A Week of Indian Food: Day 7 – McDonald’s

And on the seventh day, we took a break from Indian food. On our last night in Delhi, T-bone was craving a Big Mac, and no amount of naan would pacify him. We headed over to the McDonald’s in Connaught Place (Delhi’s central shopping area), where we discovered that half of Delhi had the same idea. This meant that we’d be waiting forever, because Indians simply do not line up – they shove their way to the front at all times and in all places. Depending on your perspective, this can be really fun or really irritating. The best thing to do is to shove back, or follow the advice of my friend Jenny and bark “Mind the queue!” I sometimes got into a good shoving spirit, but Todd found it frustrating at all times.

The McDonald’s line had its usually cheery effect on Todd, but when he finally made his way to the cashier, he had an even worse shock: McDonald’s in India serves neither beef NOR pork. No Big Mac, and no bacon to make the chicken burgers palatable.

Instead, you can enjoy a large crowd with a side of anger!

This way, they avoid offending Hindus (holy cows) AND Muslims (unholy ham). Not sure where this leaves Brahmins (no meat and no garlic) or Jains (no meat, no garlic, no onion, and no root vegetables), but I guess you have to draw the line somewhere. Instead, McDonald’s offers chicken, paneer (soft cheese) and egg options. We both went with the chicken.

They do not lie – the McSpicy chicken was plenty spicy

Todd’s “burger” was the usual mound of compressed chicken bits. Mine actually contained real meat, but instead of the widely advertised breast meat that North American McDonald’s uses, this one trumpeted its THIGH meat. So this is where all the non-busty bits go to die!

It’s enough to make a grown man cry

It was a pretty sad experience overall. We clearly didn’t learn our lesson, though, because the next day, I tried to purchase a coke at the airport McDonald’s. After shoving my way to the cashier, I asked for a coke. He informed me (and I am not joking), that McDonald’s does not sell fountain drinks that are not part of their combos. I asked if I could buy a canned drink instead, and sadly, those too were off limits. So strange…

Lesson learned: always eat curry instead of McDonald’s. Curry will never let you down.

It may, in fact, make you feel very “up”

Cooking for 20

The older I get, the more I realize that I am deeply impulsive. This affects many areas of my life, with mixed results: “Yes, I will eat that doughnut. Yes, I will learn to motorbike on an Indian highway. Yes, I will give a ride to the little old man that I found in the University parking lot. Yes, I will (attempt to) eat nothing but rice and daal for the entirety of Lent.” My most recent impulsive decision was to invite our entire apartment building over for supper on Monday night.* Todd gave me his best wizened math teacher look – “are you sure you understand what you’re doing?”, but he knows better than to get between me and my impulses.

These eyes have seen things

I have hosted large-ish groups of people before, but 20 was a little more ambitious than usual. No problem, I thought. We’ll just do bread/chicken/salad. Nothing could be simpler. I started off with the shopping. First stop, the deli, where I found already cooked, whole chickens. “You want it cut?” asked the lady behind the counter. Except she didn’t speak English, so our conversation went something like this:

“Khaaaa khaaa na-kaa sawadeee-kaaaahhhh??”

“Give ‘er.”

“Khaa. Na-kha. Ok-kha. Khaaaaaaaaa.”

She proceeded to cut the chicken in a way that is unique and special to Thailand. Take a cleaver and just start whacking that chicken. Don’t worry about things like “carving” or “slicing.” Just hack it until your arm gets tired, then huck the pieces onto a Styrofoam tray.

Sorta like swinging a golf club

I dumped the chicken into a cart, and headed for the bread and veggies. Hmmm. 8 heads of lettuce should be enough…

I finally finished shopping,  heaved everything into a taxi, prayed that the driver didn’t take off with my groceries, and hopped in. Hard part is done, I thought.

Until I remembered that I had to wash and prepare veggies in a kitchen built for an elf. The counter space is smaller than that of a child’s Fisher Price play house, and it was completely taken up with the dish rack. So I improvised.

This is the entire counter

Yes, I did sterilize the sink before I filled it with food

After all the vegetables were clean, I realized that I had a second problem – my elfin refrigerator. It is just about big enough to hold a carton of milk and a few ice cubes. There was no way that it was going to hold multiple salad bowls.

Bursting with plastic-wrapped goodness

So I improvised again:

HomePro offers the best all-purpose bags

And then I headed off to Thai class. Todd and I assembled the salads and other food when we got home. I was getting nervous that there wouldn’t be enough food, that people wouldn’t fit into our apartment, that… But everyone squished in, and there were even enough random chicken parts left over for supper the next day.

A blurry shot of the bread. Served on our desk

An even blurrier shot of the salad table. My arm needs a tripod

The lovely Americans (with a smattering of Taiwanese) that share our apartment building

The night ended with birthday cake. With 20+ people in the building, the birthday celebrations are never-ending.

Sometimes, adjusting to life here is challenging, and I miss people at home. At dinner, though, I was reminded that we live in an apartment building full of truly nice people – I am grateful to be experiencing life in Thailand with them. Inviting everyone over for dinner was one of my better impulsive decisions.

* Dear Teacher Friends – I promise that I did not invite you over for dinner just so that I could blog about it!

Foodie Friday: Super local! Super organic!

Eating locally/organically is a huge trend in North America right now. It has even hit my home city of Calgary, which is saying something, because A) Our growing season lasts for about 2 weeks and B) many Calgarians consider “redneck” to be the ultimate compliment. However, grow it has, and my mother, the original hippy/granola-girl is no longer alone in her obsession with all things home grown. I think this trend is generally a good thing – nothing wrong with using fewer chemicals and resources. The downside to the “locavore”/organic movement is how darned sanctimonious it often is.* Like, “lips that touch pesticides will never touch mine.” I  personally alternate between being a self-righteous organic foodie and wanting to puke a little.

These lips are touching doughnuts.

With this in the back of my mind, I was intrigued by my new neighbourhood’s food scene. It is as local as any West Coast tree-hugger’s kelp bed, without the moralizing. “Local and organic,” however, means something a little different here than it does in North America…

Starting my own kelp bed in my apartment’s pool

Exhibit A: The local fish and meat scene

It begins just outside our apartment courtyard, where the local welding shop produces tasty rabbit meat (ok, I have no idea if this bunny was destined for a bowl or pet-dom, but I’m guessing the former).

So soft. So tender.

One of the ladies at the shop was so excited by my amateur photography that she wanted me to take a photo of her cat. Pretty sure she didn’t realize the real purpose of the photo shoot…

Nothing like a big bowl of Pad Cat

Stroll a little farther down the road, and you hit the local khlong (canal), which is essentially the lifeblood chugging through the clogged artery of this neighbourhood. This is where most of the “sea”food in the neighbourhood is caught.

DSC01079

Continue walking along the khlong pathway, and you’ll come to an organic pork farm. I couldn’t get a good picture of the squealing piglets without blatantly trespassing, but they looked like they were having a grand time rummaging through piles of scraps and garbage.

All that fresh air and garbage makes for great pork

There are also a variety of good-natured ganders pit-pat-waddle-patting around in the muck.

Is it just me, or are ducks just so good natured?

Walk through the market and turn the corner, and you’ll come to the organic chicken farm. This is a critical operation, because deep-fried clucker is the cornerstone of Todd’s teacher-buddies’ diet.

If you squint really hard, the photo almost looks like it’s in focus

Should you wish to sample any of these meat products, visit the Samut Prakan night market:

Once again, the duck necks’n’bits

Or hunker down at a local restaurant:

Our favourite pork noodle joint

And there you have the Thai version of local’n’organic meat. Knowing where my food comes from fills me with a complex mixture of emotions, but “sanctimonious” and “hungry” are not among them.

* No, ma. Not you.