If you do not eat pork, do not order your food naively as I did once when I was in the US. The first time I went to a sub shop there, I ordered a BLT without knowing what a BLT is. I thought BLT is the name of the sandwich not short for what is in it. It turned out BLT is short for bacon, lettuce and tomato.
A Muslim MD friend of mine likes to tell other Muslims about his theory, which is if they lived in the USA for ten years they had eaten a whole pig. May be an exaggeration but indeed it has some truth. Many food items contain an ingredient that came from pigs. Even products you may think are vegetarian like bread, cake mix, or cheese are not 100% vegetarian. Click on the picture below to learn more about vegetarian food that is not 100% vegetarian.
I learned to be specific when I order my food and explicitly mention what I do not eat. It is normal to order a salad to find bacon bits sprinkled on top. I once went with friends to a mom-and-pop Greek pizza restaurant. We ordered a big vegetarian pizza. For some reason our order took too long to come. After close to an hour an old woman (probably the owner) came with our pizza topped with pepperoni. She apologized for the delay and told us she added the pepperoni because we were patient.
II) How to buy a sandwich in three different countries
There is an interesting post on reddit about what non-Americans who have been to the USA find weird. This post is a year old and now has 36770 comments. I wanted to write about it last year but didn’t get the chance to do it. I will one day because it is really interesting and I love subjects with cultural differences. Anyway, there was a comment related to ordering food from a funny British guy. Here is his comment:
“Buying a sandwich was utterly bewildering the first few times.
For example, in the UK a typical exchange between me and sandwich guy might go like this over the period of 30 seconds:
Me: “Can I have a ham sandwich please”
SG: “White or brown?”
SG: “Any salad or sauces?”
Me: “Lettuce and mayo please”
SG: “Here you go. That’ll be £15 million, and your car and your house.”
Similar exchange in the US, over ten minutes:
Me: “Can I have a ham sandwich please”
SG: (over-enthusistically) “Sure thing, Sir! Which of these two thousand varieties of bread would you like today?” (None of which qualify as bread, but that’s another subject…)
Me: “Oh, er, not sure really. That one please”
SG: “Sure! That’s a multi-grained-crap-tasting-full-o-sugar-shit-fest-foot-long-sub-roll. Do you want enough ham to sink a battleship, or would you prefer just enough to make you shit like a bear for an entire week?”
Me: “Erm, I’ll go for merely enough to induce meat-sweats for 8 hours, thanks”
SG: “What kind of cheese are you after?”
Me: “What have you got?”
SG: “Montery Jack, Jack-o-Lantern, Jack of all Trades, Tastes of Jack Shit, Chilli-Jack, Rubbery-Jack and Jackie Chan.”
Me: “No Cheddar then. I’ll go for Monterey Jack”
SG: “Gherkins Pickles?”
Me: (confused and overwhelmed by all the choice) “Can I just have the sandwich now?”
SG: “Sure! I just need to know what else you want on it. Jalapenos?”
Me: (exasperated): “No, thanks but re…”
SG: “…Olives? Cucumber? Lettuce? Relish?”
Me: (eyes glazed over): “No, thank you, it’s fine as it is”
SG: “Toasted, roasted, basted? Mayo, coleslaw, salt or pepper?”
Me: “No, thank you, really, the sandwich is fine as it is, please can I have it now before I starve to death?”
SG: (confused) “Sure thing! Here you go. That’ll be $0.000000001 please””
Everyone who visited the USA agree about the top-notch service in all kind of businesses, especially in the food sector. Employees at restaurants, coffee shops and sandwich shops are professionals, friendly and super nice. However, I have seen some of the nicest employees at a sandwich shop become irritated when a foreigner orders a sandwich. Foreigners spend much longer time when ordering a sandwich. They are not used to being asked all these questions for a sandwich. On the other hand, Americans are used to the plethora of variety of food. An American will enter a sub shop and place his order in the fastest and most smooth way possible. A foreigner might go to Starbucks and hears a woman order “Triple Venti Sugar free, Non fat, No foam, extra caramel, with whip caramel macchiato. Then pour regular coffee down the side with 2 packs of raw sugar and a stir stick on the side. Please.” I spent twelve years in the USA and I could never get over how people order drinks like this at Starbucks. Even with such complicated order some Americans will return their drink because one of the many things they requested is missing or overdone.
Here is how we order a sandwich in Jordan and the rest of the Arab world:
Me: Can I have a falafel/shawerma sandwich please.
I wrote before how complicated it is to order food in the USA. You can read about it here: The culture of ordering food