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...a sweatshop of moxie

Saturday, March 05, 2005

How do you say "Hold the Pickle" In Japanese?

(Welcome Instalanche Hordes. Make yourselves at home e mangia bene!)

I eat red meat rarely, maybe once a week or even fortnight, but when I do, it's invariably one of two dishes: a good old-fashioned roast beef with mustard and yorkshires, or a hamburger.

Mmmm. I love me some burgers, with extra cheese yet!

So it's been my great treat to experience the delights of fast-food around the world, since as you know by now, I've travelled to the four corners of the world and back.

Most people don't equate fast-food grub as treats, but to me they are. Yes, you may think that being British and living in America, I am a bit "food-challenged" -- my palate was raised on the simple, uncondimented dishes of boarding school lunches: where tapioca puddings were dear friends and pizza was too deliciously foreign for words.

And though nothing but bankruptcy -- not my own, but theirs -- has stopped me from going to Maxim's every time I was in Paris, and patronising Le Tour Argent for their famous canard a l'orange (where they allow you to request your own silver duck "press" if you remember its number), I am no food snob, and will gladly eat a Wendy's chili with the same gusto as asperges aux vinaigrette.

Unlike the French, food appreciation to me is not a religion, but that doesn't mean I can't throw up a few Hosannas to the lowly burger. And by gum, I will below!

Firstly, we need to get our bearings.

Say you're in Rio de Janeiro, and are clamouring for some beef patties, but will feel insipidly touristy if you fall for the lure of Mickey D's. Well then, look no further than Bob's, a Brazilian institution. Legend has it that Bob was an Englishman, of all things, who founded Bob's in the 50's, but I'm not so sure. If he were really an Englishman in Rio he would've gone for the far more expressive name of "Spotted Dick".

UPDATE: Hey whaddayaknow. It was founded by tennis great Robert Falkenburg, an American who won Wimbledon twice. You begin to see how urban legends get started, don't you?

The one thing you have to remember when in Bob's though, is to look upon the menu names, and forget your English-language pronunciation.

Thus when you get to the cashier, don't make a fool of yourself and pronounce "Big Bob's" as you would in English. No, sir. Or indeed, madam.

Go up, puffing your gringo, lobster-red chest out, and say you want a "Biggie Bobbies", because for linguistic reasons too complicated to explain here, that's how THEY say it. Got that? Biggie Bobbies. I will only mention this secret to you once. You're on your own in the BK lounge.

Another thing: say you're looking up at the menu, and you notice "Bob's Grill Peru". You wonder if this is some hommage to that lovely Inca country, and say, "ooh that sounds interesting. I'll have some of that". Well, have I got news for you. You just bought yourself a grilled Turkey Burger.

Bobbies Grillie Pee-roo

See, Peru is Turkey in Brazil. Got that? Good. I'm not finished.

"Maionese" is not just mayo. Oh no. It's also potato salad. Brazil is a huge fast food land mine, so order very carefully.

Bob's also dabble with hot dogs and croque monsieurs on the side. These are known respectively as "Cachorro Quente" and "Misto Quente". Now for you Hispanophones out there, Cachorro sounds absolutely grisly, since that's the Spanish for puppy. "Hot Puppies". Blech. But trust me, in Portuguese it's just dog.

Oh and another thing. They charge you for the ketchup and mustard packets individually. And the serviettes. And the bag, unless you bring your own. This is also true of any supermarket you should go to in Brazil, so for God's sake, be prepared.

Fortunately, Brazilians don't make you pay extra if you want to eat at their greasy spoons (called "pé sujo" in Portuguese -- dirty feet. Double blech!), unlike the French.

Belgo-French, Quick, is the locale where you want to go in those two countries should you be so unsophisticated as to crave a burger. Shame on you. When there are snails to be had for the asking.

To those of you Pulp Fiction fans, you know by heart that a Royale with cheese is the way to go in "McDo", but Quick apparently have more leftist leanings, since there is no hint of pandering to the upper-classes in their equivalent of "Suprême Cheese". It tastes GHASTLY. Hints of cinammon. Just ghastly.

Since I can't say much about Quick's menu, I'll just make fun of their employees' uniforms. It's almost as if the French hated fast-food so much, that they decided to make working there a double torture for cash-strapped teens.

I can't work in these conditions

"Ho, ho. No Yves Saint-Laurent uniforms for you unlike the Police, non! You will wear blue hoops on your sleeves, red wifebeaters on top, electric blue bermudas and a hideous tennis visor to complement this ensemble. You will look like fat American pig-tourists and you will like it."

Our world-wide burger hopping ends in South Africa, which apparently is the last call of the late, lamented Wimpy's.

How I loved Wimpy burgers growing up in England.

Their quorn burgers and chip butties hit the spot, I can tell you. Alas, according to my friend Jim, they seemed to have been bought out by Burger King, but they survive still in South Africa. They even have them in Botswana, Namibia and Zambia! Oh well done.

Finally, just the briefest of words on MOS in Japan. Where else on God's green earth could you order Onion Rings and a Seaweed Salad? Or would want to?

And check out this Godzilla chiliburger. Any moment that Monsanto-hormoned tomato is going to eat you. Super Size Me!

Domo arigato, no thank you

Hold the pickle indeed.


ADDENDUM: When I checked the blog counter earlier today, it was at 39. Ho-hum, I thought -- not my usual 100 by that time of the day. After Instapundit linked to my blog, I got 1,000 hits in 2 hours. Sadly, my freebie hit-counter from Italy stops at 1,000 per day. I will never know just how many of you visited my site today, but thanks for dropping by.


  • You gotta add a picture of the "wheat flake bun"

    By Blogger Jim, at Sun Mar 06, 12:21:00 am GMT-5  

  • The biggest Canadian Hamburgers chain is Harvey's. They make your burger right in front of you with all the toppings (minus feta) you want.

    Other local Toronto chains are Lick's and the new Hero Certified Burgers.

    By Blogger Renato, at Sun Mar 06, 12:34:00 am GMT-5  

  • Cachorro Quente? So that's where a certain Pundit learned his Puppy-blending habits. . .

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Mar 06, 04:15:00 pm GMT-5  

  • David, David, David. You know that's just a vast Daily Kos conspiracy. Honest.

    *shepherds her chihuahua puppy away from the blog*


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sun Mar 06, 05:03:00 pm GMT-5  

  • The best hamburger in Armenia is at Mr. Pigs in Yerevan.

    By Blogger J, at Sun Mar 06, 05:18:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Holy cow, Instalinked. You're big-time, Vic.

    (But you got the Instalink link wrong...)

    By Blogger JSU, at Sun Mar 06, 05:50:00 pm GMT-5  

  • By the way, what's with the misframing (squashing, that is) of images?

    By Blogger JSU, at Sun Mar 06, 05:51:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Mmmmmm, MOS-burger. I used to like the pressed rice thing they served all steeped in some kind of soy sauce, served hot at Ngee Ann City on Orchard Road near Takashimaya in Singapore. Damn that was good! And the fries! The fries there to die. I won't eat french fries any more unless they are MOS fries or else something I bought off the street in Amsterdam. Once tried, nothing else will satisfy.

    By Blogger A.M. Mora y Leon, at Sun Mar 06, 06:11:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Mr. Pigs in Yerevan! This is music to my ears, Jill. Thanks for the tip.

    And I hope Jim is paying attention, since the next sound you will hear is him making a dash to Google.


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sun Mar 06, 06:15:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Well, now you see why the big guns use Site Meter...

    By Blogger JSU, at Sun Mar 06, 06:18:00 pm GMT-5  

  • JSU, I tell you, it's like hitting the Blogosphere Lottery.

    As for the squashed pics, hey! I like it like that. I like manoeuvering the photos to my Aristotelian needs for symmetry and balance, regardless of their original sizes.

    And thanks so much for correcting the link, which I did so in the frontispiece.

    Your reward will be an Instalanche-inspired spillover to your magnificent opera blog.


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sun Mar 06, 06:18:00 pm GMT-5  

  • It's Mr. Pig!

    Thanks for the plug.

    By Blogger JSU, at Sun Mar 06, 06:21:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Mora y Leon, wow. Are you related to Queen Fabiola of Belgium? ;)

    MOS is an acquired taste, I'm afraid. Their rice-buns somehow never made my mouth water, but I do have to give them 2 ketchup-stained thumbs up for the chips/fries. They are quite yummy, and the portions very American.

    And your mention of Amsterdam reminds me of that über-fast-food chain, FEBO.

    What are those things called? Where you have revolving doors, you put your money in, and your dish comes out?

    No, not vending machines. At least, not when it's a whole meal.

    Well that's FEBO. The backpacker's delight.


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sun Mar 06, 06:22:00 pm GMT-5  

  • I like the quirky Shiny Stat, JSU. It's style over substance in my case, I frankly admit.

    Mind you, you're quite right -- everyone I know who blogs has Site Metre, but for some reason, it's look is too monolithic. That cube...very Orwellian.


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sun Mar 06, 06:33:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Mmmmm MOS Burger indeed.

    Of course now there are MOS Burger outlets in a lot of other places in Singapore.

    Vicky (Hey!), an add on. If you are ever in Malaysia, try the highway bus-stop burgers (usually from a chain called Ramli). Once you get past the not completely unwarranted fears of dysentery, these burgers are fantastic.


    By Blogger Sid, at Sun Mar 06, 07:21:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Oooh! MOS burger!

    There was a MOSburger around the corner from my flat in Kobe, just across from the Kobe Zoo. Fantastic! Doesn't comPARE to the American chains. I wish there were one in Sacramento. (Hmmm ... franchize rights?)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Mar 06, 08:54:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Swedish readers--which is better, Frasses or Sibylla?

    By Blogger Jim, at Sun Mar 06, 10:49:00 pm GMT-5  

  • > "How do you say "Hold the Pickle" In Japanese?"

    "Pickle wa Irenaide (Kudasai)."

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Mar 06, 11:01:00 pm GMT-5  

  • I thought 'dog' in Spanish was 'perro'.

    Also, I've never been charged extra for ketchup/mustard/bags. Maybe you said the wrong thing and they hoodwinked you.

    By Blogger Zaratustra, at Mon Mar 07, 12:06:00 am GMT-5  

  • Go for the franchise rights, Kobekko! What's one more burger joint in the US, for goodness sakes! And MOS are better than others.

    Tangentially, I was surprised when I saw a "Video Futur" chain open up in Miami Beach.

    To those not in France, that's the Blockbusters equivalent there, and it's fully automated -- since they charge you less if you use their ATM-like pick up and return machine outside.

    However, shortly after they opened, they closed down (taking my 14 bucks with them!) and when I went to look them up now, their domain seems to be down.


    MOS Burgers and a DVD from Videofutur. What more can a girl ask for?


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Mar 07, 01:35:00 am GMT-5  

  • Thank you, Anon. Jp!

    I was emailed by Japanese-speakers and would like to thank everyone who replied about the translation!

    Now, does anyone care to translate Ai No Korida for me? And "I like boiled eggs". ;)


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Mar 07, 01:37:00 am GMT-5  

  • Automat! It was the Automat! I loved to go there when we ventured from Long Island into the city. And eat baked macaroni and cheese in an oval dish.

    Many decades gone, alas.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Mar 07, 01:44:00 am GMT-5  

  • Right, Zaratustra, but the point was that "Cachorro" (pron. ka-tcho-rro) is "puppy" in Spanish, not dog.

    Thus in Spanish a hot dog is Perro Caliente, not Cachorro Caliente, which is "Hot Puppy".

    (BTW, when I went to Cuba during my mercy trip with a friend, I stopped at a roadside "diner" -- basically a wooden hut -- and asked for a perro caliente. As I went back to my hired Lada, the lady waved me back, asking me if I had forgotten my side dish of "rositas". Rositas, I said. Little Roses? But no, it was popcorn. It seems that popcorn and hot dogs go together in Cuba like rice and beans)

    As for the packets, that's what I remember vividly, and since I speak Portuguese sem sotaque de gringa (although I am fair and light-eyed), I doubt they were pulling a fast one on me.

    But then I remember that during the Plano Cruzado years when I was a teenager, and my parents lived in Brazil for two years.

    I'm glad to see they don't charge you for the ketchup anymore.

    I don't think Sendas or Casas da Banha have changed their policy though.


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Mar 07, 01:49:00 am GMT-5  

  • Automat! Doh, Linsee. Thanks.

    In fact, I think Automats were invented in NYC back in the 1800's, if memory serves. And there are still some self-serve sit-down restaurants, where the dishes are in a conveyor belt, and you just help yourself when the dish of choice comes up to you.

    And this is the FEBO chain I mentioned earlier.

    The Vlaamse Frites are made in front of you, and you don't have to wait to ask for the Mayo. It's given to you as a matter of course (instead of the American ketchup).

    The Indonesian-flavoured snacks like Bami and Satékroket are at or just under an Euro! Can't beat that for fast food on the continent.


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Mar 07, 02:00:00 am GMT-5  

  • Sid! Fancy you on the Instalanche waves.

    As for Singapore, what I should go a second time? ;)

    (Actually maybe I should, since when you are young, you don't appreciate locales that much)


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Mar 07, 02:06:00 am GMT-5  

  • The Mosburger is not technically a chili burger. That's meat sauce, not chili. And boy is it yummy! Rarely they will feature a so-called "pirimame" burger, which is a chili burger. My favorite is the Spicey Mos Burger (with jalapenos).

    Honorable mention goes to Freshness Burger, a somewhat more recent Japanese chain. (http://www.freshnessburger.co.jp/)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Mar 07, 02:42:00 am GMT-5  

  • In Finland and the Baltics, the place to go is Hesburger, home of one of my humiliating experiences in language learning. I had succesfully managed to order (In Estonian!) for my wife and me, when another member of the group asked if I would get him some ice cream and ketchup. No problem, ice cream is easy, but then it hit me: what's the word for ketchup? Franticalyy I searched my mind before finally giving up and asking an Estonian friend. I'll never forget the disgusted look he gave as he said, "Ketchup". Sigh. And what makes it worse is I know the etymology of ketchup and I should have been able to figure it out.

    By Blogger Scott, at Mon Mar 07, 10:05:00 am GMT-5  

  • Meat sauce, not chili, well I never.

    I tasted like chili to me, but then you know, I never did ask and my knowledge of chili is limited to Wendy's (pace Cincinnati Chili! -- cue Jim's addition of Cinci Chili url).

    In fact, that reminds me of a hamburger with sloppy joes on TOP I once had...I think in Philadelphia, but I forget.

    Yes, artery-cloggers, but my dears, you only live once. With high blood pressure.


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Mar 07, 11:16:00 am GMT-5  

  • What's up with Finland not being a hot dog country?.

    The "other" Scandinavian countries are, Haukehaien!

    And by sheer coincidence, on Saturday night, before this wonderful Instalanche madness began, my friends and I were looking up all the links in that Wikipedia article. Hesburgers were big on the list, although IIRC, we didn't think much of their site.

    At least it's not like Sibylla (named after the mother of Carl XXVI Gustaf I wonder?) which features a strange duo in uniforms. ;)

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Mar 07, 11:22:00 am GMT-5  

  • From what I remember of Singapore, (I think it was a Wendy's), the ketchup is spicy like chili sauce.

    Also China and HK are overrun by KFC's. It was fun watching the locals practice the art of getting the most salad humanly possible into their bowl if they ordered the one trip salad bar.

    By Blogger Sandy, at Mon Mar 07, 05:41:00 pm GMT-5  

  • The best "ethnic fast food" that I've had when travelling is basically the same thing, with different names depending on where you are - in Jordan it's called a Schwarma. In Turkey (and most of Germany) it's a Donar Kebab. And in Greece it's a Gyro...

    By Blogger jeff, at Mon Mar 07, 06:21:00 pm GMT-5  

  • The MOS link seems to go to the Quick site.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Mar 07, 09:43:00 pm GMT-5  

  • South America is also over-run by KFCs, especially Peru. When they have that delicious chifa, humph!

    And when I was in Chile last year, I was amused to see Dunkin Donuts at the airport.

    Oh, and Brazil is overrun with Starbucks and Pizza Huts apparently.

    You know, I am an A-1-A globalisation cheerleader, but sometimes just sometimes, I look up at the Gap opposite William Shakespeare's house in Stratford, and go, "what on earth".


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Mar 07, 11:43:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Jeff, I've actually had the gyro/doner kebab conversation with a few friends.

    I explained boringly that it's called GYRO in America and Australia because those two countries have a very strong Greek-immigrant presence, as opposed to a more dominant Turkish presence.

    Although my Greek friends always cringe when they pronounce it "jai-roe" instead of the correct "yee-roh".

    Either pronunciation, if it weren't for doner kebabs, I don't know how I'd have survived 3 years of University.


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Mar 07, 11:46:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Mos link corrected, and for your benefit, hyperlinked here.

    Yum away!

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Mar 07, 11:48:00 pm GMT-5  

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