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  • Writer's pictureJay Murray

Road Food, Hare Krishna, Jack Kerouac and Me.


I was but four years old when my family traded our snowmobiles for surfboards and made the long and arduous journey from the frozen tundra up north to the sunlit, rollerskating haven that is California. We had a '67 sea foam VW Microbus that nestled in nicely among the hippies and bison of Golden Gate Park, and my parents and siblings were avid enthusiasts of a local rock and roll band, the Grateful Dead. So it was thus, amid throngs of antiwar protesters at the gates of the Presidio and Alembic's Wall of Sound, that I was to encounter my earliest gastronomical revelation.

The scent of roasted peanuts mingled with wisps of cannabis and bodies, and I spotted a cauldron suspended over a roaring fire, tended not by witches, as one might assume, but by a small cadre of mostly bald, white men sheathed in robes the color of winter squash. In it I noticed thick, magma like waves of what my best guess, and greatest hope, told me was chocolate.

It wasn't chocolate.

Apparently I had just discovered Hare Krishna, whose dastardly recruiting included a deep dive into our collective psyche, feeding children of all ages just what they always wanted: dessert for dinner. And for free! In the gurgling cauldron was apparently a savory meal of garbanzo beans, peanut butter, carob and sugar.

While I wasn't tempted to convert, I can say without hesitation that I've never enjoyed garbanzo beans prepared in any other manner. Not hummus, not falafel, not... Well, that's all they're actually used for, and I'm not having it. That's why I dreamed up this falafel recipe from an alternate universe, using fresh (meaning frozen) peas in place of the garbanzos. You can find the recipe here.

And that just leaves Jack Kerouac and the mysterious photo, so without further ado...

Years ago I happened upon a uranium mine open to the general public, and when I finally realized that I was, in fact, representative of the general public, I chanced to explore - just the gift shop, as uranium, although not artificial, is rumored to be unhealthy. I figured the gift shop was safe since it had pretty good radio reception, and I needed some stocking stuffers. Long story short, uranium mine gift shops tend to be rather expensive, so I left empty handed, although I was fairly tempted by some really cool geodes, which are like hollow rocks with crystalline interiors.

Cut to 1992ish and I was a TA in a Beat literature class, and Bob and I were teaching all about Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty and I thought, hey, Jack Kerouac's from Lowell. So 31 years later I made a small pilgrimage to Lowell to discover my own, inner Jack Kerouac, which, as you can imagine, really builds up quite an appetite, so I grabbed a few local specialties, one of which is pictured above. And no, it's not a geode - its made out of food, and that's the portion I didn't eat. Enjoy the falafel.

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