Well, there had to be a redeeming feature. The boutique hotel we had just arrived in in Gaziantep was awful, a little like an Ottoman Adams house. Everything had an abandoned and dusty feel, even the dug up lane leading to it. Still, there was one advantage. I had spotted a qataifi (or sha’r in Arabic, meaning hair) maker right opposite. So, we decided to escape and go there to see how the pastry was made.
Here is the latest guest post by my lovely friend Charles Perry, this time on a Moroccan carrot soup together with a picture of gorgeous red carrots which I saw in the market in Ras el-Khaimah, a small emirate bordering Oman. I am not sure if the red carrots will work in this recipe but I can imagine the colour to be pretty spectacular.
Charles Perry: In 2001, I attended a food festival in Fes, Morocco. Ostensibly, we were there to hear talks about food history. From their titles, the lectures didn’t seem to be very deep, but I could scarcely tell because they were all in French. I sat there bored and puzzled for two days until it was time for me to deliver mine.
I took a mighty revenge. I constructed a tight 750-word essay about the medieval Arab condiments made by rotting barley, which are revolting to consider but actually come out tasting like soy sauce, in which I emphasized the description of what the barley should look like when it was properly rotten: covered with “that which resembles spider webs” (ma yushbih bait al-‘ankabut).
I tend to have an obsessive personality. If I like a shirt, I will buy half a dozen and not necessarily in different colours! If I enjoy a new dish, I will eat it again and again until I get bored with it. And if I want to taste something that is not so commonly available, I will think about it again and again until I find a way to try it.
Recently, I was invited to a feast in Al Ain, near Abu Dhabi. As is the custom here, I was relegated to the women’s quarters. I didn’t mind this. The host’s wife was gorgeous and totally charming; and I enjoyed talking to her about how she and her mother prepare various Emirati dishes. And when the time came for us to have lunch, I was thrilled to finally try camel meat cooked their way — as you know from a previous post, I have only had it minced and grilled on the street in Syria. Later, when all the male guests at the feast left, I joined the men of the house and as we talked about the feast, I realised that us women had been deprived of the camel hump. This was understandable. The choice cut is always served to the guest of honour and that day, this guest was sadly not me.
It’s green almonds season again. In full flow now but they were really expensive at the beginning — I paid $7 for 200 g about a month ago in Beirut which is a large amount of money for so little. Fortunately, when I went to Damascus a couple of weeks later, they were more plentiful and cheaper of course, and a lot larger too.