Sunday, October 2, 2011

Tim Horton's

2000 Talbot Rd W
Windsor, ON N9A 6S4, Canada
(519) 966-1656

by Beau Cadiyo

Groggy, I walked to the Caesar's lobby in an effort to get my bearings.  The man behind the courtesy desk allowed me to ask the question that had been marinating in the back of my mind ever since we’d crossed the border:

"What's that one Canadian fast food place that people love so much?"

He was perplexed.  "Arby's?"

The ridiculousness of his statement shocked me so much that I paused.  Arby's?  Canadian?  It's beef, dude.  And bread.  And corn sugar-based sauce.  They have salted, seasoned curly fries and milk shakes.  They have coupons that give you five roast beef sandwiches for five dollars.  There’s no way it could be anything but American. I knew I could never trust him ever again. 

Instead, I said, "No - they send food to the troops in Afghanistan.  I heard that they have really good coffee."

"Oh, Tim Horton's!" he exclaimed.

"Yes!  Where's the nearest one?"

The woman waiting behind me looked intrigued at this exchange.  That didn't surprise me.  I'm Beau Cadiyo.  I know sandwiches.  Maybe she, too, thought Arby's was Canadian, and I blew her mind with truth.  Regardless, I ignored her immediate and intense attraction to me.  Sandwich Science can do that to a girl; you - or, rather, I - get accustomed to it. 

He gave me directions, to which I nodded and smiled and didn't pay attention.  I walked through sweltering streets, sweat soaking my shirt, skivvies and shorts.  The core of downtown Windsor has the distinct feeling of an abandoned tropical tourist town.  There are bars and restaurants, weathered facades and a few empty storefronts.  Trees line the street, there's not much traffic, and there were far more young, attractive women than there were men of any age.  Indeed, the paramedics we saw were women, and the first three cops I saw were women.  Very young, very, very attractive women.  I stopped to ask for directions from each of them.

Upon walking in, Tim Horton’s seems to be a mix between Dunkin' Donuts and McDonald's.  There were several people there even though it was mid-afternoon, and three staff members seemed busy, although I was the only one in line.  I was told that four Canadian dollars and ninety-seven Canadian cents would get me a chicken salad sandwich, a donut and a drink.  That’s what I got.  I’m a sandwich man; I’m not an economist.

The first difference I noticed was that Tim Horton’s used real flatware and silverware – a beautiful sight in a fast food joint.  Second, Tim Horton’s is quality.  The toasted bread was hearty, the chicken salad was excellent, the lettuce was crispy and the tomato tasted both fresh and ripe.  My donut was unlike any I’d ever had before; it was chewy and dense and had an aroma that indicated they used real, fresh blueberries in it.  It was solid, offered resistance to my teeth, and was still warm from being cooked.

I thought of California when I was driving back across the border into Detroit.  I heard once that there is nowhere in the world where the difference between a developed and developing nation is so starkly laid out as the border between San Diego and Tijuana.  I think that the border between Detroit and Windsor is the fast food equivalent: on the Windsor side is high-quality food, with reusable utensils and real fruit, represented by Tim Horton’s, and on the Detroit side is crap that makes people obese, represented by Arby’s, which is American, by the way, and maybe I shouldn't be proud of that fact but I am. 

Num Pang

21 East 12th Street Map
New York, NY 10003

by Beau Cadiyo

Walking through crowds is an art. Some people approach CrowdWalking™ as an opportunity to join the masses, just going along with what everyone else is doing, moving at the crowd pace. Some people bumble along even more slowly, disrupting and inconveniencing everyone else. Others successfully move through the crowd at a faster or slower speed at will, cutting through an otherwise solid mass swiftly and easily, without interrupting other peoples’ courses; they react to the movements of others and respond accordingly in order to maximize their own speed and avoid collisions. When they do get in the way of other people, the others may feel momentary annoyance, but then they realize that they’re in the presence of a Super Walker™ and don’t fault them for this transgression.

I am a Super Walker™. I’m really fucking good at walking.

It took these skills to get from Union Station to Num Pang Sandwich Shop. Union Square was packed on a Saturday morning; artists set up their tables everywhere with farmers, a sexual harassment exhibit staffed by nubile college-aged coeds was attracting half-shaved middle-aged men, and people lounged around on stairs, benches and fences, blocking everything up in a sea of humanity.

I meandered through the streets; for a city, New York feels safe and, as a tourist, it’s hard to imagine that these streets are considered “hard.” Suddenly, I passed a sign advertising Bahn Mis. I started, immediately flipped through my New York Moleskine and located the shop on my list of potential places to try. The window was open, as was the door, and I walked in only to be told that it would be another 15 minutes until they actually opened. Dejected, I went to buy fruit at a grocery store, then returned. I ordered a peppercorn catfish sandwich for $7.50 – a very good price – and rubbed my hands in anticipation.

They handed me a bag, and I brought it back to Union Square. I was salivating, the heat was permeating the bag in a teasing way. Sitting on a somehow-vacant bench, I pulled it out of the bag and popped open the cardboard container expectantly.

I was again dejected.

The bahn mi was actually pretty good – delicious, really. The chewy bread had a nice crust and the filling was delectable – simultaneously sweet and salty and spicy, all of the elements mixing in perfect balance of tastes and textures. The problem, of course, was that the price may have been low for a bahn mi in New York, but was nevertheless exceptionally high for the amount of food I actually got. It was barely bigger than a dinner roll, and, while the filling was good, there was not much of it. My paradigm may have made an adopted New Yorker blush, and a native New Yorker scream, but if I’m going to pay that much for a sandwich, it better be big enough to satisfy me. This was barely a cocktail appetizer, much less a $7.50 sandwich.

I’d feel bad about these expectations, or at the very least embarrassed in front of my New York readers, except that these sandwiches are a ripoff. If people want to tell me that I’m a backwoods hick, well, that’s fine. As a New Yorker at Time once wrote, “There is no provincialism so blatant as the metropolitan who lacks urbanity.”

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