Sixteen with a Shake
It's been kind of hectic round here lately, so the kitchen has been quiet. To the point that when asked what was for dinner last Friday night, I replied "It's Nando's or toast".
Nando's is a takeaway chain, which serve Portuguese-South African Peri-Peri marinated chicken. Plus great chips (Peri-Peri or plain), salads, pitas and the works. Growing up, Peri-Peri chicken was a rare treat, as the spicy chilli marinade was not available in Australia, and only occasionally would a bottle find its way to us from friends overseas. I can remember clearly one of my uncles - not a man usually disturbed by culinary passions - excitedly telling us that a Nando's had opened here.
The Nando's chicken is better than most takeaway ones - they insist on marinating it for 24 hours and then cooking it to order - but it doesn't match the plump juicy roasted pieces that my mother would pull from a hot oven. It's still not to be sneezed at though. Unusually for me, I ordered a Supremo Burger. I am not a Burger Girl but I recalled eating half of Figman's burger last time and knew that it would not be welcomed again. There was a new burger, in a "fresh baked Portuguese roll", so I went for that, plus caramelized onions and a large chips.
It took about 10 minutes for our order to be cooked (fancy that at McDonalds?) and while I waited, I watched a group of teenage girls at the counter. They would have been about sixteen or seventeen, and this was just the beginning of their weekend. Friends came in from the carpark to join them and the odd boyfriend hung around, but everything centred on these girls. It brought back memories of being sixteen, and going down to the local Red Rooster or Pizza Hut with a cluster of my friends. We would eat chips with chicken salt or vanilla thickshakes and just talk and laugh for hours. The night would bring fun - whether it was simply sleeping over at somebody's house and watching videos till 3 or trying to get into inappropriate nightclubs. And despite the occasional boy or interfering parent or the supposed demands of high school, this time was all about us. Just us.
I don't have any desire to be sixteen again. But the memory of that closeness does pull at my heart sometimes. So I eat a chip and a fantastic burger and watch a group of sixteen year old girls begin their lives.