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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Things I Miss 2, Donairs

I started this post days ago and for some reason just could not get anything written. One of the reasons for not writing other than a major case of laziness is, we recently found out my wife is pregnant. She has been sick the last few days, so this weekend I was playing with my son and keeping him out of trouble while she rested. My Mother-in-Law asked her at one point if there was anything she was craving and this got me to thinking about food cravings I have had, and more specifically, the one food that I have eaten that really left me feeling like a junkie.... Donairs.

A donair is similar to a gyro, but besides build and general look they are nothing alike. A donair starts with the meat, it is a spiced ground beef, instead of the lamb used in gyros. They press it into these large blocks and roast it on a spit. The meat is sliced off in thin strips and sometimes fried extra to make it crispy. This meat is then wrapped in a warmed (usually fried on one side) pita with tomatoes and onions and then comes the sauce. The sauce is what makes a donair special. It is a sweet and sour creamy garlic sauce, it is made by adding vinegar to cream (creating a curdle) with spices and sugar. the whole thing is then wrapped up tight in a foil wrapper and you are ready to eat.

Nova Scotia is the capital of the donair world, and as far as I can tell the Maritime provinces of Canada are the only places to get them. The first time I had a donair was when I was visiting Sydney, Nova Scotia for meeting, while I was stationed as a missionary in Newfoundland. The evening before my meeting we were staying with the missionaries in North Sydney and they told me how great donairs were, and that I needed to try one. My first donair was from a King of Donair, pizza place (in that area most pizza places sell donairs also). When it was delivered I was a little nervous. I wasn't a huge fan of gyros at the time and everyone said that is what they were like. I tentatively opened the foil and poked it a few times with my fork. It seemed harmless enough so I took my first bite.....and nearly gagged. Hoodwinked!, bamboozled!, I had been fooled (missionaries love to pull one over on the new guy), but the other missionaries kept insisting give it another shot, the taste grows on you. So reluctantly I kept eating, and to be honest I wasn't thrilled about it. I barely finished the rest of it off. That night the change took place, I don't know if there was a full moon or something, but I couldn't get the taste out of my mind. It started to consume me. For one month I thought about that donair, I could only describe it as the perfect junk food. It was greasy, salty, sweet, sour, and savory all in one foil wrapped package. Luckily, I was transfered to Sydney the next month and I was able to indulge myself again. This time the flavor was amazing and amidst a round of "we told you so's" I admitted it was indeed magnificent food.

I was perfectly happy eating the occasional donair while I was in Sydney, but one summer day we went to Dartmouth for a conference, and that all changed. The local missionaries suggested we go to a local donair shop called Roberts. I was game, the guys going to pick them up asked what size I wanted, and since I was extremely hungry I said "get the biggest one they have" and I gladly handed over my money. When they returned I was unprepared for the monstrosity that was about to be unleashed. This donair was literally the size of a nerf football. Theoretically you can eat these with your hands but this was so large and messy that utensils were required. This donair, besides being huge, was the best I had ever tasted. It was a bit spicier than some of the others, but to me it was perfect. I was sad that these donairs were going to be so far away when I went back to Sydney, but once again I was transfered a month later. This time to Halifax just across the bay from Dartmouth, and a short bus ride away from Roberts. I served for 6 months in Halifax, and I loved it there. I was able to satisfy my donair desires at least once a month. After my time in Halifax, I was transfered to Annapolis Royal, and even though I could get a donair, it wasn't the same.

Soon my mission ended, and with it any and all contact with donairs for many sad years. Every once in a while I would get a craving so strong I would salivate. It was insane, I needed to find a way to get a donair. The internet is an amazing thing, and soon I was able to find some recipes online. Various incarnations over the years ended in my utter and bitter disappointment, until several weeks ago, when I decided to give the internet another shot and I found a recipe for a garlic, cream and vinegar sauce that sounded kind of disgusting....this was intriguing could it really be the sauce I was looking for. I excitedly told my wife about the recipe, and once again she looked at me like I was some sort of raving lunatic. Undaunted by naysayers, I went to work and followed the recipe. Joy!, I had discovered it. I quickly shared it with my wife, but once again she was dubious of my creations. She finally did try it and she didn't hate it, but didn't love it either. I told her don't worry..... the taste will grow on you.


Tamara said...

See, we have doner's (spelled this way, not donair)here in Germany. But, I have to tell you what is different than what you posted.

Gyro here is Pork meat. Doner's is Lamb's meat. Done exactly as you mentioned.

I will make sure the next doner I eat, that I will be thinking of you. :)

And for the record, even though it might be a tad different than in Canada, you would LOVE them!

J. Scott Horn said...

Mindy mentioned those to me but she said they tasted differently. I am sure I would like them though I even like gyros more now because of donairs.

Tamara Wheeler said...

I personally don't like Gyros. But Donar Kebaps.....I could eat them almost every day!

When we first moved here, I saw a tv show where they showed how they make them and what is in them. They said on average, each person in Germany eats 4 Donar Kepabs a year. I had that beat, since I was eating 4 in a month, easily!

J. Scott Horn said...

When I was on my mission I could have eaten them more often, but now I don't know if I could. My metabolism isn't what it used to be. =0)