Tuesday, March 28, 2006

It’s all Greek to me

On our travels over the weekend, we find ourselves hungry and far from home, so we stop in at a restaurant called Baba Ganoush. The menu is an almost exact duplicate of that of our favourite restaurant in Budapest, Semiramis, which was of course Syrian right down to the framed portrait of Assad the Elder. This place, on the other hand, is in North Carolina, and nervously insists that it is Greek.

I point out the picture of Beirut on the wall above the till, but the server says that it is Athens. ‘This is a Greek restaurant” he repeats, eyeing the exits. “Hi! I’m Bashir” confides his treacherous name-tag.

There is some intermittent raffia-work and a poster of the Acropolis, but one can tell that their hearts weren’t really in it.

The food is outstanding, but the drinks are mostly the standard God-awful American sodas. We spring on three Fruit Punch Snapples for the kids, in view of their lower than average E-number count. As an added bonus, printed inside each bottle cap is a “Real Fact”, intended to mug the children with education when their guards are down.

This bounces harmlessly off of my brood’s heavily-armoured carapaces, they being mostly illiterate except for brand names, but I find myself informed willy-nilly, in quick succession, that:
- bamboo makes up 99% of the diet of the average panda
- penguins have an organ above their eyes that converts seawater to fresh water, and
- the square dance is the official dance of the state of Washington

I once thought that the true killer fact was the work of months of dedicated research, a la Hutton. I’m therefore vaguely disappointed to discover that he’s probably just addicted to these tooth-rotting sugar-fests. No wonder he gets all hyper and abusive.

These uninvited nuggets of information are strangely unsatisfying. They raise more questions than they answer, especially considering that no-one asked the original question in the first place.

For example:
- what makes up the other 1% of a panda’s diet? Is it just stuff resembling bamboo, like supermodels, or stuff that just happened to be near the bamboo at the time, like abandoned baby girls? If the latter, does that explain why they’re all so fat?
- why can’t we just ring the south coast of England with factory-farmed genetically engineered borg-penguins, all chained up in the shallows and merrily pushing out fresh water like billy-o for our gardens and water features? I can’t think of any downside.
And of course
- what the Hell is up with those plaid-clad freaks in Washington State? No wonder Kurt Cobain shot himself.

Fretting over these weighty matters quite ruins my appetite, so I leave an insultingly low tip as we leave. Whatever Bashir mutters at me as we pass, it isn’t in Greek…


Some Snapple, yesterday. A regular liquid academy.

24 comments:

Aunty Marianne said...

I don't believe the thing about the penguins. If they have it all marine birds and probably the marine mammals would have it too and we would be taught about it at school.

Right?

Ivan the Terrible said...

I dunno about that, Aunty - I never trusted those snooty little antarctic freaks. I reckon they're up to something. Who knows why they hide their strange powers of desalinisation? I reckon they plan to hold our water supply hostage and force us to build them big refrigerated habitats after their own thaws out and sinks...

R. Sherman said...

In college we ate at a place called "Rome Pizzeria." The owner was Greek and there were pictures of Thessaloniki all over the walls. Gyros were on the menu.

We figured "What the heck" and started calling it the "Prague Pizzeria."

The geographically challenged are everywhere

Desargues said...

The remaining 1% in a panda's diet--must be tin cans, I s'pose. That's where I get MY bamboo shoots.

A picture of Hafez al-Assad, eh? I'll bet the proud owners of that Syrian restaurant don't hail from Hama. But don't go too hard on poor Bashir, Ivan. That cuisine's not really Greek--but it ain't Lebanese either. Could be from all over the place in the south-eastern Mediterranean.

Stew said...

In France we have sweets call Carambars, and printed on the inside of the wrapper are jokes of the christmas cracker variety.

Due to my cursed bad luck, when ever I open one the die-cut has left me with the punchline to a previous joke and the set-up to the next.

(Mind you I'm sure that sometimes this random Bob-Dylan lyric method produces jokes that are funnier than the original)

Stew said...

And Aussies will get misty-eyed about Fantales. They are sweets shaped like a fan, and the wrappers have anecdotes about film stars, popstars etc.

Fan Tales geddit?

Gorilla Bananas said...

what makes up the other 1% of a panda’s diet?

Got to be insects. You can eat them without even knowing it.

PI said...

If the food was outstanding it surely wasn't Greek. Not that I don't appreciate their fresh fish and honey soaked cakes and their heavenly yoghourt.
Wasn't there a Semiramis Hotel in Adis Ababa. (spelling by guesswork)

Ivan the Terrible said...

Des - a word to the wise: remove the contents from the can and discard the can before eating. Much easier on the teeth that way.

Stew - speaking of sweet nostalgia, the Hungarians had a brand of cough drops called Negro (with a picture of a smiling chimney sweep on the wrapper). That was good for a cheap laugh all by itself.

GB - speak for yourself. Personally, I'm pretty good at not unwittingly eating insects. Mostly thanks to the giveaway crunchiness they exhibit when chewed.

Pi - maybe. It's certainly more likely that they had a hotel of that name than a restaurant of any name, given their recent history...

Cantemir said...

r. sherman,

Doubtless the owners of Rome Pizzaria were Byzantine irredentists committed to the idea that Greeks are the true Romans.

pi,

In Greece, Greek food is astonishingly good, really ravishingly good. The Greek immigrants to Anglosphere nations, however, shrewdly cater to their hosts' tastes, and prepare them stringy overcooked meats, sickeningly sweet desserts, and assorted boiled and fried things.

Desargues said...

The didgeridoo strikes back, Ivan--now with 112% more spunk! Help a family member in need! Let Aborigine wisdom cure them of the embarrassing curse of snoring, apnea, Bordetella pertussis, spleen, a chronic lack of social life, and many other ills.

Ivan the Terrible said...

How on Earth did you come across that link, Des? Don't tell me you have issues sleeping? Well, at least that gives you more time for reading top quality blogs...

PI said...

cantemir - should tell you I have been an helenophile since 1970 but latterly have been unfaithful (to Greece) feeling we had had the best. Maybe - cuisine wise -things have changed?

Stew said...

pi - I have atheory on culture/cuisine/music. viz:
Cultures that have great food have shite music and vice versa.

examples - India, great food, shite music.
France, likewise.
China, same.
Britain, great music, shite food
USA, great music, shite food.

Find me a culture that has great music and great food, and I go.

Ivan the Terrible said...

Lucky Helen :)

Desargues said...

How about Italy, Stew? Surely Verdi and Puccini made decent music, didn't they?

Cantemir said...

pi,

I can honestly say that the only bad Greek food I have ever eaten I ate in USia.

Stew,

Do you consider Hungary a good music/bad food country or a bad music/good food country?

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