Fast food on the road; fast, hot or good?
Fast food on the road; fast, hot or good? If you’re lucky it’s any one of those three!
By Duncan Fry.
Considering how much fast food I’ve sampled over the years, the bad experiences have been very few and far between.
A steak ordered rare from a beachside diner in Venice, California that left me doubled up in agony all night, and put me off rare steak for about five years; a late afternoon (a bad food time, having usually been kept warm since lunch) burger that had me doing the Tijuana two-step; and that was about it.
I should have known my run of luck had to end sometime.
I suppose it’s a legacy of days and nights on the road, eating on the run in all sorts of places, because when you’re out on the road, food is survival. ‘I’ve been drivin’ all night my hands wet on the wheel – Dah da da dadda dah.’ It’s a way of stoking the body’s fires to keep going for another 20-hour working day, so it needs to be fast, hot or good. If you’re lucky it’s any one of those three!
An added bonus is buying it if possible at a petrol station roadhouse so that the hamburgers, chips, drinks etc. can be surreptitiously added to the band’s fuel bill. “Geez the old truck must be running a bit rough, guys – we seemed to have used an extra hundred bucks of juice – look, here are the receipts!”
There is also an unspoken bond between you and the person who sells it to you, and that is – once you’ve eaten the food, that’s the last you expect to see of it. Life being what it is, though, it doesn’t always happen that way, which is one reason why the major fast food chains do so well.
If you pull into Pigsbottom, West WoopWoop, and there’s a choice between getting something from the totally unknown quality of the local greasy spoon or Hungry Mac’s, then Hungry Mac’s wins every time. It might be a little bland and predictable, not exciting thought-provoking cuisine, but at least it’s reliable.
But if you’re in a small town, hungry, and there is no outpost of one of the major chains, then you’re on your own.
I was doing a mini tour with a country star in the Snowy Mountains, and my trusty assistant Jim and I had gone to the local Fish and Chip shop for some dinner. We were walking back to the pub with two big wrapped hot bundles when we bumped into…the star. Let’s call him Pete. A great guy to work with who came from deep in the bush, and who had never looked back since discovering the lure of showbiz!
“Hey, come on over to my room,” said Pete, “I’m just having a hamburger myself.”
“OK” we said, and followed him in. Jim and I opened up our bundles and started munching.
I had played it safe and restricted myself to basic fish and chips, but Jim had ventured into the realms of gourmet delights, and was happily crunching on some crunchy batter-filled things.
“What’ve you got there, Jim?” asked Pete.
“Oh, just some prawn balls,” said Jim in between munches.
“Some what?” said Pete, not quite believing what he’d heard.
“Prawn balls,” repeated Jim. “They’re really nice. Would you like to try one?” Pete still stared in disbelief at Jim.
“Prawn balls?” he said, “But…but…they must be TINY!”
Jim and I looked at each other and burst out laughing. Pete looked at us, not getting the joke. So we explained. “Pete,” we said, “They’re balls made of prawn, not prawn’s balls! There is a difference!”
Well, old Pete laughed so much that I thought he wouldn’t be able to do the show that night. He told us that he had always eaten meat, and had never tried seafood in his life.
I should have followed his example. I was standing at the mixer that night, twiddling the knobs, when all of a sudden I could feel my insides turn to water. I realised that I had to get to the toilet FAST, but Pete and the band were only two or three songs into their set. There was no way I could wait until they finished – as everyone who has been in this situation knows, when you gotta go, you gotta go!
Jim was doing monitors at the side of the stage, the place was jammed and there was no way I could get to the stage to tell him to urgently come and take over from me before the monster from The Thing burst its way out of me!
I quickly scanned the desk levels – all OK. I turned and grabbed the nearest guy standing next to me. “Hey mate – want to mix?” “Sure, no worries; what do I do?
I had all the effects running down to a single group fader, and I pointed to it.
“See this knob? It’s on –5 now, just below the line that says zero.” He leant over and stared at it.
“OK? When the song finishes, pull it all the way down until it stops.” He nodded in agreement.
“Alright then. Now when he next song starts – push it up to –5 again. Don’t touch anything else. OK?”
I stood him at the desk and made a dash for the dunny. Luckily I made it in time. I should never have eaten fish so far from the coast, but it’s nothing but the best for old Dunk when he’s away on tour!
You’d think that bubbling away for ten minutes in boiling oil would kill most germs, but obviously not! Anyway, about 2 or 3 songs later I bounced out of the executive washroom (not!) about 10 kilos lighter, and walked up behind the guy I had left at the desk. His mates were all gathered around him asking questions about what does this knob do and what does that knob do.
Finally he threw his hands in the air and turned around to face them.
“Look,” he said, “you wouldn’t understand. It’s technical! Hold on, hold on, I can’t talk, the song’s ending.” and he put both hands on the effects return fader and slowly brought it down.
His mates watched in awe. He stood there, looking knowledgeable, and as the next song started, slowly pushed the fader back up. I tapped him on the shoulder and thanked him for his help.
“Oh, no problems, mate – glad to help out. By the way, how much do they pay you to do this sort of thing?”
I gave him a rough figure, not letting on that the price included supplying the PA system and the truck, and his eyes popped out of his head. He wandered back to his mates, shaking his head in disbelief, and I could hear him talking to them.
“Jeez, I’ve got to get into this mixing, guys. It pays really well and it’s a piece of piss!”