I love to watch people eat food. I’m not saying that weirdly, in a, “Oh, that’s Marshall, he likes to watch.” way it’s just that I find people’s eating habits interesting. You know, some people it all of one thing and then move on to the next. Some people eat their hamburgers with a fork. Everyone does something different with their napkin. I just find everyone’s little eating quirks either weird or hilarious.
It must stem from my love of people watching. Which makes Tucson Meet Yourself an observatory wet dream. Valarie, Sean and I arrived on the last day of TMY just in time for lunch and just in time to catch a martial arts display of some kind. I’m all for the arts, even the martial ones, but when I run into a group of nerds that I’m sure could kick my ass, I get kind of uneasy. We also ran into Andrew and Star almost immediately. Andrew gave a pretty satisfactory report on the Turkish food booth, although he said a lot of the food he ate was cold.
We were pretty hungry so we decided to check out the low riders and craft booths after we ate so we beelined for the food court. There were literally too many to choose from. Ranging from Hungarian to Laotian there was literally something for everyone. We checked out a few booths, made some mental notes, and then decided first on Costa Rica. I was pretty excited for the Costa Rican food, since Sarah had mentioned beforehand it was the one place she and Josh had wanted to hit but didn’t quite make it. I ordered a tamal. It came wrapped in a banana leaf and was studded with tender shredded chicken and garbanzo beans. It was, without question, the best tamal I’ve ever eaten. Normally, I douse the things with salsa but here salsa would have been an unwelcome distraction. It had the perfect amount of fall apart and stick together. Valarie concurred, she had ordered a picadillo that was pretty terrific as well. Ground beef mixed with potatoes on top of a corn tortilla with just the right amount of seasoning. Both dishes had the feel of something well loved and well prepared. I wish I had taken a picture but I was too busy stuffing the thing in my face.
Everywhere I looked there were people trying to eat foods they did not know how to eat. There’s no real elegant way to eat something off of a stick but I saw a guy eating a meatball out of his palm like he was feeding a horse. There was also a woman Sean spotted swatting at everyone who stepped in her path with a rolled up newspaper like it was a machete and she was cutting through deep jungle brush searching for some mystical treasure. I’m pretty sure she just really needed a strudel.
Sean decided to skip the Costa Rican booth and went for one of the two Laotian ones instead. I joined him and we got a few meat skewers and a couple of egg rolls. These were not really up to snuff. They tasted okay but as Andrew reported earlier, they weren’t hot and suffered for it. We walked around a little more and Valarie decided she wanted Laotian as well and we hit the other booth. It was much better. She got an actual kabob which was, “delicious.”
I didn’t try it but I did have some of the other meat on stick that she ordered before she wasn’t getting a kabob. The chicken was nice and moist, slipping of the stick without incident. The steak was a nice piece of flank steak but it was skewered long was which made it a little difficult to pull of the stick but once you got it off it was worth it. Sean and I both felt duped by the crappier Laotian booth.
We kicked around a little bit longer searching for the next booth that was going to do it for us. Sean and I debated the merits of a long sleeve and shorts combo. I think it can work if you’re untucked and casual but the guys we were mocking had dress shirts tucked into what I guess would be called dress shorts. They must only make them for men between the ages of forty and fifty five who have enough money to regularly golf but not enough to buy a boat.
We watched some African dancing for awhile and then sort of wandered into the Pascua booth which was serving fry bread. There are few joys greater than eating a good piece of fry bread. It falls somewhere between orgasm and getting a cast off your arm. This Pascua fry bread did not disappoint. It was light and airy with a fried, crisp outer shell. It was so soft, I wanted to rest my head on it and and take a sweet little nap right there in the middle of Tucson Meeting Itself.
Sean got on topped with red chile. It was seriously some of the best red chile any of us had ever eaten. It was rich and earthy with just a hint of heat that added flavor but didn’t overpower. It was the perfect contrast to the fry bread, the thick warm chile sauce soaked the interior of the folded fry bread.
I went with the full on Indian Taco. I don’t think it was quite as good as the Indian Taco’s (that’s right, I capitalize Indian Taco, have you ever fucking had one?) at the San Xavier Mission but what is? The bean to ground beef ratio was a little heavy but it was all made up for with the delectable fry bread. I don’t toss the word delectable lightly. I have a slight aversion to the word (I’ve only been to the restaurant Delectables once and never told anyone about it since that would require actually saying the stupid word) for whatever reason but when that’s the word that describes it best, I’ll use it. I asked for extra lettuce and cheese but I don’t think she charged me or gave it to me so the taco was a little light in that area as well. Still it pretty much blew me away.
I also got a cinnamon tea, the last cinnamon tea actually, they ran out of ice. Which just made it all the more sweet. It was better than the Laotian sweet tea which had kind of a leafy stick taste. The cinnamon tea was sort of like a tea made with a watered down stick of Big Red, in a good way. While Sean and I were waiting for the fry bread, Valarie went and got some churros. Oddly, these churros came without any sprinkled powder sugar. That, or Valarie licked it off.
They were kind of a disappointment. After the fry bread we wandered around a little more, kicking ourselves for being so full with no room to try some of the other booths. We tried to hang around long enough to be hungry again but the hip hop dance demonstration wasn’t all that great, it didn’t seem like anyone was going to get served. I did finally figure out which dance The Wop is which can only increase my enjoyment of old school rap music. The low riders were pretty nice. I kind of wished some of the owners had been hanging around to tell us more about the cars but they were still fun to look at anyway.
We did make it back inside the food court to get some drinks for the way out. There was one booth selling aguas frescas that continually had a huge line. We popped in the booth just before about twenty other people. Sean got a lemonade that was sickly sweet and pure. It tasted like straight lemons and sugar. Valarie got a watermelon drink that had none of the fake syrupy watermelon taste. I got my favortie aguas fresca, tamarindo. They were perfect finishers to an almost perfect day of eating and people watching.