Food writers have been known to proclaim that any story can be a food story.
When rocker Pink performs in Charlotte on Saturday, she won’t know she's part of a tale of an interrupted journey, German-language TV, and the best sandwich ever.
Two winters ago, my connecting flight out of Munich was cancelled due to an airline strike across Europe. I’d packed warm clothing but Lufthansa wouldn’t release my luggage. I’d stowed an English-German phrase book in my purse but had barely glanced at it. I’d stood in lines for hours with thousands of stranded travelers only to be told it could be several days before I got re-booked.
Since dinner the night before I’d eaten nothing more than a pastry, and it was already lunchtime.
I took an overpriced taxi to the nearest available hotel room, in a rural area five – or was it fifty? – miles from the airport; I was too tired to notice. It was expensive and bland, and I couldn't help but feel uneasy when I saw Holocaust tourism brochures displayed near a fancy restaurant not due to open until evening.
Then I found the bar.
All beer tastes the same to me, but this sandwich was noticeably different from any other. Smoky ham and turkey, lovely greens, sliced tomatoes and melted cheese were layered neatly and topped with a buttery, perfectly fried egg. The bread was chewy and substantial with browned edges. Cornichons, peppery sprouts, and tiny pickled vegetables nestled next to the sandwich, along with a heavenly mound of just-fried potato crisps. I took one bite – then snapped a picture before devouring it all.
That night, I drank bottled water out of a hotel glass and stared out at miles of bleak snowscape for a while. I reached for the remote. News, sports, talk shows; it was all in a language I couldn’t follow.
Then I stumbled on MTV, or its German equivalent, and saw Pink singing “Raise Your Glass.” It’s a boisterous pop anthem that celebrates outcast kids, the nerds and geeks who are “too school for cool” and get “treated like a fool.”
“So raise your glass if you are wrong, in all the right ways,” the half-Jewish kid from Pennsylvania shouted. I was safe and comfortable, but I hated the thought of waiting around near Munich for some unseen person or power to decide what would happen to me next.
I booked the first shuttle back to the airport and got there just past sun-up. By lunchtime I was aloft, having easily accomplished what had been impossible the day before.
And that’s the best thing about food stories. You never know where they'll take you, what you'll see -- or who you'll find there, raising a glass to urge you onward.