Tag Archives | food

Monday Listicle: Food

Mid-December and the madness is upon us: students trapped in end-of-semester zombie-state, with circles under their eyes down to their jawlines; piles of (as yet ungraded) papers; emails from Grandma asking what the boys want for Christmas presents; a round of holiday parties (some a pleasure, some an obligation); and of course the requisite dementia-inducing Christmas music being piped into all the malls.  The cognitive dissonance of standing in the grocery checkout line at the Australian-owned grocery store next to a woman swathed in black abaya and sheyla as my groceries are rung up by the lovely Filipina at the register … and Bruce Springsteen howls “Santa Claus is comin’ to town…”  Sometimes the world seems much flatter than other times.

But. Holidays. Holidays in almost any culture means sharing and eating food. Cookies, cakes, pastries, soup…all the recipes come out at holiday time.  So Stasha’s listicle this week–suggested by Bridget at the always funny Twinisms— asks us to think about food, and I thought that maybe I’d list my favorite recipes or favorite holiday treats, but let’s face it: I am a competent cook and only a so-so baker, so my recipes aren’t going to be that much fun.

Better, I thought, to offer you all a list bounteous with schadenfreude: you can read my list of food fails and feel better by comparison. Consider it my holiday gift to you.

You’re welcome.

1. My new favorite cocktail, the French 75.  A delicate drink that packs a whammy: gin, simple syrup, fresh lemon juice, champagne. I read the recipe, thought “hey, that’s easy,” and mixed up a cocktail for myself and Husband.  Who knew you weren’t supposed to put the champagne in the cocktail shaker with the other ingredients? Do you know what happens when you put champagne in a jar and shake it? Yes. Expensive French fizz pretty much all over.  Expensive French sticky fizz. The drinks looked pretty (although a tad foamy), but apparently you’re only supposed to top off the glass with champagne. Who knew?

2. Baked brie. Who doesn’t love a baked brie? Gooey warm cheese wrapped in flaky pastry (courtesy of Pillsbury, natch) that gets spread on yet more bread. Dee-vine.

Now I’d like you to imagine the top of that delicious-looking treat completely charred. Yep, blackened, as if the instructions read “cook Cajun style.”  In case you’re wondering, blackened baked brie is not a taste treat. Not even if you try to slice off the burned top and flip the thing over. Then you get something that resembles smushed bread floating in goo. Unappetizing in the extreme.

3. Pizza with goat cheese, spinach, and carmelized onions. Yum. You can serve this for supper or cut it into small pieces and use it as an appetizer. Use pizza crust, or boboli, or flatbread, then spread goat cheese, sauteed spinach, and carmelized onions on top. Heat the pizza a bit so the goat cheese gets warm and melty.  Do not flip it over onto the bottom of the oven as you try to take it out of the oven. If, perchance, you should flip the entire goddamn thing onto the bottom of the oven, make sure no one sees you scoop the toppings off the oven floor and attempt to re-arrange them on the pizza crust.  Should someone see you do that, you can assure them that it’s okay because you never clean the oven, so it’s not like they’re going to be tasting any chemicals along with their goat cheese.

4. Very Important Realization (VIR): checking the expiration date on the package of yeast is always a good idea. Otherwise, your pizza crust dough might look something like this:

We went out for dinner instead.

5. Birthday cakes. Ah, birthday cakes. I want so badly to be that parent, the one who lovingly crafts perfect confections for the little darlings. Erin, over at the Sisterhood of the Sensible Momsshe is that parent:

If she weren’t so funny and kind, you’d sort of have to hate her.

My birthday cakes don’t look like that. They’re more…um….let’s say they exhibit a charming DIY sensibility, shall we?

Another VIR?  Frosting is the spanx of baking. It can make anything look good. Or at least okay.

6.  And yet a third VIR?  Find friends who cook, and cook well.  Their recipes and advice (and samples!) are invaluable. I’m lucky to know Sean over at Big Poppa Eats, with his cobbler, and Lily, Abu Dhabi’s very own Queen of Tarts. And of course, the Sisterhood of Sensible Moms (when I’m not feeling intimidated, cakely speaking)…

7.  My foodie talent might run in the family. During our growing-up years, when we asked my mom what was for dinner, she’d say “chicken glop” or “hamburger glop” or, basically, whatever form of protein she’d purchased mixed with some cans of tomatoes and spices. Usually it tasted good but the concept of “glop” remains in my head, whenever I confront the dinner hour, with one kid who does not like sauces, another kid who loves sauces, a husband who will eat pretty much anything, and me, who would happily be a vegetarian but lives in a house of carnivores.  That’s why I often find myself in what I call three-way chicken hell, even though I vow (pretty much monthly) that I will not cave in to all these separate preferences.

8. Shopping for food in a country not your own always presents challenges. For the most part, I can find food we’re used to here, or at least versions of what we’re used to. There is bacon, for instance, although it’s hideously expensive and requires doing the walk of shame into the pork room at the grocery store. But then there are those jarring moments when you realize, as you browse the shelves, that you’re in a country that caters to a palate very different than your own:

9.  This:

Would someone please explain A) what is a “malt loaf” and B) what it means to have “squidgy energy”?

10. Okay. I will make one gesture towards recouping my culinary sense of self.  I have learned how to make a pretty kick-ass cinnamon roll. And the smell of baking cinnamon rolls is like a holiday all in itself.

Continue Reading · on December 12, 2012 in Abu Dhabi, food, Monday Listicle, UAE

Monday Listicles: what i learned in 2012

Stasha’s listicle today, with a suggestion from Kerstin at Auer Life: ten things we learned in 2012.

I’d like to go on record as saying it’s still a little soon to be making lists about the entirety of 2012. I mean, in the next six weeks, before 2013 hits, I still plan to learn Arabic, figure out the intricacies of crochet, and master the art of pie-crust.

In the meantime, however, and in no particular order, what did I learn in 2012?

1. I love twitter. I love the challenge of 140 characters; I love the fast responses; I’m a sucker for a good hashtag.

2. I learned to paddleboard. I even bought one: a nifty inflatable thing that rolls up and fits in the back of my car. It’s fun, it’s easy, it’s great exercise. And then I hurt my shoulder and I’ve not been able to paddle for almost two months.

3. Blogher ’12 taught me all kinds of things: say hello to strangers, because they might turn out to be Good Day Regular People, or The Suniverse.

4. I learned also at Blogher to give people talking to you your full attention, because the person speaking might be the mah-velous Marinka and when you realize you missed an opportunity to talk to her, you will feel pretty much like an idiot for…well, let’s see, that was August and this is November so…

5. I learned that missing my sister and my mom and my brother – and my dear friends “stateside” – is something that needs to be kept sort of over there in a little room that doesn’t get unlocked very often, because if it did get unlocked, then the rushing of emotion would be almost Sandy-like in its power.

6. I know a little bit about this whole expat thing now, even though I am surprised almost daily by what I don’t know. And I’m surprised, sometimes, by my own resilience (or powers of denial – see #5)

7.  I learned that there are limits to my imagination: I could not for the life of me imagine why a woman would want to vote for Romney. I’m sure there are many, many women who had good reasons for casting their votes for him, but I can’t get myself into those moccasins. I think that makes me a bad less-good person.

8. I learned that I like – no, I mean really like – Rachel Maddow. And I wonder if anyone has done a survey of women who consider themselves more or less straight to see how many of them would consider switching to the other team if Rachel would but cast a friendly eye in their direction.

9. I learned – or rather, I am learning – that living without cheese is a bit like living without daily phone conversations with my sister. It’s possible, but it’s nowhere near as much fun.

10. I learned – or re-learned – that I am happiest when I’m writing. And yet, of course, writing is also this:

What’s that old saying? A writer is person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.

Yeah. That. I guess you could say I learned that in 2012, too.

Continue Reading · on November 19, 2012 in Abu Dhabi, Monday Listicle, writing

the things they carried (with thanks to Tim O’Brien)

Tim O’Brien has a fantastic book called The Things They Carried, about the talismanic objects that Viet Nam soldiers carried in their rucksacks.  We all carry things with us – things to remind us of the people we love, things to ward off danger, things to bring luck (and things to keep the baby quiet in Tar-jay, to amuse the restless fourth grader in the backseat, to bribe the recalcitrant pre-teen).

Expats carry things with them too, as they migrate from this “home” to whatever other country they call “home.” The journey isn’t as perilous as the journey confronting combat soldiers (although the customs line at JFK would terrify even the most hardened combat veteran), but still, we travel, cross-pollinating the flavors and comforts of our various homes as we go.

In no particular order, here’s what we carried back from the States this summer (not counting: new sneakers, Kiehl’s shampoos, several sets of ridiculously high thread-count sheets ridiculously on sale at Bed Bath & Beyond, and several vibrating souvenirs from BlogHer12).

Ortega Taco Spice Packets, because really, nothing gives that genuine Mexican taste like mixing orange-MSG-laced powder with ground beef (or as they call it here, Australian beef mince). Ole!

Maple syrup.  Maple trees aren’t precisely indigenous to the region, so syrup costs a fortune. Luckily, that ol’Canuck Trader Joe has big plastic jugs of the stuff, which here would cost 20, 30, 40 dollars.

Trader Joe’s Multi-Grain Pancake Mix. Actually, if I could, I would have packed most of TJ’s into my suitcase. But this pancake mix? Fantastic. Plus if you sprinkle an extra spoonful (or 2) of ground flaxseed into the batter and then put chocolate chips into the pancakes, your kids will never know.

Pepperoni. Greasy, salty, porky pepperoni. Well-laced with stabilizers, preservatives, and poly-syllabic words. We live in a country that has a vexed relation to pork, so finding real pepperoni is a tricky proposition.  “Turkey pepperoni,” which I see in some of the stores here just ain’t gonna cut it.  God never wanted turkeys to be pepperoni.

Real vanilla extract. Yes, it’s entirely possible I could make my own. No, I probably won’t ever do that. And no, you can’t buy it here easily because real vanilla extract is made with alcohol.  So c’mon over – we’re serving vanilla shots chez moi tonight!

Gross sugary toothpaste with Spongebob on the package, which is all that Caleb uses to brush his teeth. I don’t even know what the hell flavor this goo is supposed to be, but as of yet, Caleb has not graduated into minty-toothpaste age.  When he discovers in himself the need for winterfresh breath, I’ll know that he’s really moving out of childhood.

Swiss Miss Hot Cocoa packets. Why my children prefer this stuff, with the hard flecks of marshmallow to the Cadbury hot cocoa that’s sold here, I have no idea. But the Swiss Missy is nowhere to be found, so into the suitcase she went.

Gluten for my friend Shannon because she’s just like that: others want gluten free but she goes the other direction: adds gluten to her bread dough and swears the bread tastes better. She said something about making me some bread in payment for toting these bags along …

I wanted to buy a waffle iron and bring it back, but Husband said something about voltage and short-circuits and plugs and over-the-weight-limit (the suitcases, not me), so I didn’t. But here’s a thing to contemplate: nowhere in this city, with all its electronics stores, hypermarkets, and upscale boutiques, can I find something as ordinary as a waffle iron. Is there some kind of waffle-fatwa that I don’t know about?

Our suitcases bulged, it’s true, but when we sat down to breakfast one morning with our pancakes and real maple syrup, while we looked out the window at the sun on the Arabian Gulf, it all seemed worth it: we had brought a bit of one home to the other.

Now I just have to figure out this waffle-fatwa. After all, I’ve got syrup.

 

 

 

 

Continue Reading · on September 20, 2012 in Abu Dhabi, expat, food, NYC, Travel, UAE

Fifty Shades…

So I read a fairy tale the other day.  Actually, three fairy tales. A trilogy about a young girl who meets a handsome stranger with a dark secret. They fall in love (you knew that was coming, right?), overcome a variety of obstacles, banish inner demons, get married, and have babies.  Happily ever after and all that. Continue Reading →

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Continue Reading · on March 2, 2012 in Books, marriage, pop culture, sex

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