Road Foodie

Some people drive simply to arrive.

Desert Dawgs

Posted By on February 13, 2009

Supplies for the traveling foodie. Just add butter.

Supplies for the traveling foodie. Just add butter.

2.12.09 Fountain Hills, AZ to Las Cruces, 406 miles; two states: Arizona and New Mexico

Butter doesn’t do well as a road snack. So when I am lucky enough to hunker down at (high-school roomie) Mary’s empty vacation home east of Scottsdale for six whole nights, I immediately get me a block of the Irish stuff. (Full disclosure: I developed a recipe for Kerrygold once. One recipe. It’s not like they’re my sponsor.) It isn’t clear if one person can go through 8 ounces of butter in six days, but I’m eating in on this stay and willing to give it a try. So I eat butter-sizzled kale, wild salmon baked in foil with butter (and wine, something the car is exceedingly well stocked with), fingerling potatoes five different ways—all involving at least a little bit of butter, and baby zucchini with mint and, duh, butter. But when I set out for Las Cruces this morning, there’s still about two ounces left. Guess I just wasn’t man enough. I contemplate several possible breakfasts that would use 2 ounces of butter, but in the end I eat an apple, wash the sheets, and pack up the car. Mary and Bill will use the butter when they come down from snowy Idaho in ten days. I’ll leave a post-it on the fridge helpfully directing them to its excellence. (Mary is not a passionate cook; the kitchen equipment in the house is testament to this fact, but I already knew. Raising three sons will do that to a person. Luckily, I travel with my own knives, salt and peppermills, good olive oil, smoked paprika, and cocktail shaker.) The peaceful, pretty house has become too heavy a burden, and three of Mary and Bill’s friends are coming in later today to see about buying shares. So, I’m hoofing it down to Las Cruces to wait out the last three days before the start of my month’s rental in Marfa.

Some dogs know how to find their light.

Some dogs know how to find their light.

The hiking opportunities (hike-ortunities!) here in Fountain Hills are plentiful and exquisite, even though you must almost always access the trailhead through a fancy housing development. Since I’m in anti-social mode for a while, it doesn’t bother me—much—that the place feels like a ghost town, with For Sale signs festooning one out of three earth-toned, gravel-fronted, cactus-accessorized “villas.” Parking lots in front of the sprawling suburban shop-ortunities are almost empty, yet Safeway still offers thirteen kinds of apples, a service fish and meat counter, and Beringer Founder’s Estate at $6.29 for six or more (better stock up; good wine may be thin on the ground in Marfa). Who will live in these houses? Who will support these stores? Is socialism really so bad?
I have found the light, with this dog.

I have found the light, with this desert dog.

I get off to a slow star on today’s 400 miles, because I’m really starting to fear the shopping deprivation that awaits me in Marfa. A couple of stock-up stops seem politic. I locate a British shop not too far off my route, and secure a box of real tea. Crate and Barrel supplies me with a decent citrus press (I have Triple Sec, and tequila shouldn’t be too hard to come by, but will there be limes in Marfa?).
Stella is sanguine about getting back on the road; she knows there will always be food, toys, and episodes of wild dancing on hotel beds at the end of each boring day. She’s proved an intrepid hiker (the black-and-white theme looks quite fetching against the subdued shades of the high desert, don’t you think?), and we had only one mild cactus-spine incident on this visit. Two hours south of Phoenix, another kind of desert dog awaits me, in south Tucson: The Sonoran Hot Dog at El Guero Canelo. A local legend, scented on some episode of late-night trip-plan googling, this amalgamation of vehicles, metal structures, and plastic sheeting occupies an unprepossessing corner in a depressed, dusty neighborhood of shuttered hair salons and auto body shops. Clearly, the Sonoran Hot Dog is the thing to have, and I feel an uncharacteristic pang of hunger as I order from one of the four windows and scope the indoor-outdoor dining arrangements.
So many choices, only one dog.

So many choices, only one dog.

“Everything on it?” asks the face framed in the window.
“What’s everything?”
“Beans, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, cheese, mayonnaise, jalapeños…”
When will I learn to READ the menu? And, what's a winie?

When will I learn to READ the menu? And, what's a winie?

The proprietor, holding court at a corner table, is clearly a popular guy. This is evidenced by the short line of supplicants who appear to be waiting just to shake his hand. (I recognize him easily, since his face is blown up out of all proportion on one of the vehicles that make up the chow-compound.) My dog is ready in a virtual heartbeat, and after I grab a few limes, I sit down to admire and, almost instantly, consume it (cue sound of smacking chops here). Where’s the rest? It is only belatedly that I realize I could have had the Sammy Dog, which comes with everything I’ve just had and not one, but two winies (sic). A regular low-carb special. In my rush to chow down, I have not fully explored the menu. This is becoming a recurring theme, as readers of Wrong Burger in Paradise will recognize.

Seen along the Road: Pinal Air Park (a vast parking lot for planes); the Continental Divide; the Rio Grande river. And, most thought-provoking: two small trucks traveling in tandem, both piled perilously high with worldly goods (folding chairs are bound to the outside of the scrupulously-strapped edifices; under madly flapping tarps I can glimpse a refrigerator, crib, and dog kennel). The Joad family of today is on the move, to a better place.


One Response to “Desert Dawgs”

  1. Chef/Maestro says:

    Reading the menu is overrated — compared to writing it . . . 🙂

Leave a Reply