Permit me to diverge from my usual omniscient perspective to wax poetic about food and memories. The two are inextricably linked and, often, the most vivid of memories are retrieved by food. One can intentionally conjure up some food-linked memories by intentionally eating, for example, banana bread that tastes just like a family member used to make, thereby transcending the present and reliving rich childhood memories. Other times, these associations are a surprise, and a particular taste can unearth long-forgotten recollections.
Yellowbird Cafe Truck (which is a trailer, if one wants to split hairs) roves around the city and often perches near City Hall, in Churchill Square. A sandwich board - no pun intended - lists the day's specials, which include a Chicken and Avocado Sandwich, Dusty Edamame Beans, Meatball Sub, and Yakiniku Wrap. At this moment in time, I haven't the foggiest that the Yakiniku will suddenly pierce the time-space continuum and revisit a little-known era of my life: my short-lived experience as a flautist.
But first: the meatball sub. A trio of well-seasoned beef spheres relax under a blanket of shredded cheddar. A warm and zesty tomato sauce whispers of chilies. The ranch drizzle could be omitted without missing a beat, for the cheese and sauce work rather well together without this metaphorical third wheel. The crust integrity of the bun could be improved, as it neither offends nor pleases.
The Yakiniku Wrap, however, is magical. This Japanese interpretation of a Philly Cheesesteak is lovingly caressed with sesame dressing, shreds of daikon, and sauteed red peppers. Tender and generous shavings of beef are permeated with a beguiling combination of soy, garlic, brown sugar and, perhaps, knowing hints of sake.
One bite transports me to the kitchen table of my band conductor on a winter's night in Hudson Bay, Saskatchewan. In reference to my earlier allusions to flautist tenure, I use those terms incredibly loosely. My wise father believed in the power of music for recalcitrant teenagers, and I ended up playing flute in the community band for five years. My conductor Mr. Torigai possessed the verve and energy of Seiji Ozawa. He and my father became good friends. We were all invited over to the Torigais' house on a frigid February night and Mrs. Torigai prepared traditional, home-cooked Japanese fare. One beef dish, the name of which I've long forgotten, tasted exactly like the beef in Yellowbird's yakiniku wrap. I hardly expected such strong memories to emerge on a warm June day in downtown Edmonton, but food-memory evocations can pop up in the most unexpected locals.