Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Fast Food in America V. Fast Food in Pakistan

My family would visit our relatives in Pakistan during summer vacation. I would have a really good time hanging out with my cousins. One day we decided to go out for some fast food. I was like “Cool! You can get fast food here?” They were like “Yeah they just opened a McDonalds in Clifton” (a wealthy area of Karachi)

I nearly keeled over from the shocking revelation, feeling ecstatic I blurted out loud “Let’s go!” foremost on my mind was to try a big mac. This is something I never got to do in America. You see Muslims can only eat meat slaughtered according to Islamic Law. All other meat is Haram (unlawful). Last time I checked McDonalds (or any other major franchise for that matter) wasn’t serving up Halal (lawful) meat.

I threw on a t-shirt and some jeans and was waiting for everyone else to get ready. When they came downstairs everyone was perfumed, hair styled, and dressed up. I was like what’s going on here? I soon learned that eating out at an American fast food joint was a big deal. Comparatively speaking the prices are very high. The cost of one meal at McDonalds is enough to feed a family of five, 3 meals. So people tend to go to these kinds of places sparingly.

This is in sharp contrast to the way Americans view fast food. Which is a quick and cheap meal, to be eaten on the go. Formal dining is reserved for five star restaurants. The equivalent form of quick and cheap dining can be found in Pakistan, but you would have to go to the local restaurants. These establishments are normally visited by laborers, truck/taxi drivers etc. And believe me when I say that you get what you pay for. The cheaper the meal is the more unsanitary the kitchen will be. That's not to say that there aren't any local restaurants serving up some really good Pakistani cuisine. In fact one of the reasons people visit Karachi is to sample these dishes. I'll have more on that aspect later.
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