I had a disagreement with a couple of friends recently. Don’t worry, there were no tears shed. It was just about how many friends we have at McGill who are proper “foodies”. You know, the sort who actually enjoy cooking and don’t rely on President’s Choice frozen pizza to suffice. Anna was unsure of how many, while Sean claimed to only have three. I stood back, and then said, “Well, I think everyone’s a foodie, deep down.” Don’t roll your eyes, hear me out.
Last week, I went to Les Premiers Vendredis (First Fridays) at Montreal’s Olympic Park, the second-biggest food truck festival in Canada. With over 3,000 people and 50 food trucks, this wasn’t for the faint of heart. Women dressed in full Aritzia. Men in rugged t-shirts who judge other men by how well they grill steak. Families with kids who love to wander—away from their worried parents. Students in baggy pants, fuming at any price over $10. Everyone was here. Excited, hungry, and with one question: What are we going to eat? Now tell me people aren’t foodies deep down!
Festivals are the life of summers. And it doesn’t matter what type of festival it is—the first thing you do when you enter is establish an action plan. At this festival, it went like this: Go for a wander and decide what to eat afterwards. Great plan, said the other 3,000 people in unison. My friends and I followed suit.
There’s something odd about serving street food in an enormous, concrete Olympic park. But in a weird way, it made sense. It’s a grey, utilitarian construction built for the 1976 Olympic Games. And now, almost 50 years later, it’s still serving the community—just with more variety of food.
The theme this week was Vietnamese, so there were a large number of Vietnamese trucks offering soup, rice, sandwiches—you name it. They also had those quintessential, plastic street stools for seating. Aside from Vietnamese, most cuisines were covered—though I didn’t see any ramen.
Walking around, we stopped by the La Sauce stand, which offered testers of its spicy sauces. Truth be told, the spiciest sauce was quite hot—who knew? Meanwhile, the distillery stand offered us free shots of their new fruity rum, which went down like water. There was also live music and even mini golf to keep you busy.
Bugger, is that shrimp I smell? I’m allergic to shrimp, you see. A warm salty smell like a mermaid’s armpit, and mixed with grilled BBQ chicken. It was coming from the paella stand and drew in perhaps the longest line of any truck. But tempting as it was, I decided not to flirt with death. Instead, I went to a Vietnamese truck, Saigon Montreal, which offered Wonton soup and fried rice.
The line was painfully long, too. Waiting in queues really is the epitome of aimless human frustration—that and the time between pressing the button in an elevator and the doors closing. Eventually, I got the fried rice with chicken for eight bucks, and wolfed it down. Portion sizes looked like they were meant for children, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it.
My friend got a portion of the jerk chicken from Boom J’s cuisine, a Jamaican jerk chicken truck. It was fantastic. Juicy, tender, soft, with a sauce that acted as a perfect sweet and salty coat. I also grabbed a hot pepper burger from the Dilallo burger truck. I’ve never tried a burger with a hot red pepper before and I can’t say I’ll be rushing back. The fries hit the spot though.
As I was waiting in line for the Saigon truck, I saw this young boy. He must have been about seven or eight years old. And unlike most people there, he navigated the crowd using a wheelchair with his guardian. They stopped next to me, frustrated as one drooling, BBQ-obsessed man didn’t see him. The boy looked down and took a bite of his taco, he then looked up at me and beamed a smile with the most unforgettably happy eyes. I smiled back.