When your local kebab spot goes viral

When my friend Shay added me to the Halal Snack Pack Appreciation Society Facebook page, I am not ashamed to admit that I was pretty confused. An entire page devoted to kebab shop snack packs? How is this a thing? Being the curious person that I am, I decided to stick around.

For the uninitiated, the Halal Snack Pack is a box containing hot chips, doner kebab meat, cheese, and sauce. From what I can gather, there are a few specific details: the chips must have chicken salt. No vegetable should adorn the meal. The sauce needs to be either chilli and garlic, or bbq and garlic – tomato sauce is not permitted, and will result in scorn and abuse from other HSP aficionados. It is preferred that the meal is served in a styrofoam container, however both cardboard boxes and plates are permissible in certain circumstances.

bbq hsp
HSP with BBQ sauce

The purpose of the HSPAS is to provide passionate snack pack consumers with a place to share reviews, recommendations and photos of the humble meal. A celebration of greasy goodness. Given that the membership of the group is currently sitting at over eighteen thousand members, it is safe to say that love for this combination of carbs, grease, and protein is felt widely throughout the community.

As I spent more and more time perusing the reviews and interactions of fellow members on the page, I noticed that some of the most popular and highly regarded kebab shops on the HSPAS are in the Greater Western Sydney area. As a resident of South West Sydney, this excited me immensely. Not only was it some wonderful, free publicity for the many hardworking family owned kebab shops in the area, it also meant that I was living in the snack pack hub of the entire state! In fact, one of the most popular HSP spots was a mere five minute drive from my home. And, as Shay was the person who introduced me to the wonders of the HSP, I knew that she was the person I wanted to share this momentous occasion with.

before hsp
Shay and I, pre-HSP

So on a warm Saturday night, Shay and I dragged our families for an early meal at Watsup Brothers at Condell Park. Watsup has been my family’s preferred kebab shop for several years, but I had never experienced their HSP – in fact, I had not tried one at all. I was a HSP virgin. and Watsup was about to pop my HSP cherry. I was very excited.

In preparation for this momentous occasion, I had refrained from eating any substantial amount of food all day. This was actually pretty easy, I worked all night, so half the day was spent sleeping. The only time my resolve was tested was when I was found myself face to face with the BBQ in front of Bunnings – since Bunnings snag sangas are for the purpose of fundraising, I consider them to be calorie free, and I rarely leave the establishment without one. But I stayed strong, reminded myself that my discipline would soon be rewarded, and carried on, like a true HSP warrier woman.

I went in and ordered. Two mixed meat snack packs with chilli and garlic sauce, and one chicken with tomato sauce for the kids to share. While I realise that tomato sauce is not permissible as a HSP condiment, rules are meant to be broken, and hungry kids with the wrong sauce are a force like no other. I wanted to savour this moment without the unnecessary interruptions that HSP purity may have caused.

chilli hsp
O….M….G My HSP with chilli and garlic sauce

Not ten minutes later, the snack packs were on the table. Served in cardboard boxes, with plastic forks, they were massive. I’m not kidding. If I hadn’t spent the day preparing myself through fasting, there is no way I would have come even close to finishing it. The hot meat was smothered in sauce, and mixed with cheese. The smell was amazing. I took my little plastic fork, and dug in.

It was amazing. The chilli sauce was simultaneously sweet and spicy. It was complemented perfectly by the creamy bite of the fresh garlic sauce. Both condiments covered the meal in generous proportions. The chips, still hot and crisp under the huge pile of meat, were seasoned with kebab shop style chicken salt. And the meat. Oh, the meat! Fresh, hot, thin pieces of meat that had clearly been shaved directly off the rotisserie.

kids hsp
Getting a photo of these two while they shoved their faces proved rather difficult. 

A quick check on the kids showed them equally enthused by their own meal. So enthused that it was impossible to get a photo of them smiling together – neither of them could resist shoving another forkful into their gobs. With the exception of the odd satisfied moan, we cheerfully stuffed our faces in silence.

Despite denying myself that Bunnings snag, and spending the entirety of my waking hours in a meditative state in preparation for this snack pack experience, in the end, the snack pack won. I simply could not finish it. I came close, but the box was the approximate weight of a newborn baby, and my stomach can only expand so much. It was delicious, however, to the very end.

My best snack pack effort
I got so close. SO CLOSE. I had a massive food baby happening when I got to this point!

We left Watsup Brothers with full bellies, and a new appreciation for my brothers and sisters in the HSPAS. Their dedication to this humble and delicious meal, their passion, their guidance. If you only make one commitment this year, make it a commitment to the consumption of a Halal Snack Pack. You won’t regret it.

shay me full
Post-HSP. So full of snacky goodness!
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Thanks, bigots!

THANK YOU MEME

This afternoon, I was tagged in one of those ‘anniversary” posts on Facebook. You know, the ones where Facebook posts photos of you and your friend together, with the heading “friends on Facebook for (insert number) years.” This particular friendship was celebrating it’s first anniversary as a Facebook friendship, and it came about in some pretty unusual circumstances.

Towards the end of 2014, my local area became pretty passionately divided about the prospect of a mosque being built in an industrial cul-de-sac. This divide became the source of numerous debates on social media, some of which were incredibly nasty. As the admins of the community pages became frustrated with the constant bickering, pages were created specifically for the issue: ‘Stop the Mosque’, ‘Support the Mosque’, even ‘Debate the Mosque’ pages popped up.

Not being known for keeping quiet on these issues, I frequently found myself involved in debates on the issues. My youngest was only a baby at the time, and many a night feed was passed with me desperately attempting to combat irrational hate and stereotypes with rational, factual argument. Some of the concerns were genuine- worries about infrastructure and traffic, for example – but at the same time, too many were nothing more than poorly disguised hatred. It saddened me, seeing so much ill-informed hate in my multicultural area.

Not long after my online career as a “leftard Muslim apologist” started, another frequent poster approached me, and we began to chat. And soon after, I found myself chatting with other people, of various different faiths and backgrounds, all of whom shared my opinions on the matter. Soon, there was a little group of us, discussing all sorts of things. It was sometimes serious, often frivolous discussion, and it was exactly what I needed. Our little group quickly went from a bunch of people who argued on the internet, to a group of friends who met up for coffee while our kids played.

So, to the bigots far and wide, who tried to force their hatred and intolerance on my little local area, THANK YOU. Without your fearmongering and abuse, I would have missed out on so many opportunities. I might never have met these women, who I now count as my friends, and who treat me like family. Women, who provide me with hours of laughter, who never judge me when I ask a stupid question, and who openly and honestly answer my often random questions.

Over the last 18 months, I have been invited to events that I otherwise would probably not have even thought of attending. I have connected with various members of local political and religious groups, spoken with activists, helped serve food to people in need. I rode a camel at the Eid festival. I shared Iftar with a friend and her family. Bigots, your hateful rhetoric indirectly influenced my life in more positive ways that I can begin to count.

The initial DA for a multi-purpose community centre has been approved now, and the various Facebook pages devoted to it are reasonably quiet now. It’s pretty rare these days to see the kind of debates that were raging just a few months ago. The friendships I have gained, however, continue to grow. I sincerely hope these are the kind of friendships that last the duration, it certainly feels like they might be.

Bigots, at this stage you have not succeeded in denying the rights to religious freedom to members of our local community. I guess, from your perspective, this is a huge setback. I however, am extremely grateful to have been a part of so many interesting debates with you. Regardless of whether I agreed with your viewpoint or not, I cannot deny that I learnt a lot from it. And of course, I am grateful for my beautiful friends. So again,  I thank you.

THANKS 2

It’s 3am, I must be crazy.

I have worked shift work for the majority of my adult life. For so long, in fact, that I would not even know how to function in a regular 9-5 type working environment these days.

night shift vampire

There is plenty to say about shift work. About the positives, the negatives, the sleep deprivation. The statistics that indicate health risks associated with unsociable hours. The tendency for shift workers to struggle with weight gain and physical activity. But I’m not going to say anything about that. There are plenty of studies and articles that say it way better than I ever could.

There is a strange phenomena that occurs in the wee hours of the morning. When the rest of the world is quiet and sleeping, and the night is dark and cool. Around the 3am mark, shift workers around the world start to get a little…..well I guess crazy. We lose the ability to discern between appropriate and inappropriate subject matter. We laugh hysterically at things that would make “normal” people cringe. We completely and utterly lose the plot. If you ever wake up suddenly at 3am, and hear the faint sound of sleep deprived cackling in the far off distance, do not start to doubt your sanity. It’s probably the sound of your local graveyard shifters hitting the 3am sillies in perfect unison.

4AM MEME

At 3am, subjects cease to be taboo. Anything and everything can be discussed. Loudly, honestly, and often with tears of laughter burning in streams out of tired eyes. We forget how to censor ourselves. We become brutally brash.

I doubt that our conversations would be acceptable in any other professional environment. I doubt, for example, that it would be considered correct office etiquette to have a loud and lengthy chat regarding the consistency of poo if I were a legal secretary. I feel that an in depth discussion (including detailed description)  about the existence of blue waffle* would not sit well in the offices of an insurance company. And I’m certain that a rousing game of “Who would you have sex with for a million dollars” would not be taken so lightly if it were played in the teacher’s lounge of a local primary school.

night shift conversation meme

The subject matter discussed at 3am is diverse. I’ve been educated on topics that I would never even consider thinking about at 3pm. I’ve been treated to detailed and entertaining discourse on edging,  true confessions about gastro, and have partaken in impromptu “let’s fix your sex life while trying to keep our eyes open” counselling sessions. I once watched an ordinarily mild-mannered coworker demonstrate graphically what she would do if she ever had the chance to bed Leo DeCaprio. I have shared my own wisdom, and educated an innocent friend on the act of teabagging (something which I had only recently been made aware of myself).

night shift funny cat

Generally, these conversations are punctuated with hysterical laughter, a combination of genuine amusement and sheer exhaustion. Even when the subject manner is deep, there is something about being awake and forced to work at 3am that makes laughter possible. I think we need to be able to laugh. It’s lonely when the world is asleep. Shift workers often work closely together for long periods of time, at a time when social conventions no longer apply. We also often work in jobs that are emotionally draining, which makes the silliness seem essential.

If you ever happen to find yourself awake at 3am, give a thought to the night shifters you know. And then think about the grossest, most amusing thing that you could think of. And laugh, because they are probably thinking about that, too.

*Feel free to google this. Fair warning though- it is most certainly not safe for work. It is also a good idea not to be eating at the time of search

night shift time troubles
Night shift time confusion is real

I was supposed to post about New Year’s resolutions, and about how my husband and I have decided to make 2016 about experiences instead of material objects. But 3am got the better of me. Anyhoo, I would love to hear about any cultural festivals, art shows, or family events that I can experience this year. Anything, really. Especially things that I can involve the kids in. Find me on Facebook and drop me a line if you know of anything in the Sydney and surrounding areas that you think I might be interested in attending.