The 1,001 Arabian Nights Melange

My husband enjoys watching cooking shows on TV, and also likes the short recipe videos on Facebook. The problem is that once the content has appeared, it is nearly impossible to find it again. If Jorge doesn’t have paper and a pencil handy, he relies on his memory if he wants to tell me about the dish and how to make it.

We both like to try new cuisines, so when he told me he’d watched the preparation of a Saudi Arabian recipe, I was game to try it. The list of ingredients sounded like KETO adherent’s worst nightmare. The preparation of this off-the-charts carb-fest became an even bigger challenge because Jorge could not tell me what quantity of each ingredient wold be required. Nonetheless, I was intrigued, and we winged it when it came to measurements. The result was starchier than we’re used to, but tasty.
And so with no additional fanfare (or apologies), I give you:

The 1,001 Arabian Nights Melange

(Serves 6-8)

• Ingredients:

3 cups cooked spaghetti
1 cup cooked lentils
1 cup steamed white rice
1 cup cooked garbanzos
5 medium-sized white onions (cut in rounds and fried in olive oil until golden brown)
8 angel-hair pasta “nests” (fried uncooked in olive oil until golden brown)
Olive oil (as needed for frying)
6 cups of tomato sauce (seasoned with I T. cumin, Salt and Pepper, to taste)
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
20 whole Kalamata olives
½ cup toasted pine nuts
1 ½ cups plain yoghurt

• Preparation:

You need to have first 7 ingredients kept warm, and all ingredients should be placed in separate containers (mise en place) ready to be combined quickly and served at once.

Spread the spaghetti over the bottom of a large bowl. Sprinkle the lentils over top, then add the layer of rice, then the garbanzos and the onions
Using a large spoon, add dollops of the tomato sauce over the onions until one half of the sauce has been used.
Place the angel hair nests on top of the onions. Dollop on half of the remaining tomato sauce over the nests.
Sprinkle the olives, pine nuts and cilantro over the top. and then dollop the rest of the tomato sauce and all of the yoghurt on the very top.

* To Serve

Take the bowl to the table and lightly toss all the ingredients together. Each guest will then serve him or herself from the bowl. This dish is interesting because each bite is a different mixture of texture and taste

Serve with a cucumber and mint salad (slice cucumbers and squeeze the juice of one lemon over them – sprinkle with mint leaves – salt and pepper to taste)

Pair the meal with a chilled crisp white wine

Is the thrill is gone… or does it live on?

For quite a few years, I enjoyed seeing what would be delivered to me each day, courtesy of FACEBOOK. I got to read updates from long lost friends. I saw photographs of their grandchildren, home re-dos, celebrations and holiday trips. I loved the clever posts (like the one featured above) I truly appreciate the option of chatting online by text, audio or video… whenever I want to.

Now though, it seems when I first open FACEBOOK I receive just a few posts from family and friends who I’m glad to hear from. But it doesn’t take much time for the disruptive pop-up ads to start flashing in my face. And not long after that, control of what I see on my screen seems to get wrenched from my grip. I am unwillingly to watch a string of videos compiled for “enquiring minds”.  But no matter how long I click, tap and scroll down I can’t exit the site. I don’t know how social media’s information gathering has become convinced that I need a steady stream of stories that feature alien encounters, celebrity gossip, footage of disasters or investment-opportunities that will have me rolling in cash within a month – or sometimes as little as a week – Sign up now!

And meanwhile, topics I care about deeply, are not mentioned at all. So rather than daily posting on FACEBOOK, I think I will be better off writing less frequent entries on this blogsite. I had my first blog, WRITING FROM MERIDA for 10 years. Then I inadvertently deleted it. The content was preserved but I could no longer navigate the site. So sad, and yes, a period of mourning ensued. But CHANGES IN OUR LIVES came along, and while I’ve been a bit fickle with the poor thing, I am going to try to do better. It’s good for me.

Having a blog is like keeping a diary. It records random thoughts and it gives me a voice when I need one. It is both a warm-up session for my other writing and when I am blocked or just don’t want to work on my novel, I can use the blogsite as an escape.

A few of my site’s followers have asked me if I plan to stay in Merida for the duration of the pandemic. The answer is yes, yes I do. I travelled to Canada this summer for taxes, banking etc. and I realised that here or there or wherever… we are all facing the same issues. Do I mind the voluntary isolation? I don’t mind a bit … until I want to go out.” Some days I spend hours writing or painting. I also have a sewing project and of course, the un-ending photograph sorting. This lock-down period has given me time to finally face all the jobs I’ve been putting off. Whether I get to them or not is another story.

And so, I’ll leave you for now. I need to check my FACEBOOK messages and notifications before turning off the light.

Some habits die hard, don’t they?

Those were the days …

Is it because I’m getting older? Has six months of social distancing worn me down? Or have I truly become more introspective? I suppose the “why” doesn’t really matter, but I think about the past a lot more than I used to, especially my early childhood.

I’ve always had vivid “living memories”. I remember people, places and events from the past. I talk about them (and write about them) often. But deep rumination is new to me. I find myself trying to chronologically piece together the circumstances, chance encounters, and twists of fate that made up my world during the first 18 years of my life. I then go one step further and try to recall how these situations affected and shaped my actions in the years to come.

Sometimes a memory and the corresponding future action are easy to figure out.
I am the eldest daughter in a family of eight children. I helped my mom with chores and childcare because she obviously needed an extra pair of hands. I felt I could manage, none of the other kids were remotely old enough, and so I stepped up. Crossing our (very quiet) street with a baby brother in my arms and a toddler-brother hanging on to my waistband is a very early memory. We three made it safely across but a panicked neighbourhood lady came running up to me. Oh my goodness! What are you doing? What’s wrong?

Now, it’s not hard to understand why she got upset. I was only 3 years old. But at the time, I felt utterly confused, I couldn’t see that I’d been careless. I carried the baby around all the time. I made no distinction between the safe confines of our house and the unknown perils that waited for us outdoors. My mother heard the other mom calling something alarming like … Marg, Marg, come quick … and she did so.

After some nodding and mumbling between the two of them, Mom returned us to our side of the street. She didn’t fuss at me but I remember her saying I shouldn’t do that again because I would worry people. I suppose I didn’t completely appreciate the import of her advice because 3 years later, I received a similar admonition for letting those same two brothers walk to school with me. That time though, it was Sister Constance, the principal of the parochial school I attended who phoned my mother to come and collect the 2 smaller boys. I can still see her, hurrying along, while pushing the buggy with two more (smaller) children.

Thinking about those two incidents, I realise that from an early age, I considered myself capable. Acting impulsively didn’t worry me, but of course, I didn’t fully consider the consequences of my actions. The fact that I never “got burned” as a child encouraged me to move on to bigger challenges. At 18, I insisted on accepting an Assistant English Teacher’s position in southern Peru. Then at 24, I moved to southeastern Mexico.

My wings got clipped once I had a family, but yes, I am still like I was at 3 … ready for adventure … I hope that we get a vaccine soon. My need to be active and on the go is still strong. I don’t want all these “golden years” to pass me by, and yet, I think I am making the best of the situation. Thinking about days gone by is not my only activity… I am working on a new book, I’ve done some painting, and oh yes, picture sorting. The ones included with this post are of Stephen as a baby in his bassinette and of my brother, Peter and Me with Dad, in front our house and Mom’s vegetable garden. Ah yes, that was the year we crossed the street.

I don’t really remember why I took my little brothers and did that. To get to the other side? I guess that was it.

And here’s some accompanying music… “Those were the Days”, by Mary Hopkin, 1968