Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Pros and Cons

I bought wonderful mandarins here four days ago and we have just run out. They were stacked in a fruit shop in a tall cone, each with leaves and stems still attached, each dredged in a thick icing of the dust that swamps Cairo. I sometimes think that if everyone stopped sweeping there would be nothing visible but desert in less than a year.

With the dust washed clear they add a marvelous and much needed colour to my white and granite kitchen. Or they did, until I ate the last one this morning. They are large and rough and lumpy, but a wonderful colour and flavour. I added thin strips of rind to a slow cooked beef dish yesterday, with rosemary from the garden, tomato paste, local garlic and onion, and a good fistful of sliced black olives. It has gone into my recipe files as a good one for diplomatic dinners - if I can work out an elegant way to serve it so it doesn't look like stew!
Perhaps a crisp pastry disc on top so it implies the aussie pie without too much dough around - and I could decorate the pastry with pastry leaves.

The butcher of the little supermarket on the corner is reputed to be one of the best and cleanest in Zamalek. I wondered why he was chopping the beef (which was first cleaned of every sinew, scrap of skin and morsel of fat) on a burgundy towel. Then I realised, as my eyes panned out, that it was one of those white nylon cutting boards, shredded and furred to towel texture from lots of large lumps of meat being chopped on its surface. The colour is the colour of the meat, and it is only white at the edges. I have had boards for years that have never reached that state. At that point I decided that slow cooked was the way to go!

I bought a bag of about forty limes for about $1.40 Australian. At times in Canberra this was the price of one.

I miss that last thing-at-night scoop of cold water from the tap to rinse toothpaste from my mouth, and that lovely few mouthfuls of cold water that I always drink - again straight from the tap afterwards - that taste of mint and freshness. Brushing your teeth from a glass of bottled water is just not the same, and feels somewhat grotty.

To counter that one, we have a lovely lass who washes and irons and there is something very blissful about finding your clothes magically back in the cupboard all crisply ironed.

I have been enjoying the walks here - parking is so impossible that even those with cars walk everywhere. If I am honest - I am aching all over - but only because I have gone from almost zero exercise to lots - and I have muscles that are complaining.

I saw a piece of furnishing fabric on the ground yesterday - olive and cream and gold in a complex fleur de lyse (spelling?) pattern. I had bent to scoop it up and realised that a nearby guard was watching with an astounded look on his face, so I adjusted my shoe instead and left it there. Now I am cross with myself.

Next time I will just take it.


Blogger Liz Needle said...

"fleur de lys' Imagine me telling you how to write!!! I am grinning at this, Jenny. Love your anecdotes. Keep writing.


10:27 pm  
Anonymous Virginia Leacy said...

Really enjoy reading all your notes and brings back a few memories from my brief visit to Cairo. I can even smell it!
Keep up the good work.
Virginia in Rye

3:28 pm  

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