Tag Archives | french fries

Just Dinner (and maybe a fresh start for dessert)

It started with french fries. Caleb asked if we could make purple french fries, like we used to do in New York, with the purple potatoes from the Union Square Farmer’s Market.

No purple potatoes here that I can see, but I decided to make french fries anyway, using ordinary Idaho potatoes–from Oman.

Miracle of miracles, we were all home tonight–no soccer practice, no meetings, no plans–and so: french fries. Caleb said he’d help and so he scrubbed the potatoes while I started oil heating in the pan. Liam followed us into the kitchen (what? little brother will get mommy all to himself? no freaking way) to talk at length about a project for his Arabic class that has him all excited.

Yes. That’s right. The prison school we’re sending him to, the school that has ruined his life, seems to have come up with an interesting project.

I started to be annoyed that Liam had chosen to ask for ideas and advice just as I started on dinner, instead of during the previous hour, when he’d been engrossed in a computer game, and then I had one of those little mini parenting AHA moments, sort of like an aneurysm except you don’t end up in the hospital.

“Bring your stuff in here and work at the table while we fix dinner,” I said. Okay. It’s not up there with E=MC2 but it worked. It worked because for the first time in the life our family, we have a kitchen big enough to hold more than one person: it’s a hideous space, with walls the color of congealed oatmeal and no windows (because of course, the assumption is that we would have a live-in maid and why would she want an window?). The world could end while we’re in there and we’d never know. We’d also probably survive.

Anyway. So there we all were: Liam sketching out his Arabic city; Caleb snapping the stems off green beans; me chopping Omani potatoes into french fry strips, WMVY telling us that it’s 43F in Edgartown (I loves me my streaming MVY, even though I’ve only been to the Vineyard maybe three times in my entire life).  The boys didn’t bicker; the french fries didn’t burn; I found enough unwilted mint and a wedge of lemon in the fridge to make a little sauce for the beans.

For the first time in what felt like weeks, we sat down as a family for dinner: merguez, french fries, beans.  Okay, true, Caleb ate only the french fries and Liam ate only the merguez (“I don’t like French fries,” he said. Who on god’s green earth doesn’t like French fries?); I ate most of the beans (added a little marinated feta to the lemon & mint because it’s not a meal without a dairy product); Husband, ever the omnivore, ate everything and finished the boys’ leftovers. He’s a bit like having a dog.

At dinner, Liam started telling scary-animal stories about Australia. “My friend was telling me that…” he started.

His wonderful sympathetic, empathic mother said “A friend? at the prison school? You mean a casual acquaintance, right? Surely not a friend?” (Because isn’t that why we have kids? So we can mock them relentlessly and later say “I told you so?”)

He laughed and laughed. “Right. A casual acquaintance who I don’t like much was saying that in Australia he saw a spider…”

Yes. It’s true. Apparently at the prison school my ruined-life son attends, he has CAWIDLM. We won’t call them friends. Yet.

Caleb said “I have friends. From Australia. And Nigeria. And they’ve seen spiders as big as MY HEAD.” He shuddered in delight.

It was just a family dinner. The kitchen is coated with a thin film of grease from the french fries, there are dishes stacked in the sink; the boys got ratty with each other as it got close to bedtime, just like they always do. And yet I felt sunshine in that windowless room this evening. It’s been gloomy around here since the boys started their new school and tonight was the first time in weeks I’ve seen Liam laugh and tell stories about school that weren’t about all the ways in which he feels miserable.

It was just a family dinner, but it felt, inshallah, like a beginning.


and hey guess what, it’s also the beginning of yeah write! #42 now open for linking up. c’mon over. bring your blog. or your comments, quips, and sparkling repartee. or just scary animal stories about australia: spiders, crocodiles, and rabid koalas (Liam’s CAWDILM swears it was rabid). So click, read, enjoy. Come back on Thursday and vote, vote, vote.

Continue Reading · on January 31, 2012 in Abu Dhabi, Children, family, food

Living in the Bubble

Last Friday, which is the holy day in Abu Dhabi, we spent most of the day in the lovely pool area that’s on top of the building where we’re going to live in next year.  There is a kiddie playroom inside in the air conditioning, a small fitness center with spectacular views of the gulf, a wading pool, and a larger pool just the right size for cannonballs into the deep end and infinite games of “Marco Polo.”

The boys played in the pool happily for most of the day and joined me for a little session in the health center.  They trotted on the treadmill, which cracked them up, especially when Liam turned his head to talk to me and slid right off onto the floor. He recovered and then ran an entire mile at a pace that would’ve given me a stroke, the little show-off. We tried to keep our voices down because there was a dad in the exercise room with his tiny baby, sleeping in the stroller next to the weight machines. What U.S. gym would allow such a thing ?

This rooftop—with the shaded tables and chairs, the little snack bar, and the sense of quiet that comes from being fifty stories above street level—seems to me wonderful and extremely dangerous. Wonderful because I can imagine sitting at a shady table grading student papers next year, while the boys romp around in the pool, but dangerous precisely because of its convenience.  How easy it would be to sink into the expat bubble for a year and emerge at the end of our time no wiser about this part of the world—not that in a year we can really “understand” Emirati life, but we should at least try to move off the roof, right?

How does an expat find her way out of expat-bubble land, I wonder?

We’re going to have to explore, in order to get out of the bubble, which brings us smack up against the ugly reality of my kids’ eating habits. Which is really to say their non-eating habits.

Do children in other countries insist on only white food, or only fried food, or chicken cooked only a certain way? Do little Emirati boys tell their mothers (or their household chefs, more likely) that they will only eat the chicken if there is NO SAUCE? Are sesame seeds on a hamburger bun really a crime against humanity?  Liam likes chicken with no sauce; Caleb likes hamburgers but only with ketchup. Liam likes plain noodles, Caleb likes red sauce but NOT TOO MUCH.  Neither of them likes cheese unless it’s on pizza; Liam likes chocolate, Caleb likes vanilla.

Salad? Tabbouleh? Hummus? Mint lemonade? Surely you jest.  Dates? Figs? Mangoes? AM I TRYING TO KILL THEM?

I’m going to have to ratchet down my expectations for our year away. Expat bubble be damned. All I want is to come back to the States with children whose palates have expanded beyond the global French fry.

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Continue Reading · on April 26, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, Children, expat, food, Travel

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