Friday, March 25, 2011

He who distinguishes the true savor of his food can never be a glutton; he who does not cannot be otherwise. ~Henry David Thoreau

Wow, where does the time go? It’s already been a week and a half since the last posting.
As promised, I will devote an entire posting (although, more would be required to adequately cover this subject) to food. And, there's a lot of it here. With a country comprised almost entirely of expats, there's bound to be a variety. There’s an amazing selection of restaurants, although our favorite is Marroush. And while it’s convenient at a half block away, it’s also incredibly good. The shawarma is ready everyday at 6:30. We eat there maybe once a week. And for those who have expressed concern that Sam isn’t eating. No worries, we’ve found a pizza restaurant, and we eat there once a week as well (to prevent nutritional shock).
The produce section at the grocery store has been an education. Even for me, whom I consider to be a well-versed cook. I purchase a Middle Eastern cookbook this past weekend, and made the baki mussaka (eggplant with spaghetti). It turned out well, and since I made a little portion for Sam with only jarred spaghetti sauce, he did manage to keep from retching. As far as home cooking is concerned, that’s where the fun begins (at least for me). There are stores ranging from the hyper markets to “convenience” stores that would fit in most people’s living rooms. On Facebook, I’ve tried to update with photos with my latest “experiments.” I’ve made kofta with rice, kheer, and the aforementioned eggplant. Which, I couldn’t get the children to eat, unless I called it “aubergines.” Everything sounds fancier in French, I suppose. Not to worry, though, I’ve stayed true to my southern roots, and have made macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, and biscuits (much to the amazement of Belatu). I somehow got the impression her previous employer did not cook. And, you won’t believe it y’all! I even found buttermilk!
But back to the produce section. I cannot begin to describe how amazing it is. I never knew there were so many types of mangoes (they are just as passionate about their mangoes as we are about apples). And, I can find vegetables I’ve only seen in exotic cookbooks (although, interestingly enough, molasses is in the “ethnic food” section). We’ve had produce from across the globe (primarily Asia and Africa), and while I’ve tried to keep it local (our favorite has still been dragon fruit) —I realize that it’s really no different than purchasing strawberries from California in December when I lived in North Carolina. But, there are amazing farmers’ markets and we’re already becoming familiar faces. The kids are great at scoring free pitas right off the line.
Since I shop at least three times a week, the quality is much fresher. We are eating vegetarian meals at least twice a week. Since few preservatives are used, as well as less salt and sugar, the flavors are much clearer in the meals. Therefore, we eat less as well.
Combined with walking more, we’re becoming healthier overall. So, come visit and let us take you on a culinary adventure!

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all. ~Harriet van Horne

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival." ~Winston Churchill

There are a few topics I want to cover, so I’ll give you a preview for the next few blogs:
1. Food (yes, Sam is eating)
2. Enterprise
3. Observations of a Foreigner
For now, my thoughts revolve around Japan. My heart breaks for the people and their country. I am continually inspired by the footage of the indomitable human spirit, the triumph of caring for others over horrific tragedy, and moved to tears as loved ones are reunited. One particular story I will remember, a group of high schoolers in a shelter with their remaining community made banners for the gymnasium saying, “Do your best.” These students had lost everything, some were unable to locate their families, but they felt it was their duty to lift up the spirits of those around them. This is truly taking something good out of a horrendous situation. I am inspired by their bravery, selflessness, and compassion.
As we continue our new lives in the UAE, I am reminded again at how lucky I am to have my family with me.
Typically, I insert a quote that summarizes the post, this time is no different.
“That was rough.... Thing to do now is try and forget it.... I guess I don't quite mean that. It's not a thing you can forget. Maybe not even a thing you want to forget.... Life's like that sometimes... Now and then for no good reason a man can figure out, life will just haul off and knock him flat, slam him agin' the ground so hard it seems like all his insides is busted. But it's not all like that. A lot of it's mighty fine, and you can't afford to waste the good part frettin' about the bad. That makes it all bad.... Sure, I know - sayin' it's one thing and feelin' it's another. But I'll tell you a trick that's sometimes a big help. When you start lookin' around for something good to take the place of the bad, as a general rule you can find it.” ~From the movie Old Yeller

Friday, March 4, 2011

Family in the UAE

Many of you know I have an off-color sense of humor. Especially when it comes to my children. They do crazy things, and it's better to laugh at the situations (i.e., Thomas getting his head stuck in the cat condo), than to react in various other ways. Often, I complain. But, it is with love and sincerity. Most of my comments are meant to be funny. Those that know the children know how funny they are. Just read some of my Facebook status updates.
I was not unaware of my blessings. Before we moved, several people asked if I'd miss being in the States (of course) or couldn't understand how we'd be able to be so far from "home." My answer was always, "My home is where my family is." This brings me to my point. . .
We are incredibly lucky to be here as a family. I can't tell you the number of taxi drivers and maintenance men we've met who have family in other countries. Belatu has a 10 year old daughter in Addis. They come for a chance at a better life for their families. Wiring money on the weekends and hoping for an opportunity at a phone call. Not unlike immigrants all over the world.
Yesterday, we had a cab driver from Pakistan who asked the usual questions. "Are all those yours?" "Why such a small family (yes, we were ALL in the car)?" "Where are you from?" When we told him America, he said, "Ah, this you are very lucky." Sam agreed, discussing having a good job, being American, being educated, etc. Mr. Khan answered, "No, because you are here together." Emphasizing 'together' by clasping his hands.
As he talked about his infant daughter in Pakistan, I took a moment to look at each child and be grateful that we were all crammed into the 5-seat taxi together.
As is typical, I found a quote that sums up the post: “Our most basic instinct is not for survival but for family. Most of us would give our own life for the survival of a family member, yet we lead our daily life too often as if we take our family for granted.” ~Paul Pearshall