Tag Archives: Fast food

Lo, The Squirrels Are Ravenous

As if the East Coast needs a further harbinger of bad weather . . . I’ve captured on film an indication of just how severe this coming winter will likely be:  never-before-seen-animal-behavior.  Saving up for winter, certainly Not Quite Right, I give you . . .

Squirrels.

Feeding.

Viciously.

On our Jack-O-Lanterns!

Caught, red-pawed.

Mugshot of the offender.

Close-up of the damage.

 

 

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Soft Drink Wars

Just a quick NQR chime-in on the soft drink debate that’s currently raging in New York City (see article on the recent hearing where Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to limit soda sizes to 16oz in the city is debated).

Personally we’ve taken to ordering kids’ meals when we’re traveling and don’t otherwise have our normal range of options for healthy eating (or at least obtaining healthy portion sizes).  The fries in a kids’ meal are the same size now days as LARGE fries when we were kids.  The burgers are portion-sized, rather than 1000+ calorie behemoths.  And the sodas are in the 8 – 12oz range.  This says alot about America, and American gluttony, that the cheapest and most available sources of food are too large, too sugary, and too fat.  Unlike much of the rest of the world, where the poorer classes are subjected to starvation-level poverty, in America food is an almost unavoidable excess unless you’re rich enough (ala Angelina Jolie) to hire a private cook and nutritionist.

Here’s proof (from what has been, over time, one of our more favored and frequented fast food joints) on the explosion in size of soft drinks.  A REGULAR soda (regular!) came across the counter to me barely large enough to fit in my hand.  The fine print in the lower right corner of the cup reveals its size:  30oz.  It’s stupid big.  And it lends credence to what doctors are saying about these soft drinks, that they’re addictive.  How else can anyone explain drinking, in one sitting, an amount of soda that is equal to half the normal intake of water someone needs during a day?

I say to Mayor Bloomberg:  “Good work.”  If someone has a problem with a 16oz size soda, let them purchase two (or four, if they want the equivalent of a modern ‘large’).

Giant cup of sugar (or worse: corn syrup!)

 


Fugcikles

Grocery list from my refrigerator, addition in bold courtesy my 9-yr old.

Although it’s certainly NQR, without looking at the previous, empty box from the freezer I must admit I had trouble spelling this one too!

Nice try, son, but you’re not taking home the blue-ribbon at the spelling bee this week.


Jersey Fresh (Say What?)

One among many signs at the local Wegman’s Supermarket that announces a “Jersey Fresh” product.

Maybe because I hail from a state that has some claim to actual “freshness,” or maybe because New Jersey seems, still, even after living here for nine months, such a metropolitan and even slightly greasy place, the current  agricultural marketing slogan “Jersey Fresh” makes me chuckle in an NQR sort of way everytime I see it.

Admittedly, not ALL of New Jersey (especially the part where we live) is akin to the infamously trashy setting of the TV show “Jersey Shore.”  That’s up closer to Newark, in the badder ‘burbs of NYC.  Out here things are comparatively rural.  Comparatively bucolic.  But also waaaaay crowded and almost devoid of land actually being used for agriculture.  In fact, in those few places where you see fields (instead of housing developments or strip malls) nicely stencilled plaques usually can be found proclaiming that the land had been specificially “saved” as a rural preservation, like a tourist attraction!

So, while I’m a little ashamed to admit actually buying a few of these scallops (we’ll see how “Jersey Fresh” they actually are when I sautee them in a little herbed and garlicked olive oil tomorrow), the slogan definitely requires an entry here.  Bon apetit!


Meat from the Earth

One of the more privileged moments of my family’s time in Oman was being invited during the Eid to celebrate a traditional dinner with the extended (very extended!) family of one of our friends in Sohar.  For the shuwwa, or grilling, the family employed a traditional technique called the Tanoor, an earthen pit in which carefully herbed and wrapped meats are grilled/smoked underground overnight.  This technique will immediately seem NQR to a western audience, accustomed as we are to eating from the anti-septic (but chemical-laced) confines of our mass supermarkets.

The pictures I present here, of the process of the shuwwa itself, should demonstrate not only the technical aspect of how the procedure is undertaken but also the sense of community, the involvement of the larger kinship group in this tradition.  It would be similar to the Thanksgiving Holiday in America, but only adding a hole in the earth and meat we raise and slaughter ourselves.  The Eid is a holiday at the end of Ramadan in commemoration of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son on God’s command.

Photos / explanations:

Reed-wrapped meats along with a selection of greens and herbs to add moisture and flavor.

The earthen pit, coals very hot, before the meat and herbs go in.

More herbs, better shot, some of these gave the meat a very savory flavor that stayed with me for days: smoky, heady, delicious, different.

By the lights of a luxury SUV pulled close to the earthen hole, dinner and herbs are lowered by the men into the prepared oven.

Once it goes in, the hole is covered with a sheet of metal and then with a thin layer of soil. If any smoke escapes, then too much air is getting in, the meat will cook too fast and dry out. A true seal over the meat allows it to smoke/roast to perfection.

When it is ready, after a day, the men of the family dig it up. (The women wait in a separate area to receive the meat, carve it, finish its preparation and divvy it up among the families.)

When finished the herbs and wrapping are charred but the food inside is juicy and wonderful. (Actual photo of meat missing, I was too busy eating!)

 

My friend Abdul Azziz (whose family is depicted in the photos above) kindly sent two complimentary photos, the first reveals the meat after it is unwrapped, the second shows a much bigger tanoor, where up to fifty wrapped packages can be cooked at once.  He also notes that this type of shuwwa is particular to northern Oman and parts of the UAE.

The cooked product of the tanoor, with garnish of local herbs.

A bigger version, holding up to fifty wrapped packages.


Romancing the T.G.I. Fridays?

Is this Vegas?

One of the wonderful things about traveling the world, let alone the Middle East, was the chance to score a romantic dinner or two.

My wife and I splurged on a rooftop evening at a five-star place overlooking the lit vale of the Petra ruins in Jordan.  We enjoyed several fabulous traditional Moroccan meals at riads in Fes, Rabat, Marrakech and Cascades d’Ouzoud.  We dined on the waterfront in Ulu Deniz, Turkey, and in and around the Golden Horn in Istanbul.  We ate well in Oman too, with the highlight a traditional shuwwa barbeque served to us in the majlis hall of a friend’s family in Sur.

But, sad to say, every now and again eating good greasy American comfort food held a tremendous ‘traditional’ appeal for us.  We frequented a couple of good Mexican restaraunts in Muscat, along with a burger joint called the Roadside Diner which combined uncomfortably frigid air-conditioning with a new-fangled notion of 50’s decor and techno-thumping music.  The scarcity of good burgers made the Roadside’s other oddities tolerable.

But, of all these places, only one managed to combine a small amount of romance with American, ummm, cuisine.  So, here’s to the winner of my Not Quite Right award for favorite restaraunt in the Middle East:  T.G.I. Fridays in Dubai.

The secret, for this restaraunt, was its truly wonderful balcony seating . . .

My son, enthralled by the view.

. . . combined with the ‘larger-than-Las Vegas’ light, water and music show . . .

Syncronized fountains squirt water almost to the height of TGI Fridays' third storey balcony.

. . . and the phenomenal view of the Burj Khalifa (world’s tallest building) right above the balcony.  The lights on the Burj Khalifa were even timed so that they participated in and enhanced the riffing cascades of the fountain!

The tallest building in the world, as seen while waiting for my Loaded Potato Skins. The blurry snowflake-ish things are reflections from sand and grit in the air. Blech!

And, let us not forget, good soda, fries, non-alcoholic cocktails, and any of TGI Fridays’ many other schmutzy treats!

To get there, go to the Burj Khalifa Mall, near the indoor ice-skating rink.  Water/light shows begin every 20 minutes or so, insha’allah.


More Odd Business Names

To continue the theme, begun before Thanksgiving, of oddly named business establishments in the Middle East . . . here are three (somewhat scatalogical) additions.  The funniness, the quirkiness here, the NQR, must be mostly attributed to our Western perspective in reading and understanding.  Certainly these names haven’t been invented just to be funny.  They pass, unnoticed, through the daily lives of many thousands of people.  So we must conclude that it is us, not them, with a skewed perspective.

Eye-catching Acronym

The first, Mohammad Ibrahim Law Firm, bills itself (on its website) as a ‘highly adequate service.’  As if this weren’t oxymoronic enough, it also announces its presence to greater Muscat, Oman, via a largish billboard overlooking the main Ministry District overchange.  This billboard attracts a fair amount of attention, at least from Westerners, because it uses the firm’s initials as a handy moniker:  M.I.L.F.

Just in case you're wondering, 'Coq' means 'chicken' in French.

The second, on a street corner in Rabat, Morocco, is part of a successful chain, like KFC for Francophiles.  Our hosts in Rabat assured us that the chicken is very good.  The billboard certainly doesn’t appear to be ashamed of itself.  We never ate at any of these locations, unable to overcome our own, more Anglicized, interpretation of the name.

Candy, anyone?

And, finally, what must certainly be the most bizarre and unattractive of all the odd names we encountered throughout our travels . . . this sweet shop in Abu Dhabi.  We snapped the photo while driving along the street, having seen the sign, then grabbing frantically for the camera, before (just barely) managing to get the photo as traffic whisked us away.  What, on earth, were these folks thinking, the owners (or their English translators/consultants) when they put together their brand and their billboard?


Turkeys in Turkey

Do two rights make a Not Quite Right?  That’s the question today, as we head into this wonderful Thanksgiving holiday weekend of family togetherness and feasting.

You'll just have to take my word for it: this picture WAS taken in the country of Turkey!

Turkey and Turkeys.

We chanced on these two beautiful specimens in the city of Ulu Deniz, on the south Mediterranean coast of the country of Turkey, while parking our car just off the downtown beachside boardwalk.  This was the ONLY time we ever saw turkeys ANYWHERE in the Middle East or Africa.  It was almost meant to happen, meant to be, the two gobblers strolling into view when our camera was ready.

It answers that ages-old grade school question, or giggle-worthy joke, about whether Turkeys come from Turkey.

Right now, at this time of year, its certainly comforting to think about both items:  the warm beaches in the mouthwateringly-named country and the warm, tender roast of bird that will soon find its way onto my plate.


Fast Food, Souq Style

Escargot on the go in Fes, Morocco

Ahhh, nothing is more certain to turn someone’s stomach than another culture’s eating habits.  But that turn can be for the better or for the worse.

Take this nice fresh batch of snails, for instance . . . moving so fast they seem to blur! Vendors with pushcarts and boiling pots of escargot, no doubt greatly influenced by French culinary preferences, quite frequently pass through the 1700+ twisty lanes in the old walled city of Fes.  It is eye-popping to think of buying a bag of snails and snacking on them like candy.  We tried and tried to work up the courage to eat a few but there must be something deeply ingrained in the American psyche against the idea of the snail as fast food.  Neither I, my wife, or my two kids would take the leap.

On the other hand:  camel and, for that matter, goat.  We went to a somewhat famous restaurant in the same souq called Clock Cafe.  Their main attraction is the Clock Cafe Camel Burger.  Both of my sons were pro-burger, talking a big game about ordering one and eating it.  They were hungry.  They like burgers.  It was a no-brainer for them.  Yet, just below the cafe, in the street, we encountered butcher-shop row.  Here my sons (and wife) were confronted — in the sort of close proximity the souq forces on someone — with an actual camel head, freshly severed, its tongue and brains probably a delicacy.  Their stomachs rose up in rebellion and I, as dad, had to eat and describe the very good/lean/spicy taste of the camel’s processed flesh.

Vendor selling goat heads (and hearts), Fes souq.

Yet, who are we as Americans/westerners, to try to mandate an idea of ‘good food’ on the rest of the world?  How would we explain to a Moroccan, for instance, what we readily devour when we eat Chicken McNuggets or Potato Chips or Bratwurst?  How would we account for the minimum levels of acceptability for insect-particles and rat/mouse feces mandated by the FDA for many of our packaged cereals?  How about cotton-candy, fried bread, fried cheese sticks, fried ice-cream, skyrocketing levels of salt?

Mind you, traveling carts of escargot are certainly well within the limits of Not Quite Right.  But so too, when I return to America, I hope to think of dear old Coca-Cola (with acid levels high enough to dissolve gristle off a hambone) in the same category of disgusting gustation.