Saturday, October 5, 2013

WIAT: Dic Ann's Food Truck Edition, or: The Adventure of the Flat Burger

In the spirit of what Turriff Hall was originally about, I wrote a piece about a burger I ate. In a sense, I suppose this is a WIAT post, even though it is strictly speaking, not about today.

This post originally published by Burger Weekly at

The Experience: Dic Ann’s has been a Montreal-area institution since 1954, but I’d never had the chance to get my hands on one of their burgers. But when they started operating a food truck (after the city of Montreal recently relaxed it by-laws) my combined fondness of burgers and mobile food proved hard to resist. So, on a beautiful sunny day in September, I wandered into Montreal’s historic Old Port, and ordered their cheeseburger. All dressed, of course.
The food truck’s menu is simple, featuring a hamburger, a cheeseburger, a double patty version of each, and the Quatrro, which adds a second slice of cheese to the double cheeseburger. The food truck experience is one I enjoy. The service was quick, and the staff was friendly. A word of warning, though; the Dic Ann’s burger is a messy one, so you may want to sit down in the near-by park to enjoy.

Burgers Ordered: The Cheeseburger all dressed and the Hamburger all dressed.
IMG_1162 IMG_1165
The Taste: Dic Ann’s burgers are pressed flat, incredibly flat, and the their signature feature is a ladleful of their spicy sauce on each burger. The sauce is based around ground meat, and quite hot, reminiscent of chili without the beans. It’s wet, and like I said, it’s messy. I enjoyed the flavour and texture, but my girlfriend said she disliked the sogginess of the whole affair. Dic Ann’s patties are also incredibly thin, and therefore very well done. The sauce adds a fair amount of beef, and helps makes up for the slim patty. I’d probably go for a double next time, all the same. All dressed for Dic Ann’s is mustard, relish, onions and the aforementioned spicy meat sauce.
The Verdict: An enjoyable, messy burger. On the thin side, though, so you’ll want more than one if you’re hungry. The spicy meat sauce is an interesting addition, and Dic Ann’s history, combined with the food truck ambiance, make this a very enjoyable burger experience.

Dic Ann’s Food Truck is located at the Old Port of Montreal. It closes in mid-October so get out there soon. Dic Ann’s proper can be found at these locations.

Thanks to BurgerWeekly, and please let me know if there are any burgers you think I ought to eat.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

"Once handsome and tall as you"

This post is cross posted from The Winter House.
My grandfather died when I was 14 or so, in the early summer, or late spring. I don't recall when, exactly, and it doesn't bear much on the narrative here. My grandmother had passed away almost exactly a year earlier, so the whole affair felt familiar, and yet horribly strange. In both cases, my mother had to leave me home alone to be with them in their final days. They lived in my mother's hometown Gaspé, while we summered in my father's hometown, Métis, some 350 kms away. My eldest sister, 11 years older and living away in the big city, came through to attend the funeral, intending to take me with her to Gaspé. That night, between her arrival and our departure the next morning, she went out with our cousins, and feeling bad for me, lent me her book to read, as I was too young to join them in the bars.
My sister's reading has always had a profound effect on my own. I learned to read from books she had left behind, Hardy Boys mysteries, and Nancy Drew. And it was her copies of Neuromancer and Heinlein that cemented in me a life long love of science fiction. Our tastes have since diverged somewhat, but we still talk books, and she occasionally still appears holding one, thinking I should read it.
On the eve of my grandfather's wake, hoping to ease the sting of not joining in the evening's festivities, my eldest sister handed me her copy of Consider Phlebas, the first of Iain Banks' Culture novels.
It remains, to this day, some 20 years later, one of my favorite books. I have read and re-read it, returning after absences long and short. It remains my favorite of all Banks' science fiction, although there is still one I have yet to read. I very much doubt it will displace Consider Phlebas, however.
It could be that it was the first SF novel of such scope. At least, the first I could fully grasp. Banks write openly, accessibly. Herbert may very well be a genius, but at that age I was hopelessly lost in the first few pages of Heretics of Dune. Not so with Banks. His vast and sweeping constructs remain grounded in individual characters, and his wit lightens the load considerably. Banks' genius is approachable.
I suspect it was the surreality, or perhaps better, the hyperreality, which surrounds both adolescence and death, that allowed Banks' novel to make such a lasting and profound impact. It is a strange thing to watch others you love grieve, and to grieve oneself. Consider Phlebas itself is a rumination on death, and grief, and memory, albeit on a scale much larger that that of a grandson mourning his grandfather.
I have owned no less than five copies of Consider Phlebas, four of which I've given to people I hoped might enjoy it as much as I, who might be changed by it as much as I. I never checked to see if they were, but I like to think so.
Recently, I visited Scotland, where Banks is from, and happened to see the Forth Bridge, spanning the Firth of Forth. It features prominently in another of Banks' works, aptly titled The Bridge. As I stared out the train window at the massive structure, it dawned on me that it was indeed that bridge, the bridge. I'd not read The Bridge in years, and hadn't realized I would be seeing the Forth Bridge during my travels. Unprepared, I felt a nearly physical connection to one of my favourite authors. Of course, I knew that Banks was terminally ill at the time, and the feeling of connection was undergirded by a deep sadness.
Iain Banks died on the 9th of June, 2013.