There was meat, there was bread, and there were fries, but it still wasn’t quite as expected.

You know that feeling when you’ve been in a foreign country for a long time and you’re feeling tired of eating the local food? You just want to eat something familiar to you, right? For many people, including our Japanese language correspondent Masanuki Sunakoma, a hamburger with a side of French fries satiates that need.

Masanuki was in Africa until recently, presumably to continue his training as a Moroccan camel guide in the Sahara Desert. He was probably busy bending camels to his will while trying not to get spit on, but every now and then he had to stop and eat. One day, needing a little taste of the familiar, he ordered a hamburger.

Hamburgers are a safe choice, Masanuki says. For one, they’re easy to order, and they’re pretty universally well-known. Besides, there are all kinds of interesting variations of hamburgers, too; a lot of restaurants have unique toppings that bring a nice local flavor to a basic meal. Plus, they’re usually pretty tasty, and you can’t really go wrong with French fries, which are pretty standard accompaniment.

Masanuki has ordered burgers at other places in Morocco, and every time received something tasty and burger-like with a side of some kind of fried potatoes. They even have McDonald’s in Morocco (MorocDonald’s?), whose burgers are exactly what you would expect.

So, with these experiences in mind, Masanuki ordered a hamburger and fries at a local restaurant in Morocco, thinking he would be getting a tasty patty between buns with a side of deep-fried potatoes. It should also be noted that the restaurant he ordered from this time wasn’t a tiny mom-and-pop place hidden in the city; it was located at a busy highway rest stop, where lots of buses pull in for a break, and where most of the visitors were probably foreigners. Masanuki figured their burgers would be catered to a foreign clientele, and that he wouldn’t be getting any surprises if he ordered one. A safe choice.

“I’d like a hamburger and French fries, please,” Masanuki asked the waiter, who replied without a pause, “Okay”. In fact, the waiter responded so quickly that Masanuki thinks he actually only got to say “Hamburger and Fre-“. It was like he already knew what Masanuki was ordering, so Masanuki assumed that a burger with a side of fries was a regular request at this restaurant, and felt satisfied that he’d made the right choice.

Now let me emphasize: he expected a hamburger with a side of french fries. Masanuki never dreamed there would be another way to pair the two, but little did he know, there was. First, with a jolting cry of “Hey brother!” by the waiter, who apparently wanted to let him know his order was coming, Masanuki was shocked to his very core when he turned around to see this unexpected meal being brought before him.

What….what is this? Masanuki thought. A bunch of french fries sandwiched in some kind of bread? What kind of bread is that? And that is a lot of fries. There was also a puddle of ketchup, spilling out of the sandwich like it was murdered in its sleep. And is that a single slice of red pepper I see? An interesting, if sparse, choice of toppings.

Well, it’s something that resembles a burger, at least. It’s not round, but there was some ground beef in there, it looked like, though it was hard to tell if it was a patty or just clumps of meat. A little taken aback, Masanuki stared at his plate before he mustered up the initiative to take a bite. As expected, all he could taste was bread and French fries.

To this day, why this restaurant calls this a hamburger when other restaurants have produced more hamburger-like concoctions is still a mystery. Perhaps this “French Fry Burger” is really a considerate invention of that particular restaurant. Perhaps they wanted to make it easier for travelers in a hurry to eat quickly before catching a bus. Like pouring your rice into your miso soup when you’re running late in the morning? Well, that’s what Masanuki imagines, anyway.

Traveling puts people in sticky (or should we say saucy) spots, but that’s part of the fun, and it makes for great stories later on. Masanuki is now home in Japan, where he can eat his favorite Japanese food (or hamburgers) and know what he’s getting when he orders it. He even got his hands on some Michelin-recommended udon noodles, so hopefully his food courage will be restored before his next trip overseas!

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