When I was a boy, back when my family owned our small town, Mom and Pop Chinese restaurant, we received our produce every couple of days or so, direct from the big city, Portland.
It arrived not in some big Conglomerate Foodservice rig, no, but by a genuine Italian Produce Man in a rattletrap pickup truck with wooden sides, sliding over the mountain and down the Reservation to our very doorstep.
Imposing, heavy set fella’ a sweat stained fedora screwed down onto his head, lace up work boots and bib overalls that ended a good couple of inches from his shoe tops and work socks.
Always had a huge smile, a little joke and an orange for Mama San, the ancient wife of our primordial Chinese cook Harry Sid.
Mama San, sweet Mama San, wrinkled and small behind tiny spectacles, like a frightened mouse, peeking round the doorway gawking at Big Tony the produce man, what was that name?, Gravalli?, Ganatche?, Gattatucci?
I can’t recall, it’s been so long ago that those memory cells have been written oven any number of times.
I do remember clearly, however, that there were never a dozen lemons in a dozen lemon sack.
Ah, but that was a hundred years ago, way before the invention of dirt, now, the Spanish girls arrive to find great mounds of vegetables and fruit pre-delivered in the darkness, and they’ll pass the day speaking softly, occasionally slipping their music into the player to send Mariachi sounds round the big kitchen mingling with the aroma of our freshly baked bread.
In the back, our guy’s in the delivery department have decided that any High School Driver’s Education program should have an extended class called “Driving with food.”
Take, for example, the “Great Hot Fudge debacle” the ultimate lesson, a warm chocolaty delight sliding from its perch as the van makes its turn, sailing with an upside down “glurp” when it leaves the 3 quart chafing dish and lands upon the floorboard.
Or, perhaps, the “Incident of the Red Cabbage” whereby Sweet, Innocent Aimee learned that shallow pans of fluorescent, sloshy vegetables should not be the last item placed on the very top of the already teetering stack like something out of a Dr, Seuss book.
But no, no, no, you’ve not lived till the van rolls to a halt, with you still feeling giddy and happy having driven 20 miles enveloped in the aroma of an affectionate cheese sauce; ahhh, a great 5 gallon, uncovered and open, vat of cheese sauce, warm gooey goodness over baked cauliflower, dunking great hunks of sourdough, laughing, singing cheesy songs, yet kind of wondering why the windows are steamed from the inside, pulling to a stop, noticing a seam of Elmer’s Glue white forming at the edges of the auto door as languid creamy tears begin to drip to the ground, beginning to puddle, widening into a lake, fed from a river, pushed by a torrent.
Stand back, please get away, don’t open that door, oh the horror, the horror.
Yes, it’s the catering life for me.