Loyal readers, I know you were expecting this to be my review of LooM, the latest Michelin star venture from chef Petar Vienni. As I drove to the repurposed button factory in the Arizona desert that holds LooM, my tire burst. With no phone signal and only sand on the horizon, a kind truck driver pulled over to offer his assistance. While I did not get to experience LooM’s famous foie gras cheesecake, my palate was forever changed by the culinary experience I found within Big Terry’s Truck.
Big Terry offered to drive me into town, which I hesitantly accepted. A burly truck driver offering a stranded lady food critic a ride sounds like a recipe for murder. Thankfully the only recipes I encountered in Big Terry’s company were for his delightful freeway fajitas.
The atmosphere of Big Terry’s truck was rustic Americana at its finest, from the American Flag seat covers to the Springsteen on the radio. Service was impeccable. As soon as I put on my seatbelt, Big Terry cranked up the A/C and asked if I was hungry. In preparation for the gastronomic delights of LooM I hadn’t eaten all day, so reader, I was ravenous.
Big Terry instructed me to open his glove compartment (an interactive dining experience!) and I pulled out a Ziploc bag of homemade chocolate chip cookies. The warmth from the desert sun heated the sweets to gooey perfection. Big Terry’s innovation of serving dessert as an appetizer recalls the sugared mushroom rolls pioneered by French master chef Guilliame De Neuf. Reader, it was then I knew I was in the presence of a true artist.
Next, Big Terry pulled a jar from a cooler behind his seat and introduced me to his 14-day salad. Fresh veggies are hard to find on the road, so Big Terry has designed a salad that will stay fresh for a fortnight. Mine was a day ten blend of cabbage, carrots, and celery soaked in malt vinegar that I feverishly devoured with my bare hands. My one critique is the salad was served in a Mason jar (what is this, 2013?)
Under the scent of pine air freshener, I noticed the intriguing aroma of garlic and cumin emerging from a crockpot taped to the floor.
“Chili?” I ventured a guess.
“Naw, that’s burgoo. My gramma’s recipe,” replied Big Terry as he skillfully scooped me a serving in a Snoopy mug.
Burgoo is a Kentucky meat and vegetable stew containing corn, potatoes, chicken, pork, and a mystery meat Big Terry refused to divulge. (Every chef has his secrets.) As I enjoyed the velvety potatoes and soft (squirrel?) meat Big Terry explained his culinary process. He “throws in the stuff” and then “waits.” Eat your heart out LooM.
As we entered the bright lights of Phoenix, I called AAA and alerted them to my emergency. It would be two hours before they could tow my car. Luckily, Big Terry’s was open late.
Next came the waffle iron course. This foolish critic had only used the humble waffle iron for waffles, but Big Terry opened my eyes to the pitted metal plates’ multitude of capabilities. First, waffle iron scrambled eggs fluffier than a kitten on a cloud. Second, came a waffle iron quesadilla filled with cheddar and spicy jack and smothered in nacho cheese that put the entire state of Wisconsin to shame.
Finally, came waffle iron cinnamon rolls drizzled with honey. Alas, Big Terry did not take the time to clean his waffle iron between courses, leaving me with a cinnamon roll infused with bits of egg and cheese. Perhaps two irons, one for savory and one for sweet, will be Big Terry’s next upgrade after he repairs his squeaky alternator.
As the tow truck arrived to drive me back to my abandoned Prius, I knew this appetizing adventure was coming to an end. I thanked Big Terry and as we shook hands, I revealed my identity as a New York Times food critic and told him I would be writing my next column on this meal.
“Are there any words of advice you’d give to other chefs?” I asked.
Big Terry considered my words, “If your recipe doesn’t work out, there’s usually a McDonald’s at the next exit.”