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
July 6, 2012
In September of 2009, I spent two weeks in Thailand. My friend and I flew to Bangkok, took the overnight train to Chiang Mai, and then flew to the south, stopping in Khao Sok and Ko Samui before returning to Bangkok. Here’s a list of my 10 favorite activities, sites, places to stay, and things to eat in the places I visited, along with a recipe for my favorite Thai dish, som tam.
June 22, 2012
Today’s post is a short story I wrote titled “Love and Agami.” The recipe that accompanies it is for the Egyptian version of moussaka, or masa’a, which is vegan when served as street food but sometimes made with ground beef or béchamel at home. Enjoy!
One summer we ate moussaka in Agami. The summer before love’s slow march of defeat, we ate moussaka between pockets of chewy pita as we took in the backhoes and foreboding black flags lining the beach of this off-season Mediterranean town.
Plump bites of eggplant burst in our mouths and oily tomato sauce dribbled down our chins. We ate while we walked, unable to restrain ourselves until we reached our rented villa. The strong sun made our hash-addled heads feel light. Magenta bushes lined the empty dirt roads that led nowhere. Stray dogs fought for authority in the dusty recesses.
April 20, 2012
Creating a recipe—or even choosing one—requires a considerable amount of negotiation. For most of us, flavor may carry the most leverage, but there are many other concerns to bring to the table (excuse the pun)—health benefits, preparation time, sustainability, environmental impact, cost, etc. As an example, here’s a story about how I came up with this week’s recipe: Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Garlic Yogurt.
Let me begin by explaining my insatiable and uncontrollable fixation with French fries. When I sit down to order lunch at a restaurant, I automatically rule out every dish that does not come with fries. Sometimes, I won’t even bother ordering a sandwich for appearances’ sake—I’ll just get a mound of fries and maybe a side salad to assuage my guilt. I often wish that I could transfer this obsession to a food item that does not lead the list of foods that cause weight gain. Why can’t I crave carrots instead?
April 5, 2012
It’s a beautiful day in Southern California. The sky is uncharacteristically overcast, the weather is cool but not cold, and the light drizzle makes me feel like I’m enveloped in a cordial mist. It’s the end of winter, and as I carry home my bounty of local produce from the farmer’s market, I take a moment to imagine what my friends and family in New York are doing.
Most likely the city dwellers are shoveling wet, dirty snow from their cars and wishing they’d worn a warmer pair of gloves for the task. Or, since it’s later in the day back in my home state, they may have already shoveled out their cars and have now returned only to find that a third of the street has been converted into snow banks and they’d have an easier time finding a consistent stance in Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign than a parking space.
What about the non-city dwellers? Do they have electricity? Are they huddled around their fireplaces and cursing themselves for not buying a generator? Continue reading