Yesterday I went out with a bunch of the guys to a local mall to exchange US dollars to local currency and buy some things we needed.
One of my favorite things about countries that are not America is the street vendors. I love street food! The other guys often shake their heads in disapproval at my eclectic eating habits, because I will try just about anything. I will eat rat, lizard or scorpion if you fry it and skewer it on a stick, I will eat the spiciest, the rawest, the wrigglingest food you can find. I only had food poisoning once, for about twelve hours in Nepal. Of course it happened to be the day we drove for twelve hours in a jeep over some of the worst roads I have ever seen in my life, but you know, some days are like that.
Generally speaking I enjoy most of the street food I eat. The one thing I am still unable to like is anything that contains bread in an even remotely soggy state. The texture literally makes me gag. That goes back to childhood and robs me of such crowd pleasers as sloppy-joes and thanksgiving bread stuffing. Odd how that is.
But I digress. So there I was, walking back through a narrow ally with barely room for one Philippino, let alone a burly American. I was laughing at my buddy getting aggressively and flamboyantly accosted by a skinny-jean wearing “lady boy,” when a delicious smell tickled my nostrils. There, off to the right was a Philippino teenager cooking “Cheesecakes.” He had a griddle shaped like a muffin pan, and he would pour each cup about half full of what looked like pancake batter, drop a small block of cheese in it, and then fill the rest of it up. The result was a yo-yo shaped cake, dripping with cooking oil, golden brown and sweet smelling with a block of gooey melted cheese in the middle.
I, of course, am a sucker for all things cheese, and the cakes were only 8 pesos a piece (approx $0.20 US) so I bought two. Oh. My. Goodness!!! They were so delicious. I was sorry I had only bought two, but also glad, because if I had bought six, I most certainly would have eaten all of them (I had not had lunch yet.) So golden brown and crispy on the outside, light and fluffy and just the right amount of gooey on the inside, and sweet and cheesy! Heaven in a greasy brown paper bag!
Our next stop was at a McDonald’s on the way back. The other guys wanted some food. I said, “Seriously, guys? Fly halfway around the world to Asia, just so you can eat… McDonald’s? How is that not lame? And besides, McDonald’s isn’t even really food. It is an entirely different category of matter altogether.
To which they all agreed, before traipsing into McDonald’s for Big Mac’s or Whoppers, or whatever it is they sell. (I’m a Jack-in-the-Box man myself.)
Well, right next door to McDonald’s there was a local Ma & Pop restaurant, with a deli counter full of hot plates of various stir fries and meat dishes, and half of a pig just roasting away in the sun. I went on over and had a plate of rice, a coca cola (in a dirty glass bottle, which is the only way to drink coke) and a serving of BBQ pork and another serving of bean sprout and mini-shrimp stir-fry. It was not the most delicious food I had ever tasted, but it was good, especially the bean sprout and shrimp stir-fry. In the middle of the meal a rat ran across the floor, bumped into a lady’s flip-flop shod foot in a bewildered fashion, and then dashed under the refrigerator on the other side of the room. He was not a huge rat, but you could tell he wasn’t missing many meals. The whole experience cost me 49 Pesos, (approx $1.20 US).
After I came out I went into McDonalds where the other guys were still waiting in line, then went to wait in the truck and read a book, while two young beggar ladies made faces at me through the tinted glass. After about fifteen minutes or so, the guys came back out carrying bags of McDonald’s matter, which they proceeded to bite into with great enjoyment. Until, that is, one guy bit around something hard and white and asked the rest of the vehicle, “What the heck is that?” (He did not actually use the word “heck”. That is a fictionalization on the part of the writer.)
Inside his burger I could see something white and thick and round, which at first I took to be a rather large slice of onion, but which, upon closer inspection, turned out to be a bottle cap. Yes, my friends, a plastic water bottle cap, carefully and lovingly ensconced in the middle of this burger. Now, I don’t care who y’are, that’s funny right thar.
Then another guy picked up his Big Mac, and found that instead of having two meat patties and two bread pieces, he had three bread pieces and only one meat patty (By using the phrase “meat patty” I by no means intend to imply that McDonald’s burgers are composed of anything resembling actual meat.) The irony was that this guy is a level 85 paleo/crossfit mage, and he hates carbs. All about the protein and fat, not so much about the carbs. They also paid about five times as much for their food as I did for mine.
But, there you are. Sometimes you go into McDonalds because it is familiar and seems “safe” and then you find the short order cook has a penchant for practical jokes. You see, in life, you just never know what you’re going to get. The trick is to approach life with a fundamental attitude of gratefulness, and just enjoy the little things. Blessings upon all of them, including the rat.