Here we have it. Another foodie adventure by Halal Food Guru. I’ll admit, I’ve been a little rough on my wife with the last two stories. If you haven’t seen them, be sure to check out them out. I recount her first experience with The Halal Guys on the streets of New York City. I also review an interesting experience with her pregnancy cravings.
So, in this story, I’ve picked a new subject.
There is something you need to know about by mom. She is old school. Like “back in the old country” old school, especially when it comes to eating. She made everything by hand back in the day. Fresh curries, handmade roti, homemade samosa and mandazi (East African sweet doughnut). She did not like to eat out. She especially didn’t like to eat anything other than the traditional East-African/Indian foods that she grew up with. No burgers, no steaks, no fried chicken and especially no sushi. So when she came to visit me in Orlando with the rest of the family, all she wanted to do was stay home and eat homemade meals.
“How boring is that,” I told her, “Let’s explore the Halal food scene!”
Let me set the stage, it’s was a beautiful sunny Mid-December day in Florida. My brother, nephews and mom had come from “the North”. I had been hyping up this one restaurant in Orlando for weeks in anticipation of their arrival. I told them about this place called Charcoal Zyka that served short ribs and Portuguese rotisserie chicken.
We all knew mom wouldn’t eat any of that, but we stood a chance because Charcoal Zyka also served Indian dishes. We all knew she would opt for the nihari with naan and we could sink our teeth into that juicy barbequed meat in peace.
We arrived at the restaurant only to find out that they were temporarily not serving any Indian dishes. This is a crisis. We came all the way for that beautiful short ribs and succulent roasted chicken. Do we continue on our path and watch our mom sit there reluctantly nibbling on French fries while we dive elbow deep into our grilled meats, or do we get up and leave for a more traditional spot like Chaat House (which has an extensive menu that includes nihari).
She says it’s okay. She says she only wants to eat French fries anyway.
My brother and I look at each other both perplexed. We exchange gazes having the same thought “how can we let our mother go hungry. That same mother who would feed us, care for us as babies. We are good sons, we can’t do that to her.”
My nephews are starring at us with puppy dog eyes, silently pleading with us to stay because they knew exactly what we were thinking.
At that moment, my wife chimed in and told my mom, “Hey they have a Chapli Kabob burger. Mom you like Chapli Kabob, right?”
In my heart, I wanted to put my hand over her mouth. Save her from the rejection of her mother-in law. But it was too late. It was already out there. My mom is OG! She would never, ever, in a million years eat a burger. Even if that burger was a chapli kabob.
My wife was about to get burned in the most polite tone ever and all I could do was watch. I was waiting for the predictable response.
“Oh my sweet daughter in law, I DON’T EAT BURGERS!”
But to my surprise, my mom looked down at the menu, adjusted her reading glasses to focus in on the menu and took a moment to digest the suggestion. She then looked up at us “that sounds good, thank you for seeing that, I’ll do the Chapli Kabob Burger”
My bother’s jaw dropped. My jaw dropped. Who is this lady. Never had either of us seen my mother eat a burger in our lives. I looked at my wife and saw the triumphant smile on her face.
She had saved the day. My nephews were almost dancing in their seats.
The waiter came by. We excitedly gave our order, “1 short rib, no 2 short ribs, no make it 3. Half a Portuguese chicken, actually make it a whole chicken with extra hot sauce…and ONE chapli kabob burger.”
All went silent as we all glanced at mom, waiting for any sign of resistance. Then it happened.
“Can I make a few modifications, please” my mom said in her usually calm polite voice.
“Absolutely” replied the waiter.
“No ketchup or sauces, please.”
“Can you put the lettuce and tomatoes on the side”
The waiter was frantically scribbling down on his note pad, making sure not to miss anything. Then my mom asked for one more thing,
“Can I have the bun on the side too”
The waiter stopped. “I’m sorry, did I hear correctly, you want the burger bun on the side?
“Yes” she calmly replied
“Okaayyy,” the waiter said. He was looking at us for guidance, but we were just as confused.
“And, one more thing…”, my mom chimed in.
“Instead of the burger bun, can you substitute it with a piece of naan”
The waiter literally stopped writing and just looked at us. It’s the same look you have on your face when you sit down for a school test and realize you studied the wrong chapters.
We all sat there in awe starring at my mother. She looked at all of us, removed her reading glass from her face, folded them and placed them on the table and looked at us smiling. My mother had just turned an innovated fusion dish into the most traditional boring meal possible. It was a chapli kabob burger without the burger.