Archive for June, 2009

Blending with the Americans

Posted in Uncategorized on June 27, 2009 by aliaalafaireet

A little while ago I attended my first official American barbeque. As a kid I went to the Arab version all the time. The first major difference between the two traditions is dress. When Arabs gather at another Arab person’s house we always look fly. Silk shirts, jewlery, shiny shoes. At our bookstore employee “barbeque” I felt very out of place because I was not in demin.  In Arab homes you always, ALWAYS take your shoes off and there we all were prancing in and out of Sonja Potts’ house in our flip flops and sneakers.

Serving procedure at an American barbeque is also quite different. They use the line method. At the beginning of the line there is this cute arrangement of disposable and upsettingly styrofoam plates and silverware.  And everybody just moves on first come first serve. At Arab functions the men usually eat first. While this is a load of patriarchical stupidity it worked out nicely when I was a kid. Arabs use real dishes which are quite cumbersome in the hands of a six year old, but when your cute and little the older people who already have their food feed you. We also don’t usually eat the food oustide, we have sufras (tableclothes to you Americans) on the floor, one for the men and one for the women. Kids eat where they land.

Here are some pictures with some handy explanations for those of you who would like to understand American eating habits a bit better.


On being a regular

Posted in Uncategorized on June 18, 2009 by aliaalafaireet

My friend Candace and I are regulars at this coffee joint on 9th street. Excluding the new summer help, everyone knows our name and drink. I like the extra punches on my punch card that being a regular gets me but, Candace finds the whole situation unsettling. She says being a regular is just “an unequal exchange of information.” These people know your name, what you like to drink, how you keep your wallet, and what do you know about them? I used to think Candace was paranoid, but now I am starting to think she might be on to something.

            I’m a cashier at a university bookstore. Sometimes I work the candy counter, a register next to an entire wall of candy, microwavable lunch items, and crunchy salty treats. Every item on the candy wall is organized into impeccably neat rows and all light up with spotlights. In any other circumstance, this wall would be a mega-center of impulse purchases, but at our store it’s right next to the food court. On a six-hour shift there, I have 10-20 customers, tops. And even in this death valley of a shift, I have regulars. Like the old philosophy professor emeritus we’ll call Donald. Donald gets 2-4 lindt truffles from me and a fountain drink from the food court. Or “Sue” who takes summer classes and always grabs strawberry poptarts for breakfast.

             Somewhere between my customers and the two feet of particleboard counter that separates us, I cease to be a real person. I guess people think whatever they tell me gets sucked into some customer service vortex somewhere and the more regular they are the more they offer up. Seriously Sue, you show my your credit card and driver’s license, and then tell me where you had to park this morning and what type of car you drive? May I have your social security number today, Sue?

            Now I have a candy counter question of the day. I want to see the range of questions people are willing to answer if it’s presented in a fun way. This first one was pretty innocent “If you were a Pringles flavor creator, what new flavor would you introduce? Enjoy the answers and a few bits of commentary. By the way, I didn’t correct anyone’s spelling errors.



Spinache  Artichoke (It’s spinach, but hey, that word is hard to spell)

Jalepano and pepperjack cheese

Honey barbeque

Toasted Ravioli and marinara


Buffalo chicken

Red Bull

Jack and coke

Mojito fry flavor from Addisons (Addisons in a restaurant)



Fried Rice

Original (just like your answer, dude)

Red velvet cake


PeAnut butter (the “A” was just super important)


Crab Rangoon

Chocalote (Hooked on Phonics)

Carrot Cake

Banana!! (!!!!!!!)


A1 steaksauce

Quinoa and Teriyaki Chicken

Chicken Parmesan

Watermelon Vodka (I want to point out that everyone one who suggested alcohol and the Red Bull guy all work at the bookstore)

Chipotle ranch



Sweet Baby Rays


Posted in Uncategorized on June 12, 2009 by aliaalafaireet

I realize it’s a toaster strudel…open your mind!

Relearning Breakfast

Posted in Uncategorized on June 12, 2009 by aliaalafaireet

There are a few post types that will recur over the course of this blog, and Relearning Breakfast is one of them. You can also look forward to Pop[t]art and Food with a Face.

This past semester of college I stopped eating breakfast and developed a mild, yet worrisome addiction to coffee. I made a lot of excuses for myself, I had to get up at 6:00am et cetera, et cetera. Now I don’t know how to eat breakfast anymore. It’s a shame really because I like morning foods, and while breakfast for dinner is an American tradition, waffles just aren’t the same when you don’t have bed head, morning breath, and don’t have to stop in to middle of eating them because your bladder just woke up.smashedpotatoscrabledeggs  Here are what I called smashed potato scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese. I made them with; you guessed it, leftover smashed potatoes. Here are some scrambled egg tips. Beat the eggs with a little splash of milk. I have no idea why this helps, but it does. Add cheese as soon as you pour the eggs in the pan, this allows the cheese to melt slowly and become evenly distributed throughout the eggs.

Chong’s Oriental Market

Posted in Uncategorized on June 3, 2009 by aliaalafaireet

This entry does involve the book, and some fun time with a good friend. Not really knowing how to start revitalizing the book, I decide on going somewhere new. The idea is to pick out ingredients on instinct and see what happens.

            Sara Jane and I go to Chong’s Oriental Market on 8th and Locust for a bit of exploration. My nose, I cannot speak for SJ’s, is greeted by an unidentifiable and not completely pleasant odor, that’s closest relative I can think of is slightly funky gym shoe. But I completely forget about the smell once I see the plastic crates of produce. Japanese eggplant. Beautiful, heavenly light purple, Japanese eggplant. I try not to get too excited. After all, we have a mission, to pick mostly new ingredients and make something edible.

                We start with a base, a block of curly, plumb, yellow wheat noodles, wrapped in plastic with a fun bubblegum pink label void of any cooking instructions. Then, a frenzy of label reading, coconut jam, soda with a marble in the cap that shoots down when you open the bottle. SJ being so very pretty herself, has an eye for uncommonly pretty things. She sees these mushrooms, enoki mushrooms. They are the most elegant mushrooms I have ever seen in my life. Antique white, not a blemish on them, with long svelte stems and adorable round caps. We get a package, along with the noodles, bamboo shoots, a can of sweet Thai sauce, and one of those lovely eggplants. We didn’t really get all new ingredients, but hey, we tried.  We get fancy lychee and tamarind drinks, and for dessert we spurge on the pink and white rice cakes, our most expensive purchase at $4.39.

            Back at SJ’s apartment we sauté that eggplant and bamboo shoots and put some water on the boil. SJ puts on some Putumayo from her macbook. I am not really sure what to do with the mushrooms but washing them seems like a logical first step. I open the package and see, that to keep the mushrooms looking I guess, the processors left a chunk whatever partially decomposed matter the mushrooms graze on attached to the stems. I immediately want to become a fifth grader, get a tray, and dissect the stuff, but I am also very hungry at this point. So instead I cut the stems away from the chunk and wash them, very ,very well. The water is boiling at this point. We add a generous amount of noodles and in about ten minutes they are plump and juicy. We mix the noodles and Thai sauce with the eggplant and prepare to tuck in. SJ insists that I get to use the “I’ll kung your pow,” bowl and switches with me even after I admit that I accidently spilt a little of my tamarind drink in the other one.  We eat and giggle, definitely one for the book.



This post is not about the book

Posted in Uncategorized on June 2, 2009 by aliaalafaireet

This entry does not involve the book, but its subject is still a very important one: tomatoes.  One of my most vivid childhood memories is of my mother ripping the plastic outer off my Disney character playhouse in order to use the frame to stake her tomato plants in our front yard. Looking back I am surprised our landlord allowed this, but that afternoon I was just plain mad. She didn’t even pretend to ask my permission! In time I forgave her. Seeing those little white blossom into little pear shaped yellow aromatic tomatoes turned out to be way more fascinating than pre-fab Minnie and Mickey.

                Over the past year I’ve worked a weekend shift at a local organic food store called the Root Cellar, and it’s brought me to a higher level of tomato appreciation. There are two major thing that bother me about how most people consume food a) people haven’t the foggiest idea where their foods comes from, and b) people expect their food to be uniform. A fruit that does not look exactly like its neighbors in the produce bin and is not covered with a thin film of wax to make it shiny it substandard. The tomatoes at the Root Cellar start out just red, but then we get yellow, green, purple, striped, speckled, whatever you like. And some are shaped quite oddly.  Being surrounded by these friends somehow puts me in a better mood for the rest of the week.