On our way over to our weekly Dinin’ Hall visit, I remarked to Kish — and special guest Russell — that I had a serious hankering for a brothy noodle meal with, perhaps, some pork thrown in for good measure.
Oh, did the food gods ever answer my hungry prayer! When we arrived the Mashita Noodles cart was there, and cooking. Their homemade Ramen noodles were exactly what I was craving. And what intriguing options, too! I went for the spicy noodles, the Mashita bacon broth, and the Kool-Aid pulled pork. That’s right — Kool-Aid pulled pork. Like every Mashita bowl, it came with a soft-boiled egg and some thin cucumber slices on top. I had to check it out, and I was willing to run the risk that a large, sweaty, anthropomorphic beverage pitcher would come crashing through the wall while I was enjoying my meal
It was an inspired combination and stuffed to the gills with moist, fall-apart, infused-with-broth pulled pork — so good that I found myself thinking strange thoughts as I used chopsticks, and then a plastic soup spoon, to pound it down. Thoughts like: why can’t Dinin’ Hall provide larger plastic spoons so I can eat this even faster? And: why do they have to make these plastic bowls with the annoying little ridge ringing the bottom, which makes it difficult to get at every last, savory drop?
As I write this, I recognize that I’ve raved about virtually every food item I’ve consumed at Dinin’ Hall. So be it. Their food truck vetting process must be flawless. I’m beginning to suspect that Dinin’ Hall is like Italy — you just can’t get a bad meal there.
When you ran outside in the morning, the temperature was already above 70 and the humid air had a sharp tang and crackle to it. Somewhere a Dad had mowed the lawn within the last 24 hours, and the spicy odor of cut grass salted the air. This always brought a sneeze and made my eyes water, because I was allergic to cut grass — particularly when it came time to mow our own lawn.
In the woods surrounding our neighborhood the smells told of dampness and decay. Fallen trees were slowly rotting, covered with fungus and mold, and the forest floor was carpeted with a layer for decomposing leaves and branches that sank into the soil when you stepped on them. At the creek bed there was the clean, sharp scent of water and mud and stones slick with algae and moss.
But the smells I most associate with those long-ago summers were of the Kool-Aids, the frozen lemonades, and other drinks that every savvy neighborhood Mom had ready to pour out to the sweaty boys who might track dust into their kitchens at any moment. When the manufacturers of those drink mixes said they were flavored, they weren’t kidding! The smells and tastes were overpowering. No need for subtlety! Even a person whose taste buds and olfactory lobes had been disconnected couldn’t fail to detect the “flavors.”
The flavored drink mixes had the most intense scents, with grape and cherry being the most pungent. If kids in the neighborhood had set up a lemonade stand and had mixed the concoction themselves, you had to brace yourself. Just smelling a pitcher of grape Funny Face drink made you feel like you’d been immersed in a can of Welch’s, and even a small sip of the sugary liquid would cause severe mouth pucker. No one could drink it without immediately chasing it with a glass of cool water.