Category Archives: Food

Food subsidies

Al-Jazeera English did a good piece on food subsidies in Egypt–always an important issue. It doesn’t say that food subsidies will be phased out, but seems to suggest it’s a possibility.

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Filed under Economy, Egypt, Food

New neighborhood, familiar feeling

At this point I feel pretty familiar with central Cairo and the nearby neighborhoods, since that’s where I’m living, working and hanging out, etc. But I’ve barely seen any of the suburbs. So yesterday I decided to take a trip to Maadi just for the hell of it.

It took about a half an hour on the subway from the station closest to my apartment and when I got off the train I felt like I was in… Park Slope. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration. It’s still Egypt and most of the people there are Egyptians—but only barely. Many of Cairo’s expats–embassy people, corporate types, who knows what else–make their home.

What am I talking about? I went to a decent used book store where I almost bought a book of interviews with Woody Allen. Then I walked down the street and saw a place called—no fucking joke!—Jared’s Bagels. As I marched down Road 9 I passed smiling couples with blonde babies in babybjörns. A totally surreal experience.

I’m glad I don’t live there. (Longer post on the discourse of “authentic” and the Western traveler to come later, I promise.) Maybe if I were older and bringing my family to live with me in Cairo Maadi would be my choice. But why the hell would I move halfway around the world to be surrounded by American yuppies? If that’s what I wanted I could have just moved to Brooklyn like so many recent Oberlin grads.

Incidentally, Maadi is also home to the best hamburger in the world, at least according to Time’s Scott MacLeod. I haven’t been yet, but obviously will go. I haven’t been out of the US for half my life like MacLeod has, so I might be coming at the Lucille’s burger with clearer eyes. I will report back, of course.

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Filed under Egypt, Food, Travelogue

How to eat food 101

This sink is cleaner than mine, but equally full of kale.

This sink is cleaner than mine, but equally full of kale.

Today I came across this piece in Slate by a woman who doesn’t know how to eat vegetables.  She worries:

Ordinarily, I would never eat turnips. I managed to go 30 years without buying one. But now every winter I’m faced with a two-month supply, not to mention the kale, collards, and flat-leaf Italian parsley that sit in my refrigerator, slowly wilting, filling me with guilt every time I reach past them for the milk. After three years of practice, I’ve figured out simple ways to deal with most of these problem vegetables: I braise the turnips in butter and white wine; I sauté the kale and collards with olive oil and sea salt; I wait until the parsley shrivels and then throw it out. The abundance of roughage is overwhelming.

WTF?  How do you get to be a grown up, much less a food writer, and continue to be confused by kale or–seriously, what the fuck?–parsley?  Luckily, this lady is able to call Mark Bittman and ask him about “problematic vegetables” like butternut squash and cabbage.  Naturally, Bittman points out that everything is edible if you’re not a total moron:

“Daikon radish,” I began, skipping any pretense at a warm-up.

He didn’t miss a beat. “Raw, grated, with soy sauce and sesame oil.”

“Cabbage.”

“Sauté it with garlic, brown it, shrivel it, maybe turn it into fried rice.”

“Parsley.”

“Parsley is a staple. You should be using it by the handful daily anyway. It can go on top of anything. Just use it.”

A bag full of parsley was currently rotting in my green bin, but I refused to be chastened. “Butternut squash.”

“I like to grate butternut squash, cook it with olive oil and garlic, and toss it with pasta.”

Photo by Flickr user Tiexano used under Creative Commons license.

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My friends are less interesting than I thought

The New York Times dining section ran a story today about “Brooklyn’s new culinary movement”.  This “movement” is basically a bunch of Brooklyn hipsters who enjoy making traditional foods in traditional ways.  Beer, pickles, chocolate, cheese, meat. 

Believe it or not, I had somehow come to think that this was an Oberlin phenomenon.  My house has become a hub for pickling, preserving,cooking weird foods.  Someone made beer, there is a jar of chicken feet brining in the fridge, we’re going to make pancetta.  Wow! We’re gourmet!  We’re sustainable!  We’re cool!  But it turns out that we’re not nearly as unique as we thought.

Once something is in the New York Times, that officially means it is no longer underground.  Oh well.  

Just thought I’d share my dismay and disappointment.

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Filed under Beer, College, Food

With a pickle chaser

Alexander Nazaryan schools you in how to drink vodka in today’s Op-Extra.  Luckily for me, this is a lesson I already learned from my girlfriend Helen who studied in Moscow last year.  Nazaryan writes about drinking in Brighton Beach:

Here we eat only as Politburo fat-cats could have back in the day, while the rest of the country stood in line for meager provisions: meat-stuffed cabbage leaves swimming in tomato sauce; steaming Ukrainian borscht with dollops of sour cream; veal dumplings, also covered in sour cream; and, of course, pumpernickel bread stacked with pickled herring and onion slivers, chased with a shot of vodka.

Ah, yes.  We had just such a feast ourselves a few weeks back (though without the veal dumplings).

You can’t see the piroshki, or the borscht, or the kebabs in this picture, but you get the idea.  And to accompany this abundance, you drink shots of vodka, always preceded by a hearty toast.

Nazaryan explains why so few Westerners understand the Russian culture of food and drink:

No less than the Italians or French, Russians treat drinking as part of a complete gastronomic experience, and divorcing the two would be unthinkable for anyone with a modicum of taste. But perhaps because our foods are less sensuous or readily appealing than Mediterranean cuisine ― sour cream is not so sexy, it turns out ― only the bottle lingers in the imagination.

All photos by Helen Stuhr-Rommereim

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Filed under Food, Personal Stuff

Beer of the Week

Two-Hearted Ale is the first beer of the week!  Click on the link above and to the right to read it.  I’ll try to write more about beer soon.

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I’m hungry

I know that you are supposed to read the Angry Arab for his flaming anti-Zionist ranting, his passionate hatred of the Saudi monarchy, and general antagonism towards everything else.  I appreciate that stuff.  But I also like stories about food.  And today I via Angry Arab I came across this bibbit from the BBC:

Doner kebabs sold in the UK contain “shocking” levels of salt, fat and calories, a survey has concluded.

Officers from 76 councils sampled 494 kebabs to test their nutritional value, during the Local Authority Coordinators of Regulatory Services (Lacors) study.

The average doner they tested contained almost 1,000 calories – half a woman’s recommended daily intake.

Geoffrey Theobald, of Lacors, said: “The level of saturated fat and salt in some is a serious cause for concern.”

Uh oh!  Who would have ever guessed that doner kabab wasn’t healthy?  Check out this graph:

Should we assume that this holds for shwarma as well?

Photo by Flickr user Smeerch used under Creative Commons license.

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