Culture · Life in America

What is in my BLT?


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?”
Me: “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.
SG: Okay.

I wrote before how complicated it is to order food in the USA. You can read about it here: The culture of ordering food


21 thoughts on “What is in my BLT?

  1. We had this hustle and bustle n our 1st year in the UK. Reading EVERY item on the ingredients, checking & re-checking our orders from restaurants, the whole thing … 🙂

    It is a total new experience for sure. One living in Jordan would not see it weird that there is a “lack” of options of sandwiches -as a one example of norms of ordering/eating- but for a visitor it would be extremely strange.

    Thanks for the 10-items list; some of them were surprising for sure!
    And it was a good laugh re the reddit post 😀 😀


    1. Yes, in Jordan you don’t have many options to choose from.
      The good thing is I built some confidence now to ask the sandwich guy not to heat my shawerma sandwich on the greasy grill. I also started telling the sandwich guy what not to put on my falafel sandwich. Yes, I know America spoiled me 🙂


      1. That is bravery! Lol
        U need to tell them way b4 hand though + u need to establish some sort of prior relationship with the guy 🙂


  2. راح ابعت البوست لاخوي خليه يستفيد…شكرا على المعلومات

    مع انه بقرأ كل شي بس مرات ما بنتبه لبعض التفاصيل لكن الزلمه ومرته اللي مستأجر عندهم بدققوله عالاكل برضه
    بحكيلنا انه اشترى فول معلب عاساس انه مستحيل يكون فيه اشي
    اجت الست و حكتله اعطيني العلبه…طلع حاطين بالصوص اللي حول الفول اشي من الخنزير
    حكتله هاي النا مو الك و طلبتله بيتزا
    Muslim cut pizza
    بستخدمو سكينه خاصه لتقطيع البيتزا مو نفس اللي بقطعو فيها الباقيين


    1. سعيد انه اخوكي راح على امريكا. بعرف انه راح يدرس هناك. بالتوفيق ان شاءالله.
      لحم الخنزير موجود تقريبا في كل شيء. حتى انه بعض المطاعم بتسنخدم دهن الخنزير بدل الزيوت النباتيه
      هاد طبعا غير عن مسألة اضافة الكحول اثناء الطبخ :)ـ


      1. اه الحمد لله اله شهر متسهل واموره شوي شوي بتستقر
        متغلب شوي بالاكل لحتى يتعود على كل شي…بحكيلي بس تسكر معي بقلي او بسلق بيض اضمن :))


    2. Muslim cut pizza – – – – hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

      مش راكبة معي.. بتخوف


  3. Looool
    كنت متوقعه انها تستوقف حد
    بس عجبتني الفكرة وفعلا التسميه مرعبه وفيها شبهه ههههه
    بستخدمو cutter
    خاصه لطلبات المسلمين علشان ما تكون ملوثه باشي غير مسموح اكله و اعتقد دومينوز بيتزا اللي بعملو هيك مش متاكده اذا كل المحلات او لأ


    1. بيعتمد على المدينه قديش فيها مسلمين.ـ
      في مدينتي ما في سكينه خاصه بس كنا نقولهم لا تقطعوها


      1. هون في محلات عربية منتشرة بشكل منيح. (اللحوم وخلافه)
        بس ما عندي فكرة إذا بالمطاعم أو محلات البيتزا عندهم مثل هالإشي، فرصة أسأل 🙂


      2. هو باوهايو وفي نسبه كبيره سعوديين في الجامعه والمنطقه

        Haitham…ومني تستفيد 🙂


  4. Hahaha. Some people really are high maintenance when it comes to their food and their coffee in this country. I personally just order what’s on the menu and don’t make a ton of special requests. I might ask them to omit something but that’s about it.


    1. Once at Starbucks a lady returned her drink three times. I couldn’t believe how rude she was to the poor barista who kept apologizing. The problem was that the drink didn’t taste as this lady expecting. And so the barista didn’t know what to do differently to make it better. After the third attempt another barista came and made the drink for the fourth time. The lady took it and said yes this is good. I felt so bad for the young barista I could feel she wanted to cry.

      Some customers are very rude and I hate when their order become like a demand.


      1. The barista handled it better than I would have. A lot of people are so entitled and feel that they don’t have to treat people like baristas, waitresses, receptionists, etc. with courtesy. I would have taken her attitude for a little while and then I would have given it right back to her, twice as bad. Admittedly, not the best way to handle things (it’s got me fired once) but I’m working on it. People can just be so nasty to who they see as “the hired help”.


  5. When it comes to falafel, I am asked if I want salad in it, hot sauce, fried eggplant, fried potatoes, and if I want it special (in ka’ek bread). I take mine with salad and hot sauce in plain pita bread. I buy 3 for $1.25 in East Amman


    1. Eggplant? 🙂
      Never had the pleasure of “that” while falafiling (+30 yrs of exp. though) 😀


      1. Haitham, Falafel sandwich with friend eggplant and fries is the so delicious. I never bought it from restaurants but my family by falafel and we make our special sandwiches 🙂 Instead of salad and hummus paste I like it with tahini salad it is so yummy. Hot sauce is a must of course 🙂


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