A Soldier Reflects on Kingston Cuisine after Returning Home
Eleven months of eating dust, bombarded by rockets fired by an elusive, entrenched enemy, and all I can think about is the perfect sandwich. Separated from your family and the comforts of home, one has a great deal of time to build an elaborate sandwich fantasy. Would I ever taste the sweet medley of
bread, meat and cheese again?
For the last decade or so, Canadian soldiers have occupied a base in southern Kandahar, the heartland of the Taliban and centre of its power. For several years, Canadians were major players in the multi-national camp, though during my tour the Americans were present in such force this dynamic changed somewhat. The camp housed thirty thousand soldiers, which made dining a logistical nightmare.
To say that the food quality was low would be overly complimentary to the repugnant, unpalatable slop served in the dining facilities. While you may have the dexterity to avoid the razor sharp shards of chicken bone, which lie in wait in your curry, do you also have the stamina to stomach the meatloaf, whose strangely wet, yet chewy texture is enough to ruin one’s appetite after the first chew?
In time the appetite diminishes. Eating stops being a luxury, and becomes another unpleasant chore. Deployed soldiers supplemented their meals with food sent to them in care packages, and whatever they could scrounge from the small shops that grew around the population of soldiers. Apparently the human body can sustain itself for some time on protein shakes, beef jerky and multi-vitamins.
Throughout the ordeal (and the food issue is merely one of a plethora of challenges for a deployed soldier) I allowed myself the indulgence of my sandwich fantasy. In my dreams, my perfect sandwich would be waiting for me on the tarmac on that fated day when my plane returned me to beautiful Canadian soil.
After so long away, with horror stories coming in from Afghanistan all the time, of course my mother convinced me to visit her in Kingston within a few days of being back home in Ottawa. Shortly thereafter, I found myself sharing a too-large pitcher of beer with an old friend at Harper’s. It was one of those moments that you remember forever, when you just have an overwhelming sense of… destiny.
I don’t remember if it was some kind of otherworldly halo that caused me to turn in incredulity towards the server as he brought me my sandwich, or if my brain is just embellishing my memories. What I do remember is a hamburger patty wedged with audacity between two, complete grilled cheese sandwiches. It was the sandwich of my dreams. Greasy enough to compensate for an entire year of lean living, the “Double Down” was a sandwich revelation. Oh Canada, you rich, spoiled, amazing country. How I missed your first world excesses!
Post Sandwich Regret
In dollars, the Double Down was extremely reasonable; in shame, the price-tag was much higher. How many hours spent in a fifty degree gym had I just squandered? How was this experience in tune with my attempts to lead a healthier lifestyle? To return home from conflicted Afghanistan with a new energy, and a new discipline? As my friend assisted me to my feet, he kindly supported me back to his home, where I collapsed onto his couch in a puddle of sweat and self-loathing.
In other news, Mom is extremely happy that I’m visiting Kingston more often.
Submitted to Kingstonist’s Community Soapbox by: M.J. Jones.
Thanks to Amuse Bouche for today’s photo.