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ralph robert moore


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ralph robert moore

Copyright © 2009 by Ralph Robert Moore.

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it safely stays a mystery
november 1, 2009

We all do the same thing.

We're searching for something on Google, and down in the search results there's a listing that isn't what we're looking for, but sounds intriguing enough that we give it a click.

I did that recently, and came across Chicken Licken Soul Food, a fast food place located in South Africa.

Did they have a menu? Indeed they did. It's right here.

One of the first things I noticed on the menu was the line, "ALL MENU iTEMS ARE HALAAL."

What does that mean?

I put the term into the search function on Wikipedia. I couldn't find HALAAL, but I did find Halal. By the context, it appeared to be the same term, just a spelling variant.

According to Wikipedia, Halal is an Arabic term meaning lawful or legal according to Islamic law. "It is the opposite of haraam." From Wikipedia:

Islam has laws regarding which foods can and cannot be eaten and also on the proper method of slaughtering an animal for consumption, known as dhabihah. However if there is no other food available then a Muslim is allowed to eat non-Halal food. Surah 2:173 states: If one is forced because there is no other choice, neither craving nor transgressing, there is no sin in him. Indeed, Allah is forgiving, merciful.

Haraam, foods that can only be eaten in life-threatening situations, include pork, birds of prey, and any animal that has been strangled or beaten to death (as opposed to bled out through incisions in the jugular veins and carotid arteries.) Fish is permissible if it dies while out of the water, for example on the shore or the bottom of a fishing boat. According to Wikipedia, the fish must die "because of natural suffocation in the free air." (a phrase which, because of its slight awkwardness, I find absolutely charming.)

So what's on the menu at Chicken Licken?

No pork, obviously. But no beef either. Or fish. Just chicken. For 4.75 (I assume the currency is Rands) you can get a Chilli Dilli Sylder, which is a "SQUARE CHiCK'N BURGER ON A TOASTED SQUARE BUN WiTH DREAMY CREAMY® SAUCE AND CHiLLi DiLLi." (I've left the description in its original caps, so you can get the oddness of the few lower-case letters.)

Want some ACHAAR with that order, mister? It's only 4.95 for a regular portion. According to Indian Food, Achaar is

The Hindi term for pickle. Indian pickles are made from all sorts of fresh fruits and vegetables but mango, lime and chilly are especially popular. Summer is pickle making season since the sun is hot and bright. In one of the many methods of making pickles, vegetables are soaked in lime juice, salt and spices in covered stoneware jars which are left out in the sun for several weeks. Later, cooking oil (which one depends on the vegetable or fruit being used) is poured over the pickled vegetables to preserve them.

Another sentence I can't help falling in love with: "Summer is pickle making season since the sun is hot and bright." There are all these great sentences out on the Internet!

And finally, from the Chicken Licken menu, we learn that the Lil Licken Munch comes with "2 CHiCK'N SLYDERS™ + A PORTiON OF LEKKERBiG® CHiPS + A LUCKY TOY PACKET." How absolutely charming. It really is. Not just a toy, but a lucky toy. How many children could use a lucky toy these days?

I find menus from faraway places absolutely romantic. Reading one, I can picture Mary and me sitting in that dining room, holding in our hands the same menu displayed online, trying to decide what to get, while people seated all around us speak in other languages.

Here are some items from Africa Café, located in Cape Town:

Crispy rice patty stuffed with shrimp and garlic

Deep-fried puffs of dough

Spinach and mealie meal patties

Sweet potato and cheese balls rolled in sesame seeds

White bean patties with coriander and parsley

So many restaurants here in America are still serving shrimp wrapped in bacon (and none of the dishes are that good.) Imagine if you could get placed in front of you crispy rice patties, the sides of your fork's tines breaking through that beige crispiness to birth, from inside, shrimp and garlic? And white bean patties? With coriander and parsley? I would remember that meal. Seriously. (The online menu, in addition to a link to South Africa Golf Clubs Contact Info, which makes sense, also, bizarrely, includes a link to Warren Buffett Facts.)

Another South African restaurant, Spur Steak Ranches, is a Native American themed establishment. Their front page, with Asians and Whites in feathered Indian headdresses, announces Compliments to the Chief next to a classic portrayal of a Native American chief. (Gotta love that corny humor. One time while Mary and I were driving cross country, looking for a new home, we were on a blue highway somewhere in Iowa I think it was, and after miles of driving with wheat fields on either side of us, we rounded a corner and came out on a residential street, old wooden houses set far back from the road. The first house we passed, at the mouth of its driveway, had a mailbox marked Mail, and three feet above it, a second mail box marked Air Mail.)

They're really proud of their burgers at Spur Steak Ranches. "How many ways are there to make 160g of AAA-grade beef burger even more enticing? Lots, as we've found out over the years. After all, who do you think invented the original Cheddamelt, Goodie and Manhattan Mushroom Burgers? Served with crispy chips and our famous Spur-style onion rings, the Spur Burger is as much a part of South African life as Karoo koppies, endless beaches and thorn trees - just a lot tastier." (And how reassuring is it to know the Spur Burger is a lot tastier than a thorn tree?)

One of the clickable categories on their menu is "Chicken, Schnitzel and Seafood", probably the only time we'll ever see those three items listed in the same food category.

Curiously, I see they also offer a Halaal menu, although theirs seems a bit more varied, including a lot of Mexican dishes, and squid.

Touring some South African restaurants got me interested. How about restaurants in other far reaches of the world?

How about Japanese restaurants?

Of course, the problem there is most of the restaurant sites are written in Japanese characters. Take a look at Fuchabon. (I guess the restaurant is called Fuchabon, although that may only be a phonetic rendering of its actual name.)

I swirled my cursor over the page, but there seemed to be very little that turned the arrow into a Mickey Mouse hand, meaning a link.

But then, at the lower left, I did notice a link for English.

I gave it a click.

To be honest, the English-language page didn't help a lot.

I learned that for 10,000 yen, I could get "2 soups, 8 vegi dishes."

There were two photographs on the page, each featuring an array of dishes, but neither was clickable.


Then I noticed a blue link halfway down the middle of the page: Dish Description.

I clicked it.

A large window opened, with a photograph of eight dishes. Instructions below the photograph explained, "Put the mouse on the dish for description." (Imagine how bizarre that suggestion would have sounded before the Internet age?)

To be honest, I think the descriptions probably did not do the dishes justice. (One read, "Water cooked vegetables of the season.")

I gave up on Japan, and decided to try mainland China. In doing so, I came across a website for a McDonald's located in Beijing. I absolutely love it. It's entirely in Chinese characters, with no English version, and the foods for the most part look unrecognizable, but it is wonderfully exotic. The link is here.

I traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina next, to Jangada Restaurant.

The front page of the English language version of the site announced: "JANGADA WINTER PHILOSOPHY: 20% Off from 20.30 to 21.30." Not much of a philosophy, really. I wondered if this was just a poor translation, so checked the Spanish-language version, but it says the same thing.

Jangada's site includes a link to its Concept:

Jangada's concept has its origins in the Parana river, where fishermen have transmited to us the knowledge on how to treat and cook fish. This includes techniques for making almost quirurgical cuts to remove their spines while leaving their bellies intact.

From their recipes we nourish, respecting ingredients and timing, but foremost, the caring at the time to prepare them. Empanadas with the recipe of Grandma Luisa; Chupin Viejo Pipincho style "... along with good wine to make the fish happy"; Grilled Dorados, Surubis, Bogas and Pacus, cooked on the side of the meat, as it is traditional. The Bastoncitos of Surubí symbolizing the "fritanga" typical of coastal homes. The port of Buenos Aires has brought us close to the sea, so we have also mastered the fried calamari, the pink and white salmons, and white croaker. The halves of the river fish are served in wooden trays, in their Traditional or Jangada versions, for one, two or more people who share the fish from the same tray or "Caranchea".

I love the mysteries of these two paragraphs. What does the Parana river look like? Who the heck is Grandma Luisa? The modest pride of, "We have also mastered…the pink and white salmons." What in God's name is a quirurgical cut?

(Google has a dictionary service (Google Dictionary) where you enter the word "define" followed by the term you want defined. I entered "define quirurgical", and the search brought back results defining the word "define." So I guess as great a service as Google is, and it certainly is, they need to work a little more on their dictionary. I trimmed my search term down to just "quirurgical", and got an odd list of search results, which included quirurgical shoes, quirurgical beds, and quirurgical dental services. From looking at the listings, quirurgical appears to be a term used mostly in South America (although I did come across a mini resume from someone seeking employment in Canada who wrote, "Dear Madame or Sir: I am [name] Professional On Quirurgical Instrumentation.(Registered scrub Nurse) Also I am international Instructor on PHTLS, certificated by NAEMT. and ACLS EP by AHA. I am strongly interested in to practice in Canada. At present I am running my inmigration as Skilled Worker. If you want to hire someone like me, please contact me. Thank you very much.") So whatever quirurgical means, it safely stays a mystery.)

Like Chicken Licken, Jangada also has a children's menu. The one item listed is: "Little veil milanesas with chips and fried eggs." I guess that's a Happy Meal in Buenos Aires. Somehow though I can't picture little Argentinean kids hanging their heads out the car window as the restaurant is spotted, shouting, "Jangada! Jangada!"

I had hoped to finish my worldwide tour of restaurants Mary and I will never eat in with a restaurant in Iran, because I think that is a country where despite the political issues involved the citizenry of both nations respect and truly like each other, but unfortunately, although there are of course a large number of restaurants in Iran, many of them don't appear to have websites. (Although I did learn that Iran has a couple of MaDonal fast food restaurants, which feature a Big Mack and have golden arches outside their building. Apparently, McDonald's is deciding whether or not to sue for infringement.)

After Mary's stroke in 2002, one of the people who was most supportive of us was Mary's Aunt Carolyn, who is a younger sister of Mary's dad, Joe.

Her kindness and emotional support during that period has always been appreciated by us.

A few weeks ago, I received a call from Carolyn saying she and her husband, Merle, would be down in Texas for a few days in October (they live in Washington state.) Could we get together?

We were both thrilled. I had never met Carolyn, and Mary hadn't seen her in thirty years.

They arrived Sunday morning, October 18.

The four of us hit it off immediately. Carolyn and Merle are both smart, witty people who have lived fascinating lives. It was a real pleasure to get to know them both.

We spent a couple of hours seated around our breakfast nook table, talking and joking, then we took them on a tour of our home.

By that time we were all getting hungry, so we went to the local Romano's Macaroni Grill for lunch.

Merle mentioned the restaurants down here in Texas appear to be far more crowded than the half-empty restaurants in Washington state, a sign that Texas hasn't been hit as hard by the recent economic downturn.

Romano's wasn't as exotic as the restaurants I surveyed through Google (none of the dishes required quirurgical cuts, as far as I know), but it was the perfect restaurant for us.

We had a great time.