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Illustration/Joyce Wong

A walk along the storefronts of Bloor Street West feels like a walk across the floor of the culinary United Nations. Sushi, burritos, sammis, shawarmas—the taste of the strip traverses at least five continents in just a few blocks.


But how wide is our collective palate, really? Yes, many take pride in chopstick dexterity, or the ability to pronounce fajita with an ethnic ‘hee’ sound (or feign ignorance for laughs). But our tastebuds know no pretence.


Carb. Meat. Carb.


This is the sacred formula rooted deeply in the human psyche. The sandwich: bread, then meat, than bread. Shawarma: same deal. Burrito: the bread comes in the form of a tortilla, but nonetheless—first carb, then meat, then carb again on the other side. Sushi may seem like a curveball, but don't let the rice throw you—this is just a diced rice-burrito.


Try those four foods and you can rest assured you’re not a food racist—and your tastebuds will be none the wiser.


But tread carefully. Like anything sacred, the carb-meat-carb formula is not to be truffled with. Sure, use the inside of a squash as pasta; go ahead, send an eggplant emoji as a coy phallus. These liberties can be overlooked in the name of free expression.


But offending the sanctity of the carb-meat-carb tradition crosses the line.


In 2010, Kentucky Fried Chicken launched the notorious Double Down in Nebraska, putting bacon between two fried chicken fillets. While the sandwich was intended to make a boldly progressive culinary statement, many denounced the it as distasteful. Some critics went so far as to say that the meat-meat-meat sandwich was intentionally provocative and meant to offend.


Nonetheless, the Double Down spread around the world, with thousands of franchises following suit in reproducing the obscenity across the western world. Even KFC owners in South Par... Africa sold a bacon-free version. While the ingredients were halal, the concept remained deeply haram.


As cosmopolitan as many storefronts are, our tastes still bend towards familiarity. While we delight in embracing “everything” that a culture has to offer, there are some doors that we would prefer to stay closed, lest they offend something we hold sacred.


I mean, like the carb-meat-carb rule.


So, feel free indulge yourself in pronouncing ‘salaam’ with a little Arabic flair, but be careful not to trespass on anything sacred. Just smile, bury your face into the familiar taste of a carb-meat-carb shawarma, and enjoy. No problem.

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