by Madeleine Brown
It’s the middle of my first week of a puppetry intensive—I have quite the life—and I agree to join one of the other participants at the bar after class for beer, apps and Pittsburgh against Washington in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. (Note: up until this point in my life the only hockey I’ve watched was the final minutes of the women’s gold medal match in the 2014 Winter Olympics.) For me this late night socializing is all about that East Coast craft beer and greasy half-priced apps.
The nachos are not built on a bed of housemade nacho chips. Sysco-brand instead. Well, not certainly, but probably. They’re doused in melted cheddar. (If you can really call it cheese.) Some haphazardly sliced peppers and maybe the odd black olive top them off. On the side sits sour cream, guac and that classic mass-produced salsa. I request some hot sauce too. To accompany our nachos, we opt for onion rings with curry mayo.
So, yes, neither are handcrafted masterpieces, but they’re perfect. It’s funny, isn’t it? Where real restaurants strive to produce everything in house with their own spin on it, a neighbourhood bar can serve up equally satisfying equivalents by cracking open a few jars. As Pittsburgh struggles, I tear through cheese-soaked chip after chip and hot onion rings. Sips of bitter ale cut through the fat and grease. And I can’t stop. I’m fairly full—and I did have a light dinner a few hours earlier—but the combination of flavours—as simple and processed as they are—are perfection. I think I can get bar culture.
We finally throw in the towel. While I’m rarely one to leave any scraps on my plate, I have to let this one go. We leave at the end of the second period—it’s still hopeful for Pittsburgh at this point. And it hits me: now I’m full. More than full, I’m bloated.
I pull my nacho- and onion ring-stuffed self into bed and while it’s relatively late and I’m fatigued from the work we did in class today, my stomach moans. I have to construct a sleeping position to let the beast rest comfortably. It still has much digestion to do. I begin to heat up from the exertion. I guestimate in my head how many pounds I must have gained from this eating expedition. “I’ll have to not eat for the next two days to make up for it,” I tell myself. Eventually I do nod off, but my dreams are vivid and, from what I can remember thinking back now, mildly horrifying. I wake up around 4 am dehydrated and confused. After a bathroom break and a sip or two of water, I manage to fall back asleep relatively quickly. In the morning, my stomach has quieted, but I still feel heavy and not well rested.
And just like that the greasy goods I sang praises of only twelve hours before upon entering my system have crushed my digestive tract and danced off without a word. Most curiously of all: I’d do it all again.