This is what Farid calls these joints. I suppose when I refer to delis and coffee shops, it calls ‘something’ to mind. Anyway, the sandwiches are more like gyros but they taste different in the Middle East. His brother in law told us about a new place and here we are for lunch. The décor color scheme is lime green and pink. I asked, but did not get an answer as to whether the cashier had color coordinated her dress to the restaurant’s décor.
Fava bean season is in the spring. At least that is what I believe. Those are the long pods piled upon one another. People come and buy a shopping bag full. The bean pods are tossed upon the table and the family gathers around to shell the pods and eat the tender new beans. It’s also sugar snap pea time. And, we had something that were called young almonds. Family, food, conversation, it’s a wonderful thing.
Even though I have been in Jeddah for nine months, I have barely gotten around due to transportation limitations. Here is a ‘find.’ I had passed this place many times but it is a bit too far to walk. We stopped in and checked the menu. Julia loved it so much we ate there twice. The dish you see is cherries covering kabob meatballs and crisp flatbread chips. The other is phyllo wrapped meatballs that will be covered by yogurt. The pictures don’t do justice to the fun that we had. And it is cherry juice that we drank. No alcohol, it was very good indeed.
Julia was too tired to go to the fish market. We settled for the old town market. She admonished me to avoid taking pictures and to avoid incurring the wrath of unwilling subjects. It’s called street photography. I just shoot without focusing or composing. Sometimes I shoot and look as though I’m shooting something else. Julia threatened to stalk away if I continued. She did concede that the shots were pretty nice and a good memory of her trip.
A macaroon in New York is associated with Passover and is a heavy coconut cookie. In French (Paul restaurant) it is a light meringue cookie sandwiching some fresh raspberries. I had an éclair. Julia didn’t want a taste of mine and before I could turn around she had finished her macaroon. Why? She didn’t want to share hers. Hmm… I didn’t really want pink food anyway.
Having run Julia around in a jam-packed schedule and with jet lag ever present, she was too exhausted to go for dinner. Being the ever insistent father, I dragged her out of the villa kicking and screaming all the way. I ordered up a lemonade with mint (hence the green color). “Taste it.” And then I had to order another one for myself. She had the classic croque monsieur. It’s classic because it was a specialty of her Grandmother Lila when the kids would go to her house for lunch. Dinner woke her up but Julia was still too full for dessert. So we took it home.
I can’t quite describe this confection. It’s a glazed roll, but more like a cream puff. The center is laden with melted butter at its bottom. The glaze bakes on and provides a sweet crisp topping. I found them quite delightful. Julia found them heavy and too much for an afternoon snack. All I can say is they are really the best right out of the oven. I’ll see if David enjoys this when he visits. It’s not something that I have come across in New York.
After six months, this was the first meal. If you’re Italian, it’s ‘gravy.’ I worked on Staten Island (heavily Italian) for many years. To me, it’s sauce. Either way, over spaghetti, it was like home. And I have a complaint about that damn Paula Deen pan! The cover is round just like the pan. It doesn’t fit down. And I know it wasn’t bent from the plane trip. Sometimes you just can’t count on American quality.
Cousin Amy could have done better on the food photography. But ‘red sauce’ is red sauce and I was so hungry that it was luck that I remembered to get off a shot.
I took Farid. He’s never been. And in the Sands Hotel, there’s a franchise – cash only. I guided him to the hibachi and we picked streak. The chef came out for his knife and spatula routine. The difference is that they have heavy plexiglass that hangs down to within six inches. Protection! I guess he won’t be flipping any shrimp into the waiting mouth of the diners. After the cooking, the plexiglass rises. It’s another mystery to me. Farid can’t tell me, he’s never been here.
Gee, I haven’t seen this stuff since the astronauts went up. To the right are large containers of powdered milk also. I mean really large containers; look closely. They are like gallon size and enough to make gallons and gallons of drink. Super market? Nope. Airport lounge. Huh? Where are you going? What travel destination beckons where you would stop off in the duty free shop and get a couple containers of Tang for the road. Which, by the way, they don’t sell any powdered drinks in the super market – diet ice tea and such. But Tang, you can’t get enough, I guess. Don’t be late to the airport, you won’t have enough time to shop for Tang.
Have I mentioned that every culture seems to have a dumpling or equivalent thereof? Perhaps there is an Indian cuisine influence in Jeddah. But the samosa is a popular food here. I first saw this in great abundance during Ramadan last year. In my wandering up and down the aisles of the super market, I chanced upon the frozen dough section. You can get puff pastry and phyllo dough. And there are spring roll and egg roll skins. So I decided to experiment with samosa skins. First off, they are frozen. Defrost and then you find they are brittle, tend to dry out, and they are very greasy. Folding up the triangles takes a bit of skill. At the ends there are holes. So deep frying is going to get oil inside. With all the grease in the dough, the samosas fry up dry in my non-stick pan. I just don’t put the usual meat or cheese and use a mix meant for wontons. But there are no wonton skins around. And, what pray tell, do I do with puff pastry? I have never really come across puff pastry too much in NY. So now what? Sweet or savory? My imagination will have to bring me to the internet unless someone tells me a good suggestion.
I got a call to attend an ICP [intracranial pressure] conference. I agreed. As usual, I knew nothing of the details. I just showed up where they told me to go. It turns out we were in a hotel. Some representative from a well know company were sent out from the USA to tour the Middle East and speak about their ICP products. The group they invited were my OR staff, neuro and otherwise, as well as my office staff. Curiously, they left out the ICU nurses who actually take care of the ICP monitors. Go figure. They like to do group shots. So the nurses saw my camera and lined up and we got shot. Then we hit the hotel buffet dinner, which as they say, was the main event. No one went away hungry.
Swell! I can cook. It’s just that I’m used to more spice and a larger selection of pots and pans. But the vegetables are fresh. There are two types of carrots – local and from elsewhere. Stay away from local, they’re limp and lifeless. And I’m used to fresh and firm. Depending on the day the eggplant or the cauliflower are not edible. So you make do with what is good and bide your time that good egg plant and so forth will eventually show up. This dish really didn’t need the flavors I brought back from NY. But until they were available, I didn’t have any incentive. I just wanted a white sauce here.
That would be him there on the left. Faisel [exercise group] is in the middle. He was invited along to the banquet though I’m not sure of his relation to the Spine Summit. And the US Ambassador was also invited, accepted, but did not attend. I still don’t get how things work. So faculty and friends and many people I met for the first time gathered here. A good time was had by all. We got a tour of the museum, ate skewered whole roast lamb, and watched local musicians play and sing. No belly dancing…too bad.
Every once in a while I’m left without an explanation. This motley group is some of the guys I workout with in the morning. Except for Faisel we’re all surgeons. They decided to eat at the Brazilian churrascaria. It’s bring and appetite an expect to eat a lot of meat. The Middle East diet is partial to lean, which means dry meat. The best offering was the short ribs which were fatty, moist, and flavorful. No one else liked them. The ostrich and deer were too dry. Even the lamb was overdone and dry. As for the exercising, you can see that we are all in varying degrees of health and fitness. No one brought their spouse so we ate in the singles section, meaning no women or kids. I ate a lot and have no regrets in the least.
In my other life, I was a wedding photographer. Not really, just a fantasy, otherwise it would be work and not fun any more. But, I get to do some without the pressure of being lead photographer. In this case, Julia asked that I bring the mini-DV video and shoot the ceremony. (Laura asked.) Then she (Laura) changed her mind… no video. Her father (Laura’s) said bring the video. Oh boy! And, Julia said don’t bring it. Well, I carried it and then took it out just before the ceremony at the request of the bride’s brother. Too dark, it was too dark. So I switched over to the Canon G12 and shot video from that. I had almost forgotten that point and shoots have pretty good video. And that f2.8 lens can see pretty well in the dark. Video solved and without making the bride or her father disappointed. After the ceremony, I got to walk around getting ambient shots, crowd shots, family shots and so forth. No one minded. There was a hired photographer. She used as mounted flash and AA batteries. I hope she got some good ones. I wanted to tell her she should be using a Quantum rechargeable battery. It was a dark venue. The bride’s father was wandering around passing his Nikon D800 around and using the on camera flash. You should at least have an SB900 flash. Am I too snobbish? But as in all things, it’s not what you use as much as being in the right place at the right moment. Without pressure, I got a few shots and Julia has the memories to share with her best friend.
Another annual tradition was to bake cookies. The kids really enjoyed doing food art. These were real homemade sugar cookies and the decorating would be fairly impressive. At least I thought it looked pretty good. There were no leftovers. And when Santa had to eat the cookies the kids left, I got more than my share.
This is a jelly roll cake layered in whip cream covered in chocolate frosting and a semi-tradition at our house. Well it was until my wife refused to make it any longer and I’m too unskilled to want to try. I did try to build a gingerbread house after she stopped and that was a disaster. We’ve had a lot of fun with this dessert over the years. The icing is now store bought Pillsbury or some such. We threw out about 3-4 batches of icing one Xmas when the chocolate seized up during the cooking. The cream is bad for you. So it’s a dessert that the kids were never encouraged or inclined to consume. Me, I miss it but am doing fine without it. Of everyone who should be on a diet, it’s my wife who has struggled the most. So it’s better to remember the picture.
Early on my wife made the gingerbread houses at Xmas. They looked very good. When the kids were old enough she made the gingerbread and assembled the walls and roof. Then the kids had a go at decorating. I would have to say that a lot of candy never made it onto the house. The glue was sugar and when it hardened the house was hard to disassemble. But bit by bit over time, most of the house was torn down and eaten. The idea was to put a lot of candy all over. There was more to eat later. The nuts were something that I did – roasted cashews. Somehow homemade is a lot more personal than a gift card.
The point of this slide is not the quality of the image. It’s not about jumping. It turns out that I couldn’t remember the name of the Paris café that Debbie’s guidebook directed us to try. It’s a fairly well known establishment. One of their signature desserts is the Mont Blanc. It is a mountain of meringue with puréed chestnut. It is truly heavenly. Chestnuts were a favorite of my mother. So the dessert has a sentimental spot for me. I’ve not had it (Mont Blanc) again. It’s not something you find commonly. It’s described extensively in the cooking internet recipes, but I’m too lazy to try to make it. Anyway if you are ever in Paris here’s the name of the café.
My wife has an artistic food streak. So until the kids could add their own distinct touches, she made gingerbread houses. I mean all natural real ingredients, edible and no cheating. Some years the houses would lean a bit. It’s hard to get that powdered sugar to glue things well. Later she stopped. The kids haven’t done it much recently so it’s a tradition lost until there are little kids running around once more. One year she baked/assembled one and gave it away as a gift. The hostess wrapped it up and stored it for the following year. We just eat ours. The kids like disassembly as much as construction.
This hot dog vendor is stationed in New Orleans. One thing that I can say about Saudi Arabia, it’s hard to come by a good ‘dog. The grocery sells something they call a hot dog. Even I haven’t been that hungry yet. They are an odd shape and color. And they come frozen. “Subway” (the sandwich place) sells them. They are split and put on a sandwich roll covered with cheese to which they then add all the condiments and vegetables. The kids eat them …ugh. In Maine they liked their hot dogs a bright unnaturally dyed red color…definitely bad for you. The thing is that I doubt that I will make it my business to get a ‘dog when I visit home soon.
The one and original Nathan’s of Coney Island. This is the hot dog place that the name brand comes from. Perhaps Nathan’s hot dogs aren’t sold everywhere? And this is the place for the annual July 4th hot dog eating contest. I haven’t had a hot dog in 6 months now. I don’t remember what it takes to win the contest but it’s something like eat 50 hot dogs in 10 minutes… with buns… and water if you wish. I like dogs but I know I would throw up after/before 10. And it was always a skinny Japanese kid who would win… not lately. But who’d have figured a little Japanese kid? Otherwise the joint is nothing compared to the slick fast food Nathan’s they set up in the local malls.
It’s a tradition in my house except that I’m not home this year. My life has landed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. So the day started in the gym, stretching. Then on to the OR for a woman who just had a baby and was becoming paralyzed from breast cancer. We saved her. It’s already late afternoon and in New York everyone is just rising. No Thanksgiving dinner later for me. No celebration. I’ve spoken to friends and family, left messages for others, and emailed my kids. It’s a funny thing because one year is so different from any other. Ninety degrees and sunny, tomorrow I’ll dive in the Red Sea. Who would believe that this is the alternative to Black Friday? The kids are traveling. My son is in California visiting his girl friend’s family. And my daughter will spend it in the Cayman Islands. I didn’t realize that dropping out of the holiday would change it so much for everyone else. In searching my hard drive, I was hoping to catch a classic shot that’s hiding there. Julia (infant) is being held by Grandpa Bill in one hand and in the other Grandpa has the Thanksgiving turkey waiting to be dressed. Julia was smaller than the turkey and it’s a priceless shot. Grandpa doesn’t even like turkey. He loved his grand daughter. So I got this shot. It’s a holiday dinner some years later. As you can see Julia is exhausted. And all she had to do was eat the dinner. We would start days in advance. It’s not hard. But you have to gather all the essentials. One year my wife bought a frozen turkey on Tuesday expecting to bake it on Thursday. She panicked upon realizing that this would not be possible. We ended up with a fresh turkey (don’t ask) and another whole turkey dinner on Saturday. So I say, go ahead and enjoy. I hope I can get a football game on TV/internet. Then I’ll remember Thanksgivings past. All the best to all of you.