Obama Shawarma

Shawarma sandwich to predict outcome of US election?

Tonight's U.S. election is generating a lot of interest--with Toronto being no exception. There's no doubt that each election marks a bit of history-in-the-making, and Toronto's going above and beyond just putting the election front and centre on flat-screens around the city.

Paramount Fine Foods is injecting a bit of much-needed fun (and deliciousness) into the too-close-to-call and sure-to-be-polarizing proceedings by holding an election right here on Canadian soil.

Allow me to introduce the nominees. First up, the Obama Shawarma: grilled chicken in a wood-oven-fired pita, with spinach, tomato, and garlic mayo. Second, the Romney Shawarma, which sees grilled chicken in the same pita, with lettuce, fries and hummus. The two new, limited-time-only, and entirely halal sandwiches are part of the Presidential Shawarma poll, and both are available for $5.49. They can each be customized with pickled turnips, hot sauce, or tahini.

Several eateries in the U.S. are also doing this--D.C's Occidental offers one of "Ann Romney's M&M cookies" and one of "Michelle Obama's dark and white chocolate chip cookies" and a ballot, while The Lincoln puts two cocktails ("the Donkey" and "the Elephant") head to head. Paramount Fine Foods' poll (which began on Sunday and will continue until 6 p.m. tonight) is tallied live on a whiteboard, and sandwiches don't quite imitate life: as of yesterday, Obama's shawarma was leading with 65% to Romney's 35%, while actual U.S. polls have it as a much closer race.

The sandwiches (and the idea for the poll) were conceived by owner and chef Mohamad Fakih. Just try and parse the meaning behind the sandwiches--are the healthier options on the Obama a nod to his stance on healthcare, or the comparatively un-gourmet Romney toppings a jab at his flat delivery and conservative stances? Why doesn't Obama's shawarma come with hummus, when so much has been made of his publicly declared love for it?

It's all in good fun, and a way to diffuse some of the stress of yet another high-pressure election night. And underneath it all is Fakih's insistence that we Toronto voters are too apathetic when it comes to elections in our own city, and that anything that spurs on conversation about and engagement in the democratic process is, well, just gravy.

"Democracy is one of the best aspects of Canadian society," Fakih tells me, "and we don't want to take it for granted." He plans to create a similar poll for the Ontario elections, and when asked who he thinks will win, he says his vote lies with Obama. "His values are very close to those of Canada," Fakih says, and his sandwich is delicious: after all, the votes don't lie.

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