Dispatch: United S. of A. Week 2
I always think of Egypt as the land of meat and sauce. Turns out it is not the only one. Before leaving Cairo I pretended that getting away from my über-carnivorous significant other would give me the dining space to explore the exotic world of fish, fruit and vegetables, but I was fooling myself. Americans are the most obese global citizens because every meal must consist of meat—all the better if it is covered in cheese, and some version of potatoes—all the better if they are fried. Imagine what it would be like to eat in T.G.I. Friday’s every day. Supersize me, indeed.
I have been going to the gym here just to break even and it’s still not working. It is all out war between my lightly armed will power and the FPF (Forces of Protein and Fat). Like any militia, the FPF is entrenched in airports, urban centres, shopping centres, and strip malls; and having captured the radio and television stations long ago, it assaults those of us who are trying to remain thin and healthy with hourly propaganda bulletins claiming that a meatless, low fat lifestyle is a foreign conspiracy and that the population should refrain from speaking to such suspicious interlopers.
Two for the price of one; all you can eat; kids eat free; burritos as big as your head: we’re fighting a losing—I mean gaining—battle. The average American steak is large enough to feed an Egyptian family of four for a month. The FPF has even been known to booby trap pizzas with rings of dough balls inside of which are hidden little mozzarella cholesterol bombs. They will stop at nothing. Visitors beware; you cannot win.
Case in point. Yesterday, for example, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a friendly and otherwise unassuming town, quite safe by all appearances, I was ambushed in the CitySēn Lounge. I had let my guard down and entered with the innocent intention of ordering a mushroom soup and Caesar salad. But was caught in a crossfire of tempting promotional material that ended in fierce hand-to-hand combat with a Croque-Maître.
See? This is what I’m talking about. It sounds all dainty with its name disguised like that, but once it arrives in front of you there is no doubt that you are dealing with a well-trained and heavily armed burger. The creation of Chef Elijah Lopez, and in competition for best sandwich in the city, the Croque-Maître is a testament to the power of meat. Served on a warm asiago (cheese!) bagel, the burger is topped with béchamel sauce, Gruyère cheese (yes, more cheese), lamb bacon, and a poached egg which drips down over the low-cal construction. Amazing. Seriously, amazing. The crunchiness of the bacon cut through the creamy richness of the ground beef while the warm fattiness of the cheese and egg yolk pulled it all together. I hope Mr. Lopez wins this competition because if the FPF has other soldiers out there that are better than this one, we all might as well surrender right now.
The following day, determined to fight back, I walked around the city for two hours before meeting my father for a reunion. We had a nice talk and when we got hungry naturally the thought of finding a place for food worked its way into the conversation. Feeling magnanimous and slightly less guilty, I told Dad that I would take him out to lunch anywhere he wanted. “Great,” he said, “on the way up here I read an article in the newspaper about this guy named Elijah who makes some killer burgers.” What could I do?
They say that discretion is the better part of valour. Time for me to retreat to the far safer caloric climes of Cairo. So I can live to fight another day. I’m coming home baby, make me a salad.