Saturday, August 31, 2013

bacon explosion

It isn't often that one learns of a cultural event from one of those freeway message signs that usually broadcast bridge closings or child abductions. But concerns about traffic to today's Bacon Festival in San Jose prompted its inclusion in the warnings given to motorists.

Curious, I looked it up and found that it was to consist of a collection of food trucks, all serving specially-priced inexpensive dishes featuring bacon. This seemed like a good opportunity to investigate the rising gourmet tide of food truckery, so I decided to go.

It was an exhausting experience, one I'm not eager to repeat, and not too culinarily successful either. The festival occupied part of the back parking lot of the San Jose Flea Market, with most of some two dozen trucks lined up, bumper to bumper, in a long row. Stacks of upside-down plastic buckets under canopies provided the only seating. The sun baked the pavement. People all around talked and munched. DJs with turntables blasted out the kind of music that makes me wonder why it's minimalists who get slammed for being endlessly repetitive. Just to add to the broiling chaotic noise, a drum band repeatedly marched up and down the entire length of the festival.

And it was very crowded, though ticket sales were limited. I arrived soon after opening, when none of the trucks had more than ten people in line. By the time I'd finished my first snack, though, some of the lines were awesome. (Meanwhile, the proprietors of other trucks peered out their order windows at the passing crowds, begging them to stop and try their wares.) One line had literally 70 people in it and stretched all the way across the parking lot; I counted them as I sat nearby on a bucket eating something else. At the speed of service, it would take an hour to get through. And what was that truck serving? Grilled cheese sandwiches.

With bacon, of course. I tried maybe five items, all of them dishes that would normally be served without bacon, but which had small pieces of bacon added (or, in some cases, possibly not), whether it enhanced the dish or not. It didn't enhance the Louisiana Territory truck's "Si-food chowder" (a name on the menu board which it literally took me 15 seconds to figure out), that's for sure. The scope of the offerings can be best illustrated by the two dishes I purchased from a truck called Chutney Mary's. One, an ear of corn on the cob drizzled in chutney sauce, cheddar cheese, and bacon, was astonishingly tasty, though my post-prandial reaction to it was still "Now that I've tried that, I don't ever have to have it again." The other, a bowl of chicken and sausage gumbo that reputedly also contained bacon, was so abominably greasy that it was inedibly vile. I had to throw most of it away.

Most of the offerings didn't even look appetizing enough to try. I suspect, or at least hope, that the trucks were not at their best. Offering menus more limited than their usual fare, to far vaster numbers of customers than they usually get in a day, probably was no more inducing of fine food than the Valentine's Day menu at a romantic restaurant.

Convinced that I'd by now spent all afternoon broiling away at this event, I dug my watch out of my pocket to discover that I'd been there no more than two hours, and it was only 1:30 pm and promising to get hotter. I doubted I was going to want to eat any more any time soon anyway, so I dragged my weary carcass out of there, headed home, and fixed a determinedly vegetarian dinner of cheese enchiladas and steamed broccoli. No more bacon for a while.

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