*EAST COAST MEETS WEST*
Recipe: Persimmon Cranberry Sauce

December 10, 2012

Falling in love with a place is much like falling in love with a person. For a while, this place can do no wrong; its flaws all have silver linings; each street, shop, and tree possesses some sort of magic to hold your fascination. Inevitably, the novelty of its newness will fade. The place won’t just be a place anymore—it will be a part of you. It will frustrate you and humble you and excite you and teach you about yourself and humanity. And one day, if you leave, you will face the jarring realization that it will always be a part of you and you will always miss it, even if you never want to return.

The first time I had such a realization was in 2010 when I moved back to the US from Egypt. Standing in the back yard of my parent’s house in New York, looking at the forest and the fallen leaves and the patches of melting snow that were so poignantly not Egypt, I knew that wherever I was, I’d feel a longing for the place that I wasn’t. Even now I sometimes stumble into a vivid flashback of the vegetable market near my apartment in Giza or the filthy roach-infested dive bar that I loved for the diptych of the owner and Gamal Abdel Nasser at the entrance. Sometimes I want to be standing on a hill in al-Azhar Park at dusk listening to the hum of mosques as they slowly join the call to prayer.

Now that I live in California, I feel the same longing for New York—for a hike on the Appalachian Trail when the leaves are changing color; for a coffee in Riverside Park when the tulips are in bloom; for a cross-country ski with my dad through sparkling fresh snow and icicle trees. Southern California, I already know, will always be a part of me too, and one day, if I leave, I’ll miss its friendly, politically engaged atmosphere and its barren alien landscape.

Perhaps it’s time for me to stop moving before my self is a collection of fragments scattered around the globe! Continue reading

*JAMES BOND DAY*
Recipe: Pumpkin Cheesecake Mousse

November 21, 2012

Since the holidays are upon us, I feel obliged to write about my favorite one. You may have assumed I’m referring to Thanksgiving, since that’s every food and cooking enthusiast’s favorite holiday. But Thanksgiving is not my favorite holiday; James Bond Day is.

One could argue that James Bond Day is not a real holiday. It’s not on any calendar I’ve ever seen and I’m fairly certain no one outside my immediate family celebrates it. But don’t be too quick to dismiss James Bond Day. First, take a look at this list of holidays in November from a website that my colleagues and I like to peruse when we’re hard up for ideas for our monthly all-staff meeting activities (and in need of a laugh).

November is not just the month of Thanksgiving. It’s also National Georgia Pecan Month (which sounds like code for some kind of drug-centric hippie celebration), National Banana Pudding Lovers Month, Historic Bridge Awareness Month (some of these are quite specific), and National Impotency Month, which makes one wonder why there is no “awareness” in the title—are we supposed to be celebrating impotency? Today, November 21st, is Use Less Stuff Day. Not to be confused with Useless Stuff Day. November also doubles as Movember, that month when men like to torture their girlfriends or wives with unsightly and scratchy facial hair. Continue reading

*HOLIDAYS, ALIENS, AND NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS*
Recipe: Oil-Free Carrot-Ginger Dressing

January 10, 2012

I love the holidays. They’re an excuse to stuff your face, drink lots of wine, and throw huge dinner parties—my three favorite activities, in that order. Still, some of them seem a little odd to me.

Imagine an alien passing through Earth and trying to learn about the celebratory rituals of the human race. There are the big monotheistic ones: Christmas, Ramadan, and Passover. In order not to offend any readers on my very first post, I won’t attempt to isolate what’s weird about these holiday celebrations.

Well, maybe just a few observations. Don’t you think it’s a bit bizarre to cut down a perfectly healthy tree and put it in your living room to die (a pagan-based ritual, so I think I’m safe from offending anyone, unless there are still pagans, in which case, I’m sorry pagans)? And what about the Ramadan ritual of fasting all day for a month? It’s not fun, and I know because I’ve done it. Twice. I don’t think any practicing Muslims would describe it as fun either—maybe educational or enlightening, but certainly not fun, so I’m still safe. And why did the Jews come up with a holiday in which they can’t eat arguably their best culinary contribution to the world—bagels. But again, I’m not passing judgment here. Just Pass-me-Over the bagels. Okay, so that was corny, but harmless. Who doesn’t think bagels are infinitely better than matzah?

Continue reading