Quick question. If early adapters are on one side of the spectrum and late adapters on the other, where do you think you fit in?
For example, were you one of the first in your coterie to get a smartphone — or the last? What about a car that wasn’t a Honda or a Toyota? And were you watching Walter White in Breaking Bad from the first episode, or did you binge watch later and see the whole lot during one debauched weekend?
I’m such a late adapter that it’s become a bit of a joke with family and friends (chances are your great aunt texted a good year before I felt comfortable or interested enough to learn how). What can I say? I’m old-fashioned (read: tech stupid, stubborn, and change-adverse).
But when it comes to food, I am right on it. Food cart I need to try? I can be there in 15 minutes. Tasty grain that supposedly the Incas loved but takes forever to cook? Chances are, it’s already sitting in my pantry. Food is my life, my love, my passion, my distraction, my joy, my obsession — so I do not usually need to be told twice to try something. I just dig in.
Recognizing this in myself makes my hesitance to try out the Whole Bowl food carts all the more baffling. Perhaps I was put off by the very simplicity of the food and it felt wrong to get unduly excited about a black bean and rice bowl. What’s the big deal? It seemed like it was so routine that I just couldn’t get myself to buy it, and that is the only thing being offered at their carts (and only in two marginally different sizes).
What changed? Perhaps I had just heard from too many trusted sources that WB offered up something special. Or maybe I had noted —all the while cursing – the crowds that stood with a mule-like stubbornness in line at their downtown cart, seemingly impervious to all the other great food that surrounded them with no waits.
Or maybe I just noticed one day that a Whole Bowl cart had moved into my neighborhood. No more excuses — it was time to see what the hullaboo was all about.
So I got myself a bowl. Okay, now I get it.
Turns out what makes this little bowl so noteworthy isn’t so much the warm, perfectly seasoned black beans, the nutty brown rice, the thickly shredded cheddar cheese, dollop of full-fat sour cream, salsa, olives or cilantro garnish. All that combined is terrific, but that doesn’t explain the lines. Or why people keep coming back over and over for something most people could pull out of their fridge or pantry on an average day.
Can you guess what it is? I have to warn you, you can’t see it in this picture but anyone who has had this bowl probably already knows. They’ve already drunk the Kool-aid.
It’s something called a Tali sauce. And that my friends, is what makes the world of difference.
As you dig into the bowl, you first come in contact with it about mid-bowl. It’s a tumeric- yellow colored sauce that has the consistency of a loose aioli or thinned-down sour cream (in fact they squirt it onto the bowl), and anyone who has been to one of these food carts before can’t help but ask “What’s in it, anyway? It is so good…”.
Counter workers at any of the Whole Bowl carts must hear this query all the time because they always seem to anticipate the question, shaking their head sadly before even the full question is verbalized. No go. The counter help is not giving out the keys to the kingdom.
“It’s a secret”, they always say with a serene, Buddha-like knowingness.
And no wonder — when mixed up with everything else in the rice bowl, the Tali sauce opens up the skies and suddenly the world is brighter, tastier, infinitely more interesting.
This is what it looks like when the Tali sauce is mixed up with the other ingredients. And yes, nosy pants, this is from the front seat of my car — I just couldn’t wait until I got home to eat (knowing how I am, I always keep a bowl and a fork in my car so I now don’t have to wait to get home to eat when the need to eat takes over). Don’t judge me — a girl has to do what a girl has to do.
Well, it turns out, I am but one of a legion of Tali obsessives—google Tali sauce and you will see what I mean. Or better yet, save yourself that rabbit hole and just take my word for it and download this cheat recipe here .
Having used this recipe when my girlfriends and I made a staff luncheon for one hundred at my kids’ school, I can attest to the proximity of flavor profile and texture to the one featured at the Whole Bowl. I strongly urge you to give this aforementioned recipe a go and make some to have around.
I guarantee you that you will find a thousand things to go with this – alongside roasted chicken and fluffy couscous, paired with sesame-marinated grilled eggplant and asparagus, spread lovingly inside a steak and arugula panini. Or maybe just straight out of the fridge when you think no one is looking.
But I digress. Right now you are hungry and you want to eat right this second. (Don’t even think about trying to make this at home in a hurry – even if you already have a ripe avocado, warm black beans, toasty cooked brown rice, shredded cheddar and chopped olives all raring to go, I’d bet the warranty on my Vitamix that you don’t have the one thing you really need and that’s Tali, baby).
Not to worry – the $6 bowl awaits you – all warm and inviting, topped with a bewitchingly ripe avocado sliced to order and awaiting any number of hot sauces if you feel so inclined. Money in the bank, baby.
(A word of advice: if you have never tried this bad boy, buy yourself two. One you will devour within minutes of getting it and the second bowl you will want for later — given a generous handful of warmed leftover meat or tofu, one bowl will be plenty of filling for two burritos the next day or just breakfast of champions. Cue angels singing).