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Finding Rocket Man

 

Time ticks by and we start forming lists. Lists of things to pack. Lists of things to buy.  Lists of places we want to see before we go.  Lists of the things we’ll miss.
Missing things like the melon.  Oh my god!  The melon! First, buttery and savory, with a cool sweet finish. I will have crack-dreams for years over this melon.
Or missing things like falafel. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to eat falafel anywhere else.  Or shwarma. Same thing.  They’re simple, delicious and darn near free. Paying 7 bucks or more back in the US seems obscene.
Out with the Mrs. for a spring evening stroll to obtain such sandwiches. The start of the dwindling number, I’m sure. Trying to get our fill.
We came across a new place that had opened a couple months back.  It was bright and clean with decor a step above.  And they were cooking something new. It was like shwarma meat cooked on a large shield-like pan. A little oil, a little lemon juice, some secret spices.  They press some pita down on top of the stew that’s created sopping up any extra juice then they wrap it all up with some tomatoes, pickles and hot peppers and squirt on some lemon juice to finish.  Served with fries.
It looked like a shwarma, but different. I thought I’d give it a try, so I walked up to the counter and picked up the menu.
“That is all in arabic, but don’t worry, I will explain to you everything.” said the purveyor.
In near perfect English, he explained that this was a Turkish sandwich called a Tantuni. He talked a bit about it and how long they were here.  He and all the cooks there were Jordanian, but they had a Turkish chef who was on holiday.
Chicken or beef, I opted for chicken and placed my order.
I called Mrs. S.A.M. in from her Pokemon hunting. He explained the whole process again. She exclaimed, “That looks amazing, but I’m a vegetarian. That looks like it would be great with tofu!”
The man considers this and tells us that he used to own an Italian restaurant in Guanzhou, China. He said he never had tofu until he went there and grew to love it.
“Ah, I will make a vegetarian sandwich for you that is not on the menu!”  And he proceeds to bark out orders to the guy behind the counter who responded and made some suggestions of his own.
He throws down a pita, smears on some yogurt, takes some Arugula and tears off only the tender parts.  Seriously, at a fast food street vendor, he tore the stems out of 12-15 individual leaves of arugula and laid them out strategically for maximum coverage.  Some tomatoes, pickles, etc.
“I love arugula”, he says. “I put it anywhere I can!”
We told him the sandwich should have a name.  “I don’t know, I guess a rocket sandwich?! Ha ha!”
I offer to pay for the extra creativity, but he waves me off.  “It is my compliments!” and then after we’re sitting outside he brings out two cold yogurt drinks with froth on top.  He called it Airon(sp?) and said it is a popular dish in Turkey.  “You will drink more Airon than water there.”
Sipping our icee cold, spoiled milk, we wondered together about this man’s story. Here’s a guy with a salad-greens fetish, speaking perfect English, who’s owned an Italian restaurant in China, now importing a Turkish sandwich concept to Jordan. How does that happen?
We figured that it must be family that drew him back. This country is full of people with postponed dreams. Men or women who went away and did interesting things, but came back to care for mom or dad or in-laws and work the family business or on the side driving Uber or guiding tours.
When I started this entry, I was going to say that people were the other thing I’d miss. Their pride and kindness and stories like these.
But then I realized there are stories and people like this everywhere. I could go to the State Fair this summer and find a fried food vendor and if I stood and listened for long enough, I’d probably find an equally kind and proud person, who just might give me extra chocolate sauce for my deep fried twinkie.

 

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