Saturday, June 13, 2009

Desert Notes: Achin' for some bacon

I am sure you remember the scene from Lion King where Timon and Pumba try to distract the hyenas. It goes something like this…..

Are you achin’… (Yup, yup, yup.)
For some bacon. (Yup, yup, yup.)
He’s a big pig. (Yup, yup.)
You can be a big pig, too. Oy!

Unless you know where to buy it in Abu Dhabi, you’ll be achin’ for some bacon too.

Being a Moslem country, pork and pork products are not readily available. You need to go to a speciality store with a special pork section. In Abu Dhabi, Spinneys is your best bet. There, in a separate alcove, marked clearly “Not for Moslems” is the pork section.

It’s a Bavarian’s dream come true. Pork sausages. Pork chops. Pork roasts. Pork pies. Ham. Bacon.

And stuff with pork in it. Like Pea & Ham soup. Spam – the original version, not the e-mailed kind. Sauces. Soups. Cans. Even tins of baked beans with pork bits. If it has even been near a pig, it is in this section.

Of course, you pay an absolute premium for it too. Say 25 dirhams (make that around R40) for a big packet of bacon. From Kenya nogal. And that’s the cheap frozen stuff!

So if piggy meat’s your fancy, that’s where you shop. At Spinneys.

But that’s not to say you can’t order bacon and egg breakfast or a ham sandwich at a restaurant. You can. It just won’t quite be what you’re expecting. Mostly because it never contains pork. It is made from just about everything else.

And it tickles me every time. All cold meats are “ham” you see. Whether they contain pork or not. So if you fancy you could buy some chicken ham. Or turkey ham. Or veal ham. Or beef ham.
Same with bacon. Bet you never thought you’d see a real South African breakfast (as sold by Mugg & Bean) served with veal bacon.

And to be truthful, it is not that bad. The turkey versions are pretty okay. Same with the veal. The chicken ham on the other hand is just awful. Chickens do really bad pig impersonations.

Some of it is made so well it can fool into believing it’s the real thing. In fact, at Fuddruckers (the equivalent of Spur in Abu Dhabi), my husband and I argued over whether our Outback burger contained real bacon or not. Because it sure tasted real. It wasn’t of course, but it was damn close.

Guaranteed that if a group of South Africans get together for a formal meal, it’ll be roast pork. And on the braai, someone will have brought pork chops. I do mean chutney marinade that goes really well with pork chops.

The only thing they haven’t managed to translate properly is boerewors. There was a packet of what looked like wors, and was labelled “South African Boerewors” at the supermarket recently. So of course we bought a pack.

The tannies who make the real thing back home would have died of shame at the mere thought that this was boeries.

Did you know that boerewors is the only South African meat product to have its ingredients government gazetted? True, I swear. What we bought certainly hadn’t read the gazette.

It was mostly soya. Terribly disappointing. But we ate it anyway. Because it said boerewors.

When I go home in mid-November, I’ve placed my order with my family. I want a braai. With big fat pork chops and boerewors. And I’ll be at Wimpy the following morning for breakfast. More specifically, for a Hashbrown Splashdown. With extra bacon. Most definitely the piggy kind!

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