The Great and Terrible Lie of “Today’s Special”

Part 1

Right before I moved away from the Philippines, I made one of the most remarkable purchases of my life. I felt like it was time for a new phone, and upon visiting my neighbourhood mall I was bewildered by the number of kiosks selling a range of completely unrecognizable, totally no-name Android phones at dirt cheap prices. In the end, I settled on a model from Firefly Mobile, which boasted remarkable specs for a remarkably low price of approximately $100 US. The phone ended up serving me well, its 3GB of RAM allowing me to clutter up the memory space with idle apps, and the Sony camera lens took some pretty good pictures – Even if most of the pictures in my blog don’t exactly bear this claim out.

I began raving to my friends about my magical cheapie phone, though my ardour was somewhat dampened by the fact that I left the Philippines two weeks after buying this seemingly Philippine-only brand. I only encountered one other person who ever owned a Firefly phone, and I accepted that Firefly was doomed to be one more thing among many that only I, the great bearer of that terrible burden of solitary enlightenment, can truly love and appreciate.

A year later, I returned to the Philippines to catch up with old friends and, most importantly, to see the dogs that I had given up for adoption. I stayed in an Airbnb, a tiny studio unit in a condo complex attached to a mall. The mall had its own forlorn little Firefly kiosk, which I would pass by each day. The kiosk would either be staffed by an extremely bored-looking woman with no customers, or would be empty.

The kiosk was also adorned with a little sign announcing a 3 Day Sale. (3 Day Sales are a bit thing in the Philippines.) After a few days of walking by, I gradually realized that the 3 Day Sale had lasted more than a week. From the time I started paying attention to the time I moved out of that Airbnb, the 3 Day Sale must have lasted a good week.

Given what I assume must have been their sheer desperation to sell an excellent product that nobody really wants, I can hardly blame them for their somewhat pathetic ploy. I felt great pity, and great sorrow over the fact that such lowly subterfuge is necessary in an unjust world where quality does not speak for itself.


Part 2

Back when I was staying in the Cheras area of Kuala Lumpur, there was a mamak restaurant nearby. “Mamak” basically refers to a Malaysianified version of South Indian Muslim cuisine. Every KL city block worth its weight in concrete pretty much has its own mamak restaurant, where you can sit and drink tea for hours while being served by sometimes aloof, sometimes wonderfully friendly South Asian immigrants.

The mamak near my condo in Cheras wasn’t the worst mamak ever – I’m pretty sure I’ve figured out which one that is, and it’s in Damansara, but no, I won’t tell you the name. However, this particular mamak was mediocre at best. The roti canai wasn’t especially flaky, and the curry was serviceable rather than stellar. Worst of all, when I would get teh “O” ais limau kosong bungkus (unsweetened iced lemon tea with no milk, for take-out), my giant plastic bag of tea with a straw in it would contain an inexplicable but unmistakable fishy flavour.

Among the trays of not-especially-appealing food on display was one marked “Today’s special – Rendang ayam”. Now, ayam (chicken) rendang is one of the greatest Malaysian dishes, which also means it’s one of the greatest human dishes. However, the vaguely racist but incredibly helpful food-related ethnic stereotypes I developed in Malaysia taught me that I should only buy my rendang from a matronly Malay lady in a headscarf. To be fair, I never did try the rendang at that mamak, and perhaps I would have been pleasantly surprised. But over my three weeks of irregularly visiting that restaurant to get my fill of fishy tea – and I emphasize that it was the only mamak in the vicinity – I became more fascinated by the fact that the “Today’s Special” sign was an unchanging daily fixture in the restaurant. Like some sort of hellish Groundhog Day of palm oil, it seemed that I could not escape from the daily sight of that fermenting lake of spices and grease. I guess you could say that today’s special… wasn’t so special after all.


Part 3

I write this from Guanajuato, Mexico, an old mining town that is a gorgeously surrealistic dream of colourful old heritage buildings. In fact, the city is so distressingly vivid that it has increased my suspicion that I am actually living in a simulation – more on that in another post.

The germane point here, however, is that I regularly walk by a fairly mediocre family-run restaurant with a menu board posted outside. I’ve fallen victim to the convenient location and family hospitality of this restaurant a couple of times, but have come to realize that the food isn’t especially good. Now the restaurant serves mostly as a daily source of amusement because of – you guessed it – the “daily” specials posted outside. For 2 or 3 days running, they have proudly advertised their “Comida del Dia”, which is Enchiladas Mineras. I don’t know what a Miner Enchilada is, and I refuse to take the 15 seconds of Googling it would take to find out, but I’m hoping it’s similar to the Enmoleadas that I had at the main town market in Guanajuato. These enmoleadas were delicious – although basically enchiladas made with tortillas, they were in actuality more like crepes, filled with cream cheese and covered in sweet mole. (That’s mo-lay, a finely ground Mexican sauce, and not mole, an animal that lives under the ground.)

So without knowing exactly what Enchiladas Mineras are, I can safely posit three assertions regarding them:

  1. They are probably made with mole (Because moles are animals that live underground, you see)
  2. They are a good source of minerals (Hehehehehe)
  3. No matter which language you say it in, “Today’s Special” is TOTAL FUCKING BULLSHIT.


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