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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Fun Food

I was at the local grocery market the other day and as usual, on the alert for offbeat and interesting things that tickle my funny-bone. This is a habit of mine in an attempt to turn mundane chores into something fun. Most of the time I am unsuccessful in the transformation but I find enough gems to keep me playing the game.  I was not disappointed on this trip.

American supermarkets are boring. They are homogeneous. One looks like the other with the same products, presentation and no surprises. Ethnic foods are relegated to a half an aisle next to the kitty litter. Here in the Abu Dhabi, everyone is from somewhere else and the market managers have to cater to the tastes of folks from Asia, Europe, the Subcontinent and of course the Middle East. This makes for an entertaining stroll through down the aisles. You never know what you are going to see. The inventory seems to change each week. One time you may see English cookies and the next, ghee from India occupying the same spot the cookies previously did. It;s a grab bag and you cannot rely on your favorite stuff always being consistently available. Part of the charm, I guess.

I am fortunate that my nearest market has a pork room. This is a small room off the main floor with its own doors displaying large signs warning that entrance is for non-Muslims only. I look at it as a generous gesture by the UAE government to allow us expats to slake our cravings for pig.and I appreciate it as a lover of bacon and grilled hotdogs. Turkey bacon substitutes suck!

So, the other day I walk into the pork room, got my bacon and Oscar Meyer links and continue to the freezer on the opposite side of the room to see what various porcine delights were available there, then I saw this:

Bingo! I just found my Gem o' the Day. Out came the mobile phone for this image, much to the bemused stares of the Filipino pork butchers nearby. 

Now the maker of these delicacies, cdo/Sea Quest, looks like a Western Company and they really should know a little bit more about marketing. I'll bet my last beer that the frozen items inside the bag are not actual cephalopod testicles but are probably the tenderest of squid meat formed into a round shape. They probably taste very good and would be something I would enjoy, but when the name "Squid Balls" is emblazoned over a clear plastic window showing some round objects inside, I get an unnerving impression. Call them "Calamari Rounders"or"Spheres Du Mar"; anything but Squid Balls!

I can imagine this Marketing Executive in the product launch meeting surrounded by his peers and the CEO of Sea Quest suddenly standing up and saying, "I know, let's call 'em Squid Balls!!!". They should have thrown him down an elevator shaft. But instead, they went with it. The plastic bag makers probably pissed themselves with laughter when they got the details of the order.

What Squid Balls were doing in the Pork Room is also lost on me.

As if this isn't bad enough, fellow bloggers Neil and Caz found these items in a downtown market: The Real Thing  A Pakistani friend of mine says these are a real delicacy back there. Bet you can't eat just one! They eat them in the US too, also known as  Rocky Mountain Oysters. All I can do is wince.

I did buy a bag of these though:

These are fried peas coated with hot Japanese wasabi mustard powder. They are very good and I was surprised to find them available here, but I don't understand the "& YOU" part. The peas never delivered on the personal relationship promised by this phrase. Come to think of it they kind of look like little green.................uh never mind!!!!



Dave said...

I am sure I would have the squid balls before the other gems on Neil and Caz's site.

Anna-Lou said...

Ahahahah you're killing me ! Squid balls are maybe good, I'm sure that secretly you will go to buy it !

hemlock said...

WHY dont people giggle / cringe when they order spaghetti & meatballs. :/

it's discrimination against squids and bulls yo.

Neil Roberts said...

Thanks for the reference Ace, I'll have to look out for the peas...and you!

On the subject of uninspiring marketing, I have to laugh every time I go past the company in Jebel Ali called "Emirates Wet Wipes". I mean why not, "Emirates Hygiene Products" , "Dubai Cleansing Solutions" or even something like "Transform" or "CleanAway".

No. we make wet wipes, so let's call ourselves Emirates Wet Wipes. Aaagghh!

Anonymous said...

:D cdo is a filipino brand. i'd like to think the marketing is not uninspired but straightforward. it is easier to say, remember and ask for!! cheers!! enjoy your squid balls!!!

Chuck said...

Wasabi peas rock. I buy them at Trader Joe's whenever I'm in a city that has a Trader Joe's. I think I'll pass on the squid balls and bull testicles, though.

Ace said...

@Dave: Agreed on all points!

@Anna-Lou: You know me better than I know myself! Just don't look under the frozen carrots in the freezer, OK?

Red or White wine with squid balls? Maybe a nice Chianti. You are French, you ought to know! Haute Cuisine indeed!

@Hemlock: Good question that I would expect only from you! Meatballs. cheeseballs, etc. are vague generic terms that do not target specific species and/or glands so some comfort is derived from that by the masses. Or maybe they just taste good!

@Neil: The peas were good despite the promise of a personal connection on the label. Alas, I went to bed as empty as those bag of fried peas I finished.

False advertising!

You gave me the idea of hunting oddities in the markets here. Cheers, Mate!

I still can't look at your photos on that post for more than a few seconds!

And yes, the marketing efforts here seem too "direct" at times.

@Anonymous: If American hotdogs were marketed straightforwardly, no one would buy them. Everything but the squeal! The truth is hard to swallow sometime. I feel the need to try the challenge of squid balls but I need a recipe!

@Chuck: Yeah, I am kind of testicled out myself. Wasabi peas are the best! Trader Joe's, too!