Sunday, May 8, 2011

The more you eat, the less flavor; the less you eat, the more flavor. ~Chinese Proverb

I'm on the road to recovery. The experience with the doctor was great. Although, hopefully one I won't have to repeat.
A few things happened that have caused some twinges of homesickness. Easter being one, of which I spoke a little about in a previous post.
Mother’s Day was a little strange. Very anticlimactic and I realized the reason for that is the lack of commercials on most of the TV channels. There are no commercials on the children’s channels (which makes holidays MUCH nicer). Also, Sunday is a workday, so no pressure for an all day celebration. The kids made cards and we went for ice cream.
But, honestly, the thing that set me back in my homesickness was a recent “Throwdown with Bobby Flay.” He was competing with a guy in Raleigh making ribs and baked beans. I almost cried. Okay, not really. But, it struck me at how much food is part of our identities. And here’s where I’m going to get controversial. I like Eastern AND Western barbecue equally. Vinegar based, tomato based, just baste the hell out of it, and it’s good with me! They have pork sections in a couple of the groceries here, but it’s really not the same as what you can get back home. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to make some anyway.
Which led me my next thought (I realized here I think about food way too often). Everything is becoming fusion. It’s extremely difficult to find what would be labeled as Emirati cuisine. It’s all a mishmash of grilling and spices, the Mediterranean influences washing over and combining into something particularly unique to this area, but still tasting like something you’ve had before.
Think about your own cooking style. For me, I know there’s a huge southern, soul food influence. But, I also have my mother’s German influence and my Dad’s “experimental” flair (sometimes for the worst, his pumpkin orange raisin bread is a recipe that will stay buried deeply in the recesses of trial gone wrong). New Orleans is one of my favorite American cities, so I cook a lot of Cajun and the snobbier, Creole, cuisines as well. And now, I’m finding the Middle Eastern influence creeping in. And I realize, for cooks (professional and home), we’re just one big fusion of flavors. But, doesn’t it sound fancier? Fusion cuisine. As Americans, it shouldn’t be surprising. And for Abu Dhabi, with its myriad expatriate societies, I’ve yet to find one place that was strictly one ethnicity. It’s all a hodgepodge of flavors.
Try this the next time you eat. Take a minute to really taste your food (you’ll probably eat less this way, too). See if you can taste where the cultures merge.

Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity. ~Voltaire

Monday, May 2, 2011

Illness is the most heeded of doctors: to goodness and wisdom we only make promises; pain we obey. ~Marcel Proust

Those who keep up with us on Facebook know I've struggled with illness for most of April. And, I'm stubborn. Which can be advantageous in most respects, but not so much when I hold off seeing doctors.
So, the cough was getting worse. One point, I had a fever, and I thought, “Okay, this is the flu. What’s a doctor going to tell me?” Take Tylenol, get plenty of fluids, and rest.” I’m not hauling myself to the doctor for that. And, honestly, the idea of going to see a doctor in a foreign country scared me just a little bit.
After a couple more weeks of awful sleep, aching chest, and a cough that would just not give it a rest (I’ll leave out the grotesque details), I caved.
And, luckily, I did. This follows the experience:
I enter the hospital about 8:55 AM (Wow! It’s so clean and bright in here), and speak with the receptionist in GP. She asks what’s wrong and I list the maladies, she directs me to ENT. My expression must have prompted her to add, “They open at 9, but the office is probably open.” My look had nothing to do with my lack of comprehension, but the fact that I could just walk into a specialist’s office and be seen.
I take the elevator up to the second floor and gave the receptionist another run through of the ailments, and she asked me to have a seat. I waited 15 minutes before I saw the ENT. He did the typical things and recommended an x-ray and bloodwork. He told me the x-ray would be ready immediately, so return after that, but that the bloodwork “Would not be ready for some time.” Me, “When will it be ready?” Dr., “About 1 PM today.” I almost snickered, but then I realized he was serious.
After the recommended tests were completed, I met with the doctor again and he informed me I had a serious chest infection. I was almost chided for having waited so long. He wrote several prescriptions and I trudged downstairs, dreading the wait at the pharmacy. I gave the pharmacist my 8 pages of items and waited . . . about 10 minutes before they were ready.
Including the taxi ride to and from the flat, doctor visits, x-ray, lab, and pharmacy, I was gone around 90 minutes and spent about 170 dirhams for the doctor and pharmacy (which is around $45). I wasn’t charged for the bloodwork or x-ray.
I find myself comparing the States versus the UAE. It’s only natural. Sometimes, I think we get things better. Other times, they win out. This was a win on the UAE side. I understand healthcare is a sticky situation back home, but having been through a system of subsidized healthcare, I never felt I didn’t have choices. Quite the contrary, I had more. And, when things aren’t bogged down by bureaucracy, the system overall is more efficient. I go back on Friday, so I’ll let you know if it works just as well the second time around.

He who has health has hope; and he who has hope has everything. ~Arabic Proverb