Tuesday, October 04, 2005

What's in a name?

It's a thirty minute drive. Try to ignore the trash and debris hanging onto the long chain-link fence running alongside the highway. It's in the desert, and leaving the city any time between noon and four will guarantee a hot sun glaring off your windshield and sunburns on your arms if you're not careful. Along the way, you'll pass two kinds of vehicles: those with the windows rolled up tight against the rubber guards, sealing in the cool environment with air-conditioners running on high (never a good idea in the desert, but given a choice between heat and rationality the heat always wins), and those with the windows rolled down, trucks so old that the word Toyota painted in red across the back has been worn away to just two or three letters; oya.

So far it's only been ten minutes, but you can already see it glinting in the distance. At first you dismiss it as part of the mirage (after all, mirages are so familiar around here that you can sometimes experience them in the middle of the city). But no, not this time. There it is, emerging out of the reflection, then pulling away, rising above it, and now hovering over it, an image to be reflected in its own right: two Arabic eights entwined together in unholy matrimony. "Thamanya-thamaneen," we call it - the Eighty eight, the all too familiar ubiquitous M, a glaring cheap sticker in an otherwise clean sky (I'm lovin' it!).

Twenty minutes go by and you're pulling up at the drive-through window to get your order. A young Filipino man sticks his head out. He speaks three languages, probably has a BA in Engineering, and is here to serve you with a smile. You know his kind very well by now, this country is ripe with them, the Middle East's own caste of Untouchables but with a much nicer label slapped unto them: "guest workers." He's looking a bit haggard (dealing with stoned Arab boys all day has taken its toll on him) but seems glad to see you. He processes your order graciously (pay him with Dinars, hon, your Dollars are no good here).

So now you're in the car, sitting in the middle of the desert with nothing around you but a huge expanse of sand and sky. It's time to experience the McArabia in all of its glory. You unwrap it and take a look. Yes, it matches the descriptions perfectly: "Arab bread, grilled chicken, lettuce, tomatoes and Arab sauce". All is in order. You take a bite.

How does it taste? This symbol of Arab cuisine sucked in through the imperialist machine and spat out to be consumed by other Arabs like me. How does it taste for you? I ask this out loud but you only frown at me and say:

"It's just a fucking sandwich."
"That's not the point."
"What's the point, then?"
"It's fucking crap, isn't it?"

7 Comments:

Blogger William said...

I like the McArabia though. Kinda tasty. Equivalent to taco bell I guess. It's not real mexican food, but people eat the hell out of it because of the name.

3:17 PM  
Blogger McArabian said...

I'll take a chicken taco over the McArabia any day of the week. Nothing beats an In-N-Out burger though. Damn, now I want one.

3:34 PM  
Blogger William said...

PD Quix or Jack In The Box... man, now I miss home.

3:46 PM  
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