Portland, My Favorite Burger

The past couple of days I haven’t wanted to do anything at all! I’ve basically spent the entire time wandering around my old neighborhood – visiting the local farmers market, sitting alongside the Willamette River reading the last Harry Potter book. Now that the dissertation is done, I decided to let myself rest for a bit. I did take care of some important logistical things yesterday, so today I treated myself.

At the same time, I’ve been trying to find a way to characterize Portland, Oregon as I’ve done with some of the other cities I’ve visited. It was while I was at the farmer’s market that it occurred to me. I was sitting listening to the live music – a small group performing Spanish opera of all things – looking at the people around me, and I realized that Portland was like my favorite burger.

You’ll have to bear with me as I attempt to explain…

The place where I’m staying in Portland belongs to my friend Kim, but she inherited from me when I moved back to Los Angeles. Her neighborhood therefore is my old neighborhood, and very close by is a New Seasons Market, a health food store, but one with a fine appreciation for food.

I used to go to New Seasons a lot. It was like having a second, much larger pantry near the apartment. They also had a pretty decent deli, and one of my favorite items to get was the burger. The reason? You can customize it any way you want and still pay the same price.

Hah! I loved it, but I also quickly settled into a set of favorite ingredients. They consisted of:

free range beef
tomatoes
grilled onions
roasted red peppers
avocado
havarti and swiss cheeses
mustard
toasted sourdough bread

It’s delicious, and here’s why… It’s a combination of tastes and textures. The red peppers, the mustard, and the sourdough all provided complimentary sourness and tanginess to the sweetness of the grilled onions, tomatoes, and cheeses. Then you have the smoothness of the avocado and cheeses balancing the crunchiness of the toasted sourdough. And underneath it all, there’s the wonderful earthiness of the beef itself. The foundation as it were. It sounds like it might be a fancy burger, but it’s not. It isn’t pretty, comes wrapped in paper, with a pickle on the side. But it does taste good in an interesting, relaxed sort of way.

And that’s Portland. Tangy, sour, smooth, crunchy, a little sweet, earthy.

In places, it’s really quirky, and prides itself on being different. At the same, it’s very, very natural and earthy. Very relaxed.

It’s an unusual analogy, I admit, but it seems to work. Or maybe it does only in my head?

I suppose if Portland is my favorite burger, then LA is like a buffet, where you get to choose your meal (your life) as you see fit, choosing from a wide variety of disparate options. London might be one of those Indian meals that comes on a platter, a diverse collection of items to eat, but each separate, contained within its own bowl. Hmm… Phnom Penh might be like bad pizza. You’re happy to eat it, and it’s strangely and somewhat guiltily fitting, but it also sits heavily inside you at the same time.

Hmm… how would describe where you live? What kind of food would it be?

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~ by Samer on September 20, 2007.

One Response to “Portland, My Favorite Burger”

  1. P.S. The irony is that Portland probably has a higher percentage of vegetarians and vegans than any other large city in the U.S.

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