Things have changed a lot in my little boonie city since I first arrived. It used to be I would go out to a dirt/rubble road (with chickens and dogs running freely) to a little shack or food cart to get my dinner and pray I didn’t get food posioning because there was no running water. Now, that street is smoothed, paved, and bustling with dozens of shops and business.
Before when I wanted to get “western food” my options were limited to KFC (of which we had three, Chinese people love KFC) or a fancy, expensive restaurant whose idea of a hamburger was a lump of grey meat on a sweet flavored bun. Now we have 4 KFC’s a Walmart and not one Pizza Hut, but two. Yes, two! (Though I’m not a fan.) We have yet to have a McDonalds or Starbucks, but my town did take a giant leap into the modern world with the addition of my favorite fast food chain in the world…….SUBWAY!!!
Getting a fresh sandwich, on non-sweet bread is impossible in China, and whenever I travel to other, bigger cities, my first stop is always a Subway just to have something different from the norm (Chinese people tend not to eat veggies that are uncooked, so even just fresh, crisp veggies can make my day) So I can’t believe I’ve now got one so close to home that I can go to whenever I feel like it.
I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised that we have a Subway before a McDonalds as Subway is now the largest fast food chain in the world, but it still is surprising to me. I think of Lin’an as a one-pony town, but these days it’s more like a two-pony town, maybe even three.
Seeing this Subway made me think of my favorite Subway in the world, a small little stand alone shack in Shanghai.
So why is this one my favorite? It’s not because the food is especially good, or the workers especially nice. It’s because of the memories.
The first time I went there was the night after my friends wedding. We had a fancy lunch, but a casual Subway dinner because the bride was starved and we were headed out for a night of drinking. That night was especially fun, and changed my point-of-view on a lot of things, and it all started at that Subway.
The next time I went I met my best friend Color there. We hadn’t seen each other in months, and as we were meeting at lunchtime, I suggested that Subway. It was so much fun seeing him and catching up while eating yummy food. (though to be honest I was just so happy to see him I didn’t really taste my food, more like scarfed it down between breaths.)
Since I have a growing group of friends in Shanghai I have been going there more and more. I now have a “usual” hostel which happens to be right near this Subway. Every time I arrive in Shanghai my first stop, even before I go to the hostel, is this Subway. So now eating at this Subway is a subconscious signal to me that I’m about to have a great time. My own Pavlovian bell if you will.
I know some of you are reading this with disgust wondering why I am talking about Subway of all things. After all, I live in strange exotic China, I should be talking about Chinese food, right?! Remember, everyday I eat Chinese food, so western food, even a humble sandwich is a rare treat for me. Also, as life in China becomes a more permanent thing for me, I’m looking for ways to combine what I liked back in America with my life in China. And this new little Subway is just the thing I wanted. Now, I wonder when Outback Steakhouse will be coming here…..