Thrillin' Trillin

A classy writer digests food cravings in his new book

Calvin Trillin has a self-deprecating, low-key way of describing what is clearly a high-octane passion. Feeding a Yen (Random House, $22.95) is a series of essays, each devoted to a particular foodstuff he craves. He has placed many of these foods on what he calls the Register of Frustration and Deprivation, because he's unable to acquire them outside their places of origin -- a fried pepper he sampled in Spain, the pan bagnat he ate at a market in Nice, Cajun boudin sausage from Louisiana -- though Trillin is also happy to haunt the delis, bakeries and ethnic eateries of his Greenwich Village neighborhood. What he isn't keen on, however, is the kind of restaurant where the waiter sniffily assures customers that the only decent tuna is served seared outside and raw within, or where, as he puts it, everything is served on a bed of something else. Instead, he waxes rhapsodic over a bun he bought in Chinatown filled with something green he couldn't identify. Trillin, who appears tonight at 7:30 at the Cherry Creek Tattered Cover, 2955 East First Avenue, has written novels, non-fiction and three previous food books. He's been at the New Yorker since 1963. For years, he provided political commentary to The Nation; now his weekly contribution consists of a short verse mocking those in power. Predictably, his approach to food writing is eloquent, knowledgeable and eccentric. It's also funny, in a slightly mournful, even yearning way. When Trillin likes something, he tells you about it straightforwardly, no reaching for adjectives (silken, crackling, succulent), no prolonged meditations on the way the thing feels on his tongue. Trillin doesn't seem to cook himself. Sometimes you can't help wondering if he couldn't come up with a reasonable duplicate of the delicacies he craves in his own kitchen -- but then you realize that, of course, he couldn't. The place where he found his treasure and the context in which he ate it have everything to do with his passion for the taste. These essays are about far more than food. Trillin fantasizes about luring his grown-up daughter home from California with pumpernickel bagels. He ponders the politics and sociology of being a chow hound -- the kind of person who roams all five New York boroughs in search of the perfect empanada. He considers the history of the fish taco. Even those of us who've never encountered an Albanian burek will find this a gustatory world worth entering. For more information, call 303-322-7727. -- Juliet Wittman

You auto go!

Calvin Trillin
Calvin Trillin
Christopher Smith

You haven't truly experienced summer until you've been to the drive-in, that grand old American destination that's become as scarce as hoopskirts in the 21st century. There are two left in these parts: The Cinderella Twin Drive-In Theater, 3400 South Platte River Drive, Sheridan (303-761-8232), and the 88 Drive-In Theatre, East 88th Avenue and Rosemary Street, Commerce City (303-287-7717); both are open daily for the summer. Here's the drill: "Honk, honk" is the classic refrain of the drive-in theater, taken up whenever there's a wait involved -- as cars line up waiting for the gates to open; at sundown, when the kids get restless and the movie hasn't started; when there are technical difficulties. So make sure your horn works. Once inside, you drive through the hilly aisles seeking your vantage point. It's a mad rush for the best ports, with cars weaving in and out, barely missing each other, and tempers ready to burst.

Then out come the lawn chairs, the pillows, the blankets, the radios tuned in to the audio, the pizza boxes, sodas and picnic coolers, and the dozens of kids squeezed like circus clowns into jalopies. And the smoochers? It's a regular reality show: Mostly they stay inside their cars, spooning in the impossible positions governed by close quarters as the monolithic screen flickers against the night sky, bringing X-2 and The Matrix Reloaded to the masses, like a big bouquet of popular culture, customized with the actual sweat, friction and popcorn kernels of life. Nothing could be more real. Find true romance. Make the big-screen scene. -- Susan Froyd

E-Rock and a Hard Place

Its formal name is the Compass Bank Elephant Rock Ride, but this big bike gathering is more commonly called the E-Rock. Two-wheel fanatics give the Castle Rock-area classic, now in it sixteenth year, an even more important tag: They know it as the true beginning of the summer distance-cycling season.

Anyone ready to pedal a hundred miles gets his chance to unleash those super-quads this morning between 6 and 7:30. Families seeking an eight-mile meander can participate beginning at 9. These rides, along with 25-, 50- and 62-mile routes, all start and finish at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, on Plum Creek Parkway east of I-25 in Castle Rock.

Organizers will have rest stations along the way, and sag wagons will be rolling to provide water and assistance. Law-enforcement types will also be around. But riders shouldn't expect someone to bail them out of every potential disaster: Flats and other minor emergencies are their responsibility.

A post-ride party, complete with prizes, will await participants and their supporters at the fairgrounds. (No word yet on that mobile hot-tub SWAT team, though.) The entry fee is $35; for registration information, visit www.elephantrockride.com or call 303-282-9020. -- Ernie Tucker

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