His Dodger Stadium ‘date’ is kind of down on ballpark chow
At a ballpark, all food is comfort food. At a ballpark, every day is Thanksgiving.
So here I am at a recent evening game, trying to get noted food author Lisa Lillien to fill her face with ballpark grub, you know, the sort of stuff that makes life worth living — even as it shortens it. Hot dogs. Peanuts. Cotton candy. All my life, I’ve prided myself on being a corrupting influence.
“You’re gonna eat a Dodger Dog, right?” I ask her.
“Well, I’ll try one,” she says.
“You’re gonna eat a Dodger Dog,” I say as we enter the stadium.
Though this is her first visit to Dodger Stadium, Lillien is not new to such delicacies. She’s been to a few other parks, including the new Yankee Stadium, and thrown out the first pitch at an Oakland A’s game. Her fame comes from a line of best-selling “Hungry Girl” books on “tips and tricks for hungry chicks,” including healthy substitutes for the unhealthy foods they crave. TV is next, with a show on the newly born Cooking Channel.
Admittedly, in image-conscious Los Angeles, we are a little conflicted about food, in that many treat it like poison. Fortunately, the L.A.-based author is no scold. Lillien understands that a ballpark is no place for culinary self-denial.
“It’s not like you want to sit there and eat carrot sticks,” she says.
Yet, we are an odd couple at a Dodgers game. She, a noted voice on sensible eating. I, a man who once got legally drunk on a pile of garlic fries. (Seriously, the CHP pulled me over and I couldn’t even touch my nose; I’ve been cleaning exit ramps every Saturday ever since.)
And now, in perhaps the defining moment of her successful career, best-selling foodologist Lillien is about to sample her very first Dodger Dog.
“I’ve heard a lot about these,” she notes.
OK, this is how Lillien eats a Dodger dog. She takes a knife and fork and, as if doing corneal surgery, cuts off a little sliver. She places it to her lips and, at that moment when you and I would grunt with pleasure, Lillien cringes.
“It tastes fatty, which means it’s full of flavor. It’s delicious,” she admits, before putting the fork down after one bite.
“I’m not eating this,” she says.
We move on.
I wave some fish tacos in front of her. Fish is healthy, right? And I like fish tacos more than life itself. Were someone to say, “I will grant you eternal life or a couple of succulent fish tacos,” I’d take the fish tacos every time. Besides, can you imagine eternal life with my golf game?
“Look how good,” I say as I lay a couple of fish tacos on the buffet we’re assembling.
“Oh, it looks like they doubled up the tortillas,” she says, as if that’s a bad thing.
It gets worse. The fish appears to be fried, which is an automatic game ejection in Lillien’s rulebook.
“You’re better off eating a beef taco,” she says. “It appears to be grease soaked.”
“That’s insane,” she says of the tacos. “In-SANE!”
Fun date, this Lillien.
“There’s nothing good here,” she sniffs at the busy Camacho’s stand, where she warns about the dangers of burritos with “tortillas the size of trampolines.”
When she spots a humongous pretzel — the $18 Victory Knot — for sale behind a food stand, she looks as if she’s just been hit by a pitch.
“Let’s keep moving,” she says.
“You know, I’ve never eaten at a Carl’s Jr.” she admits at one point.
But she’s a gamer, this woman. She stays at it. After about 20 minutes, Lillien finds some positive signs at Dodger Stadium. At the Healthy Choice counters, she finds fruit plates, salads and a roast turkey sandwich she proclaims the best find of the day.
Her: “This is it. Home run.”
Me: “People really eat this?”
Her: “I’m impressed with [the turkey sandwich]. No mayo or oils. It looks like whole grain bread.”
They have sushi too, though Lillien proclaims it “supermarket sushi.” She does praise the California roll for not having an overabundance of rice and for its relative freshness.
“Not a bad choice,” she says, preferring the California roll over the spicy tuna.
Lillien explains how sporting events are worse than even movies for people like me, who enjoy life and hence do not exhibit that most overrated of traits: self-control.
“At sporting events, there’s a lot of down time,” she explains. “So how are you going to fill the down time?”
Here’s a tip: Lillien recommends stashing a couple of Tootsie Pops in your pocket before leaving home, since they are a healthier alternative to foods that fans tend to fiddle with during long games.
“Tootsie Pops have 70 calories and less than a gram of fat. I take them to the movies.”
Here’s another tip (from me): The corned beef sandwich at the Canter’s Deli stand, high as a pitcher’s mound, lovely as a Dodger Stadium sunset.
Home run, Canter’s. Touch ‘em all.
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