Sunday, April 1, 2012

Ya Can't Eat Sand

It is said that an Army travels on its stomach. For those civilians who work with the Army, we get the fringe benefit of that as well. I said before that we work in 11 hour day shift, six days a week. Because of that and because of the time to commute to and from work and the time spent going through security to get on base, it is just easier to eat a lot of meals at the military dining facility.

When I was in the Air Force to recall chow halls, before that they were mess halls but now they are called dining facilities or DFACs.  The food really hasn't changed, only the name has gotten classier.

Camp Arifjan has at least two DFACs and they basically mirror each other but on different days. For example, one facility will have Chili Mac on Tuesday and the other one will have it on Friday.  There are differences though in the way the food is prepared and served. For example, only one DFAC uses real china and silverware and one DFAC makes cornbread Southern style while the other makes it Northern style (with sugar).  Anyway, I've never had a bad meal at either facility although there've been items that I just couldn't eat.

One day, I got a chicken patty that broke two knives and a fork before I gave up trying to eat it. I began to get worried about what it might do inside me if it was breaking knives.  I'm not sure why the push on fish.  Baked, fried, poached, -- you name it and it has been on the menu but I've never been a big fish fan.  On those days I opt for chili or a hamburger. That is one thing that is always available is a short order line that has hot dogs and burgers as well as a sandwich line where you can get peanut butter and jelly if you really want it.
Once a week at each DFAC they have what they call a surf and turf night. This is where you can actually get a nice steak and some shrimp or a very small lobster tail (or maybe it is a really big crawdad tail). 

On base it is actually possible to get pork as part of your meal. So with breakfast you can order bacon and be reasonably sure it came from a pig. Likewise, with the pork chops or ham that might be served.  When I want to prepare a meal myself I can go shopping at the BX. The exchange on base sells most essentials that are needed, like the exchanges in the US.  Additionally, they sell frozen meats and dairy items which can be very costly off base. So it comes in handy. 

Off base, food takes on a different dimension.

Kuwait, being a Muslim country, does not serve pork products in any of the local restaurants. What they do serve, for restaurants that cater to expatriates, is something called beef bacon. It is thicker than regular pork bacon, the flavor is much stronger, and it is also very chewy. I think the only thing I can compare it to may be greasy beef jerky. When I was first served it I questioned what part of the cow bacon came from. It is not something I would seek out, but occasionally when I want a bacon cheeseburger it is tolerable.
There are a lot of fast food places available here. The variety is kind of surprising. Chili's, TGI Friday's, Pizza Hut, McDonald's, Burger King, and of course things like Cinnabon and Krispy Kreme are also here. The menu differs little from the states, partially because of the pork thing but also because of the way things have to be fixed to avoid using any pork products in preparation or serving.  Also, all of those nasty Trans fats -- -- the stuff that made food taste very good -- -- that they took out of food in the United States are still in the food here. So, McDonald's fries taste like they used to in the good old days as does Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Thanks to a Kuwaiti contractor who works for me, I have also sampled quite a few Arabic dishes like kebabs and mixed grill.  Saad is actually an American citizen but he was born and raised in Kuwait and takes pride in showing off his country to those of us who are not familiar with it. The fact that he speaks and reads Arabic also helps us avoid ordering something too bizarre off the menu.  Although he is pushing all of us to try Camel's milk -- I have not been here long enough.

I have not really cooked since I've been here. I've fixed a few sandwiches for myself and also a bowl of soup or two but I have not made a full meal. I am still waiting on the stuff I shipped from the US and in with it are the ingredients I need to make both chili and spaghetti.  I also included a lot of spices and add-ons that you cannot get here. 

At least once a week I treat myself by eating off base from that something called 6Alabat.  They are a delivery service who will bring you food from a dozen different restaurants and you can order it all online with an English menu. Since I've been here a month I've used it about four times. The first time I ordered just a hamburger -- when the guy delivered it he gave me several packs a ketchup to go with a hamburger and fries. The next thing ordered was a steak sandwich, likewise I was given ketchup. When I ordered fried chicken I was still given packets of ketchup, but I've actually seen someone eat it that way so I kind of let it go. Then I ordered a pizza, from Pizza Hut, and it came with -- -- you guessed it -- -- ketchup. Not only did they give me catch up it was actually Pizza Hut Ketchup.  I have no idea why anyone would ever put ketchup on pizza.

Due to the nature of my job, I will not be discussing or talking about it that much. I work for a transportation unit whose job it is to move things in and out of the theater that the Army needs moved in and out. I am the director of IT for that unit and it is our mission to provide support wherever it is needed to include satellite communications and other gadgets that are a lot of fun to play with.  I am proud of what I am doing and I know the mission essentiality of it.  So please forgive me if I have to omit the details of what fills my day.

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