When I named this blog SalAD, the idea that people might think of this as a food blog never really occurred to me. Maybe that says something about my tendency to disregard the obvious and fixate on things of relative unimportance. Alternatively, it may reflect the fact that I just don’t think of salad as being food. This is strange because I’m vegetarian, so my strictly anti-salad stance does pose a problem. I am forced to look for alternate sources of nutrition, like gummy bears (fruit-flavored), or vegemite (this has “veg” in it so don’t tell me it isn’t healthy).
It stands to reason, therefore, that when I got to university, I was terrified. What would I – a hapless animal-lover, the benevolent protector of domesticated creatures – find to eat? Do they even have gummy bears in the United Arab Emirates? Would I have to forage in the desert for food, like (Gummy) Bear Grylls in an episode of Man vs. Wild? In preparation, I began to read extensively about edible plants and tubers. I was all set to become a hunter-gatherer, but without the hunting bit.
As it turns out, that wasn’t necessary.
They have plenty of gummy bears in the United Arab Emirates. Hallelujah.
Seriously speaking though, the food situation here could not be better. I’ve actually started eating healthier. My mother makes me describe all my meals to her with a level of detail that even Nigella Lawson couldn’t handle. In fact, whenever I send my parents a picture of my lunch/ dinner/ snacks, my father makes it his phone wallpaper. My family has a weird relationship with food.
There are many places to eat here at NYU Abu Dhabi, but the main dining hall – D2 – is my food haven of choice. D2 has seven main counters: The Grill (burgers and steaks), Hot Wok (stir-fried and fried-stirred), Home Baked (pizzas), Feel Good (my arch enemy, salad, and mostly vegetarian food), Meal Club (a selection of miscellaneous items), Grab and Go (deli sandwiches and basically anything that can be grabbed and gone), and Global Street (street food from around the world). This is in addition to gorgeous desserts and a beverage counter with apple-flavored Fanta, which is one of the most exotic things I have encountered in this country. D2 also has a somewhat efficient home (suite) delivery system that operates until 12 am, so the only thing we need to make this legit is one of those delivery drones – we could call it R2-D2.
What seriously impresses me about D2 is the sheer variety of the food on offer. There are at least 8-9 different vegetarian options at each meal, and the number of non-veg options is maybe four times the number of vegetarian options. Being a member of the minority food community, I had prepared myself for four years of “Take it or leave it” and “Please, sir, I want some more”. I was glad to see, however, that gruel was not on the menu, and that the veg food included things like pasta, rice, falafel and hummus, curries, gratins, casseroles, and yes, salads. The non-vegetarian majority, of course, has no complaints – if anything, they wish that they could get their fancy tuna done “medium-rare” instead of “well done” or “medium” (the two ways in which meat is cooked at The Grill). ‘Hoity-toity little non-vegetarians,’ I think bitterly as I shovel uncooked leaves into my mouth (kidding, I still don’t eat salad). Also, the selection at lunch differs from the selection at dinner, which is really impressive for a school with less than a thousand students.
Buuuut maybe, just maybe, you’re not the type of person who’s easily impressed. “Whatever,” you say, shaking your head. “It’s just variety. Even restaurants have variety. What’s the big deal?” But you, my friend, haven’t been to the Marketplace.
I’ll introduce the Marketplace with a slight digression: I started watching Masterchef Australia around five years ago, and this has had two unexpected consequences: 1) I pronounce butter like an imbecile (“Butttttaaaah”) and 2) I have fallen into the habit of describing food as “gorgeous”, “beautiful” and “flavoursome”. So do pardon me if I offend your semantic sensibilities, because these are the only words I could possibly use to describe the food at the Marketplace.
The Marketplace is basically one big restaurant, but it contains five mini-restaurants within it – Innovation Kitchen (kebabs and shawarmas), Create (burgers and wraps), So Deli (soups, salads, sandwiches), Goodness Me (delectable smoothies like the one in my dad’s phone wallpaper) and Amishi Mishi (the delicacies of the Far East). The food’s relatively pricey at the Marketplace, but it’s worth it. I like to treat myself here every once in a while, but I know a considerable number of people who prefer to eat here than at the D2. For non-vegetarians especially, there’s much more here in terms of variety. My personal favorite is Goodness Me, because their shakes are unbelievable. My dad, despite never having tasted one, agrees – smoothies are usually his food of choice for his phone wallpaper.
Speaking of smoothies, I can’t end this post without an obligatory nod to the foremost symbol of consumerism, the one place that symbolizes ‘Murica, and freedom, and opportunity, and all things great and glorious about the world that we live in.
No American University would be complete without Starbucks, and NYU-AD has two. Recently, the Pumpkin Spice Latte created much furore – is it more spice than it is pumpkin? – and that kept us occupied for a few days, but now we’re back to our usual no-drama caramel macchiato. We have pretty much every drink that Starbucks has to offer, and depending on how judiciously you use your food currency (“Dining Dirhams”) you can even get it for free. Free Starbucks. I can hear you swooning. Okay, I’ll do you a favor. Here’s a picture:
I hereby give you permission to make it your phone wallpaper.
Have a great day!