It’s this time of the month again and to welcome a spring that has been long coming, I give you Hind Rostom, Egypt’s answer to Rita Haywarth even if her wikipedia entry describes her as the Marilyn Monroe of Egypt. For me she is more like or actually tries to emulate Rita Haywarth. Anyhow, she could belly dance as well as jive or whichever western dance of the day. In French, I like to describe her as plantureuse, an affectionate term for generous curves. If you have seen La Grande Bouffe, you would remember Andrea Ferreol, the ultimate femme plantureuse whose generous behind helped Michel Piccoli (or was it Ugo Tognazzi?) flatten the pizza he was making. But back to Hind, I can’t say I adore her but I do like the way she moves and I love her belly dancers ensemble, most of whom are not particularly attractive but together they form a charming group even if there is something rather incongruous about an ensemble of belly dancers. Unlike ballerinas, you don’t really expect them to dance in sync.
For those of you who read my blog regularly, you will know about my camel hump adventures during the filming of Al Chef Yaktachef for Abu Dhabi TV. This was three years ago and from that day on, I have been wanting to write an article about camel hump. Finally I did. If you buy Lucky Peach’s Travel issue no. 7, you will find my piece with a picture of the sweet baby camel who gave up his life to provide me with the best camel hump I have ever eaten. Admittedly, I have not had so many but the few that I have tasted were nowhere near as good as this last one. And not so much because of my cooking skills, although I cooked it for less time than an Emirati cook would have, but mainly because the baby camel was a particularly fine milk-fed specimen. As a result, its meat was particularly tender.
If there is one food that is essential to most Arabs, it is bread and nowhere is it more essential than in Cairo which I like to call the city of bread. Wherever you go, you will see bread being baked, or sold, or consumed or simply carried home a little like the ubiquitous French baguette, except that in Egypt it is aysh baladi or shami that is the national loaf. Aysh means life indicating the importance of bread — elsewhere in the Arab world bread is called khobz — while baladi means local; it describes bread made with wholewheat flour while shami which means Levantine describes bread made with regular white flour.
Yesterday was our first day at Koshari Street, an Egyptian inspired vegetarian street food experience, and it was a great day. Everyone loved our koshari except for a few hardened souls (actually two and both male) wanting meat. So, I thought I’d do a post on Cairo butchers. Perhaps our next concept will be inspired by them. Or perhaps not. In any case, for those who crave meat there is plenty of it on the streets of Cairo and in particular all around the beautiful Al-Hussein mosque. It doesn’t take very long before you come across butchers hard at work like the one above, butchering their beef, lamb or camel carcasses in full view of passers-by.