David Batterson 8:30 a.m., Feb. 12
Old Town jerky: Cheap, cheerful Inca-chew
Chomp on jerky and taste, uh, ancestors' gastronomy
Jerky for lunch?
I was walking up through Old Town Plaza when I noticed this freshly whitewashed adobe place down by the Fiesta de Reyes part. Next to a silversmith joint. The Old Town House of Jerky & Root Beer (2754 Calhoun Street, in the Old Town Plaza, 619-292-5629).
Turns out they have nearly two dozen stores scattered all over the country.
I hop in for a snack. Also curious about the whole jerky thing. Oh Lord. So many jerkies, so little time. Buffalo, alligator, elk, kangaroo...
Seems it used to be the only meat you could actually take with you that didn't rot, specially if you were someone like Lewis or Clark. And I see the brand is "Oregon Trail."
The gal, Chelsea...
...says it'd be good to start off with plain ol' beef, perhaps a sweet and spicy, and then maybe a habanero, for kick. And then to tamper it all down with a root beer. They have dozens of root beers, like 47 different brands. "People are very particular about their root beers," Chelsea says. "It's about flavor. Also, where they're from."
I pick Virgil's ($2.32) just because she says it comes from LA, and has been going since 1916.
Head out to the patio....
...open the jerkies.
The Sweet and Spicy ($1.99) gives you a little tingle, but it's the salty sweetness that comes through. And it's not rip-your-teeth-out jerky you usually think of. And wow, the habanero ($1.99) is good and hot. The root beer helps.
Turns out jerky has a heckuva history. The word comes from the Spanish word "charqui," which comes from the Incans' Quechua word "ch'arki," which means "to burn."
The whole secret was to cut fresh-killed meat into thin strips, and dry them in the sun as quick as possible, and with the help of salt, keep the bacteria out. They say it's the oldest way of preserving meat in the world.
So is it a meal? Three or four stick's'd certainly fill you up, but no, we're in snack territory.
Still, it's kinda nice to think you're tapping in to a stave-off-starvation aid your great-great grand folks probably chewed on at the mouth of their cave, back in the clay, back in the day.