Joss Whedon‘s The Avengers was chock full of dazzling scenes, but one of the most memorable was a seemingly offhanded remark about, of all things, shawarma. (If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, be warned that spoilers follow from here on out.) But it seems the team’s craving for grilled meat wasn’t just about the characters working up an appetite after fighting extraterrestrial evil all day.

An eagle-eyed Whedonite has pointed out that the filmmaker may have been inspired by Nicholas Brendon‘s audition for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, dating Whedon’s love of the Arabic dish to at least the mid-’90s. Watch the video evidence after the jump.

The quip in question comes after the big climactic fight sequence in The Avengers. The team crowds around an unconscious Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), fearing the worst. When he comes to, however, he seems his old smart-mouthed self again, and even suggests a team outing for some shawarma. Fast-forward past the closing credits, and lo and behold, the battered heroes are chowing down on Middle Eastern food in silence.

YouTube user Buffyfan45 (via Cinema Blend) noticed something a little familiar about the gag, and dug up the following clip from a DVD extra on the Buffy the Vampire Chosen Collection set. In it, Whedon explains how the word “shawarma” landed Brendon his job.

The Avengers joke apparently came about during filming. The scene originally called for Iron Man to ask “What’s next?” upon awakening, but Downey pushed for some snappier dialogue and Whedon acceded. It’s not clear which of them came up with that exact line. Given the similarities between Whedon’s explanation here and the Avengers quote, though, seems quite possible that the director had his old Buffy star in mind when he tossed the line to Downey.

In any case, the quip has since become one of the most-referenced lines in The Avengers. And it’s had real-world consequences as well; in the weeks after the superhero flick’s release, restaurants across the country reported a spike in sales of the spiced dish. If I were being really nitpicky, I’d point out the implausibility of a cultured, well-traveled billionaire who resides in a major American city having no idea what shawarma is, but it seems worth a little suspension of disbelief for the post-credits payoff and the cool Buffy reference.

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