Friday, July 9, 2010

Happy Birthday America or The Great Marinara Debate



Cale and I wanted to do something American for the 4th of July. We learned about this official event* the day before. Though it was tempting (four different salads!), we thought the 300B price tag (about $10USD) was a little high. Instead we decided to resign ourselves to eating hamburgers. Cale had scouted around a little the day before and had found what he thought might be an American bar. The
Chiang Mai Saloon sort of had the feel of a Texas Roadhouse-type restaurant and we thought we would have burgers there.

*How can you not love that official American food includes Polish and Italian sausage and quesadillas and tacos? Those all are truly American foods.

When we finally sat down to dinner, I realized that I wasn't up for a burger. I just haven't been a big fan of burgers for, well, years now. Too much meat in one place. Instead, I was excited to order the mozarella sticks. The
menu describes the mozzarella sticks as such:
Mozzarella Sticks
Italian breaded and deep fried, served with marinara sauce.
When they arrived, things looked a little fishy. To start with, they were not Italian breaded and deep fried. Instead they were
tempura, which was good enough. However, the dipping sauce was obviously not marinara. I decided to give it a go anyway. It tasted a little like the sweet chili sauce often served with spring rolls or samosas, but it was not as clear as that sauce. I held up my sauce to the waitress and asked her if she had any marinara, as this was chili sauce or something. She returned with mayonnaise. Hmmm....

Now let me put forth a disclaimer. Had we been anywhere else in Southeast Asia I would have just moved on. I am used to getting Western foods that are not as advertised. I am in Thailand, I should be eating Thai food (which I do, but it was America Day). Bu, we were not really in Thailand, we were in the Disneyland Epcot-like equivalent of America town with a wild west theme and I figured I should be able to get the advertised marinara sauce here of all places. Finally, they have spaghetti bolognese on the menu, so I should be able to get the spaghetti sauce, no?

At this point the waitress is confused. I tell her that marinara is like spaghetti sauce. She heads back into the restaurant (we are out on the patio) and I find a menu and follow her. She is talking to a woman behind the bar. This woman tells me they don't have marinara. Once again, I normally would have let it go at this point (ok, no sauce, not a problem), but I know they have the spaghetti on the menu. I point to the marinara listed next to the mozzarella sticks on the menu and then tell her it is like the spaghetti sauce (and point to the spaghetti bolognese), can I have the spaghetti sauce? She tells me that I cannot, that they make that sauce special for the spaghetti bolognese with the meat in it. I say fine, can I just have whatever sauce you use without the meat. She tells me that I cannot. This sort of angers me a little. You have this spaghetti sauce, but I cannot have it? So I tell her that she shouldn't advertise marinara on the menu if they don't actually have marinara sauce.

This is where it gets interesting.

The woman behind the bar starts to insist that what was given to me is in fact marinara sauce. Listen lady, my maiden name is Carusillo and I know a marinara sauce when I see one. I don't go around telling you what is and isn't Pad Thai do I? I am not asking for grandma's homemade red sauce here, just a little Prego or Ragu or something out of a can is just fine. Obviously, I don't tell her this. I do explain that marinara is like the spaghetti sauce they use in the bolognese (obviously sans meat) and that this (indicating what I was given) tastes more like chili sauce. She is still really adamant that this is marinara and explains to me that they use tomato sauce (which is what they call sweet ketchup here) and add tabasco sauce to it. Voila, marinara. She also insists that no one has ever complained before.

At this point I don't want to be having this argument anymore. I have established that I will not be getting any sauce for my sticks and I just want to eat them. So I thank her and go back to the table.

She follows me back to the table! Where she continues to insist that it was marinara and tries to take away my food, telling me I can order something else. I keep insisting that I am hungry and I am going to eat the mozzarella sticks. She keeps wanting to take them away. When she finally decides I can keep them, she makes a point of telling me that if I eat them I have to pay for them. Well, no duh. Thanks for that.

Anyway, so that is how I spent my Fourth of July, arguing with a Thai woman over what is and is not marinara sauce. Hope you enjoyed your holiday.

— Sara

PS. After I went through this whole episode a guy two tables over ordered something off the menu and we could clearly here him ask, "This comes with marinara, right?" We were so super tempted to stick around just to see what he got and whether or not he thought it was marinara, but decided not to.

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