It is the first time I post a blog from the plane which is kind of fun even if the connection sucks. Anyway, I am on my way to Ohio via NYC to present at a new conference which sounds both interesting and fun and my presentation is about Syrian women who use their cooking skills to earn money without having to leave their home by preparing vegetables for Souk el-Tanabel, or the lazy people’s souk. I once wrote briefly about it for Saveur magazine and while researching the piece, I went to visit Besbuss, an amazing lady who chops parsley for a living to sustain herself and her two boys. They lived in Kafar Sousseh which has been heavily affected by the uprising and the regime’s monstrous response to it. I do hope she and her boys are OK. They must be young men now. In any case, if any of you are in Ohio, come and join us and if not, I am sure some of the presentations will be posted online. Until then, I leave you with a picture of one of the displays in the souk of cored, shelled and peeled vegetables. Each type will have been prepared by one woman whose speciality will be coring, or peeling, or chopping, or shelling. Almost as if you had your own chef but remotely!
Today is a momentous day in Egypt. A year to the day since Morsi was elected, and hundreds of thousands are back in Tahrir Square to demonstrate against what many see as his failed presidency and to ask him to leave. Irhal (leave) they are shouting or mish 3ayzinaq (we don’t need you)! Well, I wish I could have been in Cairo now despite the heat instead of a few weeks ago. Would be quite fascinating. Still, it was pretty wonderful then, especially the evening we spent watching Magda cook a few dishes, including mumbar (stuffed ox intestines) and mehshi waraq 3enab (stuffed vine leaves) before feasting on them. We have both dishes in Lebanon but the Egyptian versions are quite different. Read more >
I will always regret it. The year must have been 2002, perhaps even earlier. I had rented a flat in Barcelona to test recipes for my offal book and was there for 3 weeks. During that time, I could have easily gone to El Bulli whenever I wanted. I had a well-connected friend who would have organised it for me — in fact he had organised an amazing offal dinner at Can Fabes and an exquisite lunch at Ca L’Isidre where the owner gave me their recipe for tripe. But El Bulli was far and I was not so taken by molecular cuisine after a disappointing meal at the Fat Duck. So, I didn’t even try to get a booking. Then it became incredibly difficult to get in and now it is closed. Since then, I decided never to miss eating at a restaurant I was interested in even if it means travelling. Last year I went to Noma and I am just back from Faviken where I had the most amazing dinner followed by a terrific breakfast in the most serene if slightly ascetic atmosphere.
My first impression as I flew to Stockholm was both good and bad. Good because despite the plane being packed with children, it was a surprisingly restful flight with hardly any noise and lovely service — I should have added beautiful manners to the title of this post; every Swede I met on this trip was delightful except, that is, for the gruff sandwich tart lady (you will find her later in the post). They are really the most charming people in Europe! The bad impression which thankfully was fleeting was due to my vision of all Swedes as tall, blond and beautiful and there weren’t many on the plane. But this changed as soon as I landed. Wherever I went, I had to stop myself staring at gorgeous men and women. Fortunately, I was able to stare at the beautiful young man in the picture above taken at Saluplats Husman in the fabulous Hötorgshallen as he served us the most delicious meatballs and a wallenbarger (a very soft large meatball made with veal, eggs and cream).