Thursday, July 31, 2008

Taj Mahal

Imagine that you’re in Bakersfield, California. Give yourself a good fifteen minutes to acclimate to the hybrid alfalfa/cow fart/beer smell and the dreadful heat and humidity. Take stock of the 300,000 mouth-breathers spread out across a landmass large enough to fit 58 Hollywoods. Soak up the squat buildings, the bad drivers, and the “Cowboy Up!” bumper stickers. Are you still there?

Now imagine you’re with a group of friends. And this group of friends decide that it’s time for nourishment. What comes next is inevitable, “Where the hell are we going to eat?” It’s an obvious progression of the conversation, and one that’s easily hurdled. A few people throw out ideas. Some are shot down, some are accepted. A consensus is taken, and the group heads off to discover new culinary frontiers.

Now, that would be the short version. But this is Bakersfield, California we’re talking about. Land of eight million dream-cicles. There is approximately one McDonald’s hamburger stand for every four people in Bakersfield (numbers are estimates only). Throw a rock out of any window, out of any building in Bakersfield, and you will hit a Carl’s Jr. Need to eat? Drive in a direction. Any direction.

Today, it was Indian food, served at Taj Mahal (5416 California Ave). Yes, that gastronomic delight from that country somewhere way over there. Curries, biryanis, and lassis (unfortunately, no bhang lassis on the menu here) served with a smile, or at the very least, some confused expressions. “You want an order each of cheese and spiced beef naan? And mango chutney? And lamb biryani? And a mango lassi?” Translation: “You are fat, American pig.”

The stunned waiter brought my food out dutifully, along with the food of my luncheon companion (who ordered shrimp tandoori, and gladly helped me with my feast as well). The lamb biryani was a little dry, but good. The naan was fantastic, though, and I had to order a second mango lassi when the first one mysteriously disappeared into my mouth. We feasted like royalty. Bakersfield royalty.

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