy chili sauce and a garlicky yoghurt. It’s messy, it’s meat, it is, as Tony Bourdain would say, Food Porn.
Well the last Donner Kebab I had was sometime around 2005 or so, and it was with Tammy. I had just suffered the calling of my engagement, was miserable, despondent and had given up my apartment in NYC, wasn’t ready to go home to my mother’s yet, and so, was essentially again, homeless. And again Tammy took me in and what did we do?
Vic, Donner Kebab, Jack Daniels and some very silly dancing and laughing and all around sloppy friendship stuff. Of course I went home a week or so later. And life took it’s many varied paths. And I hadn’t thought of Donner Kebabs or the way they make me feel safe and loved until that Sunday on Torii Beach.
I saw the truck from a mile away. I dragged my poor husband to wait in line for my kebab. It was served similarly, but there was no yoghurt. I held it in my hand and smelled it and the memories it brought back. The friendships that I still, to this day cherish, were right there, giving me a warm gooey, Donner hug. The Kebab was alright, but the memory was completely five star.
VEGGIE PIE MAKES ME CRY
When I was at the height of my footie hooligan days in NYC I used to go twice a week to a pub called Nevada Smiths: Where Football is Religion.
Seriously, that was their slogan. They had forty some odd live feeds from all over the world and broadcast pretty much every professional soccer match on the planet. Weekend mornings were big for my team Arsenal and I would have to arrive anywhere from 8-11 am depending on the match. I would push my way in with the other several hundred fans, find my Arsenal buddies and prepare for the inevitable shouting, laughing, chanting, crying, smoking and other extracurricular activities that were involved in this magical pastime.
Nevada Smiths was a bar, really. It smelled of sweat and old booze and even the faint lingering of cigarettes, although it was illegal to smoke indoors. But If we were lucky, if we were very, very lucky, Nevada’s would have had a delivery of savory pies from a local Aussie baker and my favorite, absolute favorite breakfast on a day fraught with nerves, joy, almost mania, was an icy pint of Magners and a Curry Veg Pie. I lived off of this, the whole drama and extravagance of the hooligan lifestyle. It is a part of my life I dearly miss.
So it was no small surprise that, after taking a bite of a spicy vegan samosa at Rocktoberfest, I found myself whisked away to the mad, frenzied, fabulous days at Nevada Smiths. It had all the textures, flavors, and spices of my beloved Curry Veg. I was amazed at how such a small thing could make me so incredibly happy.
And so I ponder my relationship with food and drink on yet another level. Some say we forget the past, but if you live so completely in your senses can you truly forget anything? I will always have these wonderful, interesting and strange adventures, as long as there is curry in the world, and lamb, and cooks and chefs and bartenders and, most importantly friends. I will always have that part of me, and I count it, drunk food or not, as a beautiful part.