Saturday, March 24, 2007

Until Zagat's Baghdad guide is revised.

At Buddha Drinks Fanta, Spencer Ackerman reports on what to eat in Iraq. The war has not been good for the culinary tourist, as lunch at the al Rashid hotel reflects:
My lunch companions, a Shiite ex-journalist and a Sunni ex-Army officer, discussed in various ways how, unfortunate as it is to admit, life was better under Saddam, and I couldn't help but think they were spurred to this opinion at least in part by the sub-par offerings of the al-Rashid's restaurant. The hummus is a pasty mess with stunningly little tahini and no garlic, and the pickled beets were straight out of the can. Sadly, the mixed grill was no better: underseasoned rubber chicken and chewy steak chunks augur the hotel's decline. And the tea was Lipton, not the delicious chai you get offered by every dignitary you interview out here.
But things are even worse inside the Green Zone:
Green Zone food is the worst of all. The US Embassy might be the largest in the world, but its chow hall is subpar, even by FOB standards. Avoid any steamed vegetable -- the rumor is that they're causing a regrettable gastric illness. Your best bet is to head down to the PX's food court, which hosts a Subway and a Burger King in individualized trailers. (Nothing beats a receipt that reads "BURGER KING IRAQ GREEN ZONE") CPIC allows transient journalists a place to crash, but the price is to get slopped like a hog. Breakfast is at 6, and if you don't wake up in time, try to get them to open their closet filled with Otis Spunkmeyer apple-cinnamon muffins and individual-serving cereal. Lunch is a chow-hall buffet out in the courtyard with Salvadoran soldiers and contract guards pointing the occasional rifle in your direction. Dinner is, again, chow hall stuff -- burgers, pizza, salisbury steak that tastes like cardboard slathered in unidentifiable goo -- but it's served to you in the lounge in takeaway trays. Ubiquitous are the Fico Fresh-brand Iraqi potato chips, Gatorade by the ton in the fridge -- and of course, Fanta.

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