“Y’know, I always wondered what it would be like to travel the world, see all there is to see, experience all there is to experience.”
Rick Dickulous walks slowly through a community food fair, ethnic families served cultural dishes to housewives pushing strollers, high school kids, little old couples, and any denomination of the population one could imagine. They all tasted dishes and talked about the flavour, or the smell, or maybe just how it looked. He wore street clothes, almost blending in. His loose fitting Adidas hoodie, relaxed fit jeans, and red Chuck Taylors making him seem like a freakishly large suburban resident.
He stepped up to a table with a cheap tablecloth thrown atop it, a bristol board sign in black, yellow, and green announcing that this booth was a purveyor of Jamaican food. A few buffet trays sat on the table with small sterno cans burning underneath.
Rick nods at the middle aged, portly lady behind the table before sliding a bill across it.
“Evening ma’am…what’ve we got?”
A smile beams from her face, her eyes nearly disappearing as she picks up a cardboard dixie plate and lifts off the tops. She digs into a pan of yellowed rice, piling two scoops before replacing the lid.
“Just some jerk chicken with rice and beans, you ever had it before?”
“Just once, it would be amazing to go to the Caribbean. Just relax, enjoy the sand on your feet, the ocean rolling steadily. Just imagine the smell! Salty air, that distinct sea smell…think about all the people playing on the beach! Running, laughing, the beach ba–“
The ding of the tablet’s speaker snapped Rick back to reality, the lady opening her cash box and digging for change.
“It’s ok..keep the change,” he said as he picked up his plate, along with the plastic fork the lady had set beside it.
He took a fork full of rice and chicken and shoved it in his face as the lady looked on, almost awaiting a compliment. Rick smiled at her as he chewed, flashing a quick thumbs up before returning to the dish.
As he turned to walk away, he shovelled more into his mouth as he looked around the gymnasium.
There must have been 50 different vendors, almost all different foods: Italian, French, Chinese, Korean, Venezuelan, Peruvian…the variety was astronomical, and the smell…oh, the smell.
As he shovelled the last mouthful into his mouth, he hastily wiped his face with the back of his hand and deposited the plate and fork into a garbage bin. As he walked further in, he spied a booth with a small crowd around it, mostly small children with their parents.
They were entranced at the gentleman working a cone on a metal rod. He spun it round and round, a ball of ice cream holding the cone in place. He teased the kids with it, holding it out, then flipping the cone away from their hand quickly. They squealed with delight as he played with them, finally relinquishing the cone to one of the kids in the front before scooping up another ball of ice cream and starting all over again.
He made his way towards a colourful booth, decorated in vibrant reds, oranges, yellows, and blues. The piñatas on the table gave it away as a Mexican themed booth. The hispanic man sitting behind the table gave a quick grin to Rick.
“¡Hola! ¿Como estas? How you doing, friend?”
Rick shoots a grin at the man.
“I’m ok…whatcha got? Is it tacos?!”
The man shook his head no.
“Man, there’s more to Mexican food than tacos! We’ve got taquitos! Ever had them?”
“Jesus, you mean the things from 7 Eleven?! I LOVE those, bud! Especially the buffalo chicken!”
The man scoffs, “Naw, man! Those ain’t taquitos! That’s like going over to that Canadian booth and telling them their bacon’s like the bacon at Kroger!”
Rick looks towards where the man was pointing….waaay back in the corner, nestled between a booth selling Swedish meatballs, and another selling footlong bratwurst.
“The only place I’ve wanted to go for the last month – home…just to set foot in a Tim Horton’s, to get some REAL maple syrup…just to hear an apology…”
“Man, I’ll have to check that booth out! What were you saying about those 7 Eleven taquitos?”
The man dejectedly waves a hand towards Rick before pulling a long cylinder out of a small toaster oven and placing it on another Dixie plate. The taquito’s filling spilled from the ends. Rick handed the man a bill and shook his head when the man began digging for change.
“You sure, man? A taquito’s only a buck…you just gave me a ten…”
“It’s cool, bud…you helped me out, showed me something I’ve been missing. Call it a finder’s fee…”
The man shrugged, pocketing the bill and sitting back down to watch videos on his phone. Rick made his way towards the back corner, passing booths selling pot stickers, egg rolls, dolmas, swedish meatballs…
As he stepped up to the Canadian booth, he was greeted by a couple wearing plaid shirts and silly winter hats with the ear flaps. They smiled and waved, slightly awkwardly.
“Hey, how you guys doin,” Rick leaned in as he spoke, “you guys got any Tim’s back there? I haven’t had one in a week….”
“I’m sorry, don’t know what you’re talking a-boot, buddy,” the man chortled.
“Yeah, eh?” His partner in crime chimed in, “We got poutine though! Wanna try some?”
Rick holds his hands to his temples for a moment, processing what’s happening.
“Look…are you two not Canadians? I mean, just throwin’ it out there, bud…but we don’t say a-boot!”
The lady put some french fries on a plate, then sloppily tossed some gravy on top before unceremoniously dropping a small handful of processed white cheese into the gravy before sliding it across to Rick.
“What in the everlovin’ christ is this shit?! It’s cheese, gravy, fries, cheese, gravy….”
“We ain’t from Canada, bub…most of the people here ain’t from the country they’re serving food from. Hell, I just thought Canadians ate Moose and lived in igloos.”
Rick just shook his head before picking up the plate and handing the gentleman a bill. As he fumbled for change, again Rick waved at the man to keep the change as he picked up the plate and walked away. Stabbing at the soggy fries and half melted cheese, he lifted a bite to his mouth. As he did a dribble of watery gravy ran off the end of a french fry and back onto the plate.
“This is what you get sometimes…a bunch of pretenders. They put on silly clothes, they try to make people believe in what they’re selling, they trick your senses. But at the end of the day, they all crack under pressure…just like an eGG.”