People always ask me “how are you settling in?” and I always answer “fine, fine” but I really could elaborate on that quite a great deal. I have become a lot more comfortable with my surroundings and I thought I would share with you some of my experiences.
Mom’s always asking if I am eating ok. Well, the truth of the matter is, I have been dining on frozen meals (lean cuisine, sorry Richard, they are made by Nestle). As a single guy living in someone else’s house and only just getting back on my feet from the jet lag, I think I am entitled to indulge in that :p
One thing I have cottoned onto is the local Chinese takeaway. I go there on special occasions (like today, Friday). I have been there twice and both times, when I open the door, someone shouts “Welcome to Panda’s!”. The name of the takeaway chain is Panda Express. My guess is the greeting is intended to ring true to the “Authentic” Chinese. Apparently, in China, they greet you when you enter the door at almost all stores.
Anyway, my favourite there has to be the orange chicken. It’s like lemon chicken, only done with oranges instead of lemon and it is wonderful. The intriguing thing about places like this is it’s designed to be how Americans think authentic Chinese takeaway would be.
I know from experience that authentic Chinese food is normally some animal that is cooked and then cur into little pieces with a cleaver (bones and all) and then served on rice or noodles, with bean soup for dessert. Here, the meat is only the best cuts, there is no bone in sight and unlikely to be any MSG either. So, ironically, it is completely not authentic in any way. That said, to my Western pallet, this place does the nicest Chinese takeaway of all time.
I even got a fortune cookie. My fortune reads: “Lavish spending could be disastrous, be careful”. I guess that warning comes at an opportune time. I am currently working on my budget. I hope to save as much of my earnings as possible. There is no state income tax in Texas and given that I am on a J Visa status, I pay less federal tax than the average person as well. This all means I may (if I am really frugal) be able to save around $USD 3,500 per month. It will take about a month for m to calibrate my spending though, so until then, I am flying blind.
Another place I have tried is Jack in the box. I only went there for a milkshake but I was surprised. Upon coming to New Zealand I was used to milkshakes being something that tasted like water, milk froth and flavouring. Here the milkshake was extremely thick, topped with a decidedly unhealthy amount of cream and a cherry for good measure. I couldn’t drink the whole thing because it was just so very sweet.
Oh, and speaking of drinking, I discovered that “lemonade” and “sprite” are not synonyms. This is an actual conversation between me and the barman:
Me: Hi, I would like a vodka, lemon & lime, please.
Him: Doowha? (means: “I beg your pardon” in Texas)
Me: Uh, just a vodka and, um, lemonade.
Him: Ok *does the drink*
Him: You want some limes in that?
Me: Er… No, no, that’s fine, thanks.
Turns out that “lemonade” is not sprite but actually lemon and water. Most foul tasting vodka, lemon & lime I have ever had.
Speaking of foul: the water here tastes like mud. No, seriously: mud. I feed the cat bottled water because I can’t drink the tap stuff myself.
There are many, many other places in the Rockwall area that I haven’t tried, for example, Chili’s (sic) is quite a popular burger chain. They are apparently slightly more upmarket than “steak and shake”. I am told that when Americans say “steak” in this context, they mean “patty on burger”. I find this most amusing since Texans just love their prime beef cuts (as do I).