18 September 2016

History of the Church in Mexico

I think I've mentioned the newish LDS lessons on the history of the church in Mexico.  These were apparently commissioned by the Mexico area and were written in Spanish for members of the church in Mexico by an American scholar/missionary (maybe someday there will be a set of lessons written by a Mexican scholar).

It appears that not all of the lessons are on the lds.org Spanish website (that website is clearly not updated as often as it should be), but they are on the sud.org website.

I have never seen an English translation so you either need to read Spanish, or, even better, call a Mexican in your ward who speaks English also to teach these lessons as an alternative Sunday School class for a couple of months.  Learning about the history of the church in other countries is very worthwhile and church history in Mexico has some important and overlooked events, especially regarding the Third Convention.  

The stuff arrived.  We thought it wouldn't come till this week, after Eid al-Adha, but in a surprise move, it came at the beginning of the holiday.  That worked out really well since we couldn't go anywhere and didn't have much to do.  Getting the house put together was lovely.

We had the movers unpack for us for the first time.  I will never do that again. I know some people love it. but it took longer overall to get everything put away.  I much prefer opening one box at a time, putting each thing away, and then moving onto the next box.  No one digs through the stuff, things stay somewhat organized, and there's just a stack of boxes sitting there when you need a break instead of a room filled with junk.  I'd always had a suspicion that it wouldn't work for me, and now I know.

I have done a lot of exciting things since the stuff came.  I've gone a bike ride every day, which means I've left the house when I chose to and came home when I chose to and went where I felt like. I was in control of my own wheeled vehicle. I got some things done without calling for a ride. I love it.

I made tortillas and chapatis with the tortilla press.  It was so good to eat tacos again.  We had them on the 16th, of course, with rajas and crema, chicken, salsa, pickled vegetables, and frijoles.  

We've also made ice cream three times.  You can't get mint extract here but we tried steeping real mint in the hot mixture while it was cooling down and it worked really well.  We've also used coconut milk because that's super quick, although several of my children didn't like plain coconut milk which is sad.  Just with cocoa. 

I'll spiralize some carrots for dinner tonight.  I still haven't used the molcajete or pasta maker yet.

It's nice to have everyone back to school and work today.  

05 September 2016

Mutabbaq, Again

I made mutabbaq again a few nights ago.  This time I use roumy cheese in some of them, just the cheese, which was really easy.  I chopped up some green onions and tomatoes for some more of them.  The mixture should be green with a little red, and just add some salt, nothing else.  That one was amazing.  And I did some with chicken and potato.

Saute lots of garlic in some olive oil, then add about 2 diced potatoes.  You can microwave them a bit first to move things a lot, but you're mostly cooking them in the pan, not the microwave.  Cook the potatoes till they're just tender, or not quite tender, and add some cooked shredded chicken, feta, salt, spice, chopped fresh mint, and enough yogurt so it isn't dry.

I baked some and pan-fried some.  I preferred the baked ones (I brushed them with a bit of oil and baked them at 200/400 for about 20 minutes till they were golden brown), but everyone else liked the fried ones.  It was nice to have both.

We'll certainly have these again and try new fillings, but these three fillings were all amazing.

01 September 2016

Mexico, Immigration, Trump

So, nothing new from Trump's speech yesterday.  But still, hearing his immigration plan all at once, with all the asides, made me sick.  Teleprompter Trump would have been better. I don't want to live in the America that Trump wants to create.

This morning I read an email from an LDS missionary living in Southern California in a largely Iraqi neighborhood.  He sees Islamophobia and anti-immigrant abuse too frequently. He wrote about stopping a man who was loudly verbally abusing an older Iraqi woman on the street, getting threatened with a knife when he stepped in, and then helping her carry her groceries home when the man ran away.  I'm so glad he did that, but angry that he had to. 

The speech had the usual misrepresention and spin, which is normal and easily looked over.  But it also had some things that are factually untrue and policy proposals that are unacceptable in my mind. Throughout the speech it's often hard to tell sometimes which group of people Trump is referring to.  Sometimes he lumps all foreign-born people together, whether they're US citizens, green card holders, or undocumented; he seems to consider anyone who wasn't born in the US as an immigrant even if they're only in the US temporarily (being an immigrant means you are intending to settle in a new country permanently); sometimes he's talking about refugees who have a very different entry process than anyone else who enters the US; etc.  This lack of clarity isn't particularly surprising though.

First, I completely and thoroughly reject the idea that the point of our immigration system is to make life better for US citizens (and I don't think Trump sees increased diversity as one of those ways to make life better for US citizens). Our immigration system is to allow people from all over the world to move to the US and to improve everyone's lives, both the people born in the US or anywhere else in the world. Nearly all of my ancestors who immigrated to the US after it was an independent country didn't look that great on paper (except they were white) but I'm glad they were allowed to enter, obviously. America First is not an immigration system I can ever support.

Second, I have a serious problem with Trump's continuing to pit minorities in the US against immigrants.  This is also part of his America First rhetoric- trying to make people believe that immigration hurts the US rather than creating it (and I think we are still creating the US). Also, immigrants are humans and as important and worthy of respect as any US-born US citizen.  I care about immigrant families whose legal status makes their lives difficult. And people who cross the border illegally are not fish, so it is not acceptable to refer to them in fishing terms.

Third, Trump continues to lie about the refugee entry process into the US.  There are a lot of lies and spin out there in politics, but this should not be acceptable.

Fourth, Mexico is not going to pay for the wall.  Peña Nieto has made that clear.  Trump's plan to get Mexico to pay for it would have significant diplomatic repercussions if he tried to implement it.

Fifth, Trump is awfully fuzzy with his math throughout the speech.  I'm looking for a good fact-checker to explain why I say this.

Sixth, this extreme vetting is concerning and vague.  Trump did list some ideological differences he would screen for (too bad there are already US-born citizens who wouldn't pass his test because Americans are allowed freedom to have offensive opinions), but the point for anyone, citizen or not, is not belief, it's about agreeing to be subject to US law.  That is the only ideological test I am interested in, and immigrants already do agree to that.  Also, this is the main time when Trump lumps all foreign-born people living in the US together.  He made his attitude clear about foreign-born citizens when he disparaged Judge Curiel.

Seventh, I am absolutely opposed to complete bans of people entering the US from certain countries.  No country, not Mexico, not Syria, not Libya, not one country has an entire population that should be viewed with that level of suspicion by a US president.

Eighth, look forward to long lines when leaving the US so your passport can be checked by CBP.

Ninth, his statistic that 62% of households headed by an undocumented individual get some type of welfare benefits neglected to mention that the report he was quoting from said that the majority of those households get those benefits for their citizen family members.  It is obviously legal for US citizens to get welfare benefits.

Finally, I really disliked how he talked about immigrants and immigration at the end of his speech.  Assimilation and limiting immigration are conversations from one hundred years ago and we have moved far beyond that. I am also extremely opposed to the idea of only allowing immigrants who are already financially self-sufficient. Immigration from all over the world and from all sorts of demographics is a good thing for the US.

31 August 2016

Flatbread and Stuff

One of my favorite dinners to make is the local grain/bread/noodle choice plus stuff.  In Mexico, that meant tortillas and stuff.  In Kyrgyzstan, laghman and stuff.  In the US, it's rice and stuff (not that rice is really at that American, but I can always get big bags of jasmine rice there).  The stuff is protein, vegetables, and sauces, and then everyone can choose what they want to eat.  It's an easy way to feed lots of people who have different food preferences, and if you're sticking with the local flatbread/grain/noodle/whatever, you have a choice of making it or buying it.  Because one should never buy tortillas outside Mexico or a good Mexican grocery store, or pita in the US unless you watched the person make it, and the same goes for naan.  I won't make any rules about laghman because no one is mass producing it anywhere in the world that I know of.

Anyway.  The current version is flatbread and stuff.  I can make hummus, tabbouli, buy flatbread and something new to try from the deli, and we often have labnah balls too and grape leaves. And zaatar chicken, because my children all love it and it's the easiest thing ever to make.  And I have a list of things to make because it's easy to get all the right ingredients here. Everyone is happy with this meal because no one has to eat everything.  Also, no one else much likes tabbouli so I get it all and making enough tabbouli for one is quick and easy.  

It's been a long time, relatively speaking, since we've had much Middle Eastern food and it's so good to have it again all the time.
The mutabbaq is really intriguing me.  Wikipedia failed me because it neglected to mention that mutabbaq is also made in the Levant and is filled with sweet cheese.  I have a recipe for it in a Jerusalem cookbook sitting in my shelf.  There's a pastry shop in Jerusalem that's been selling it for 150 years- search for Zalatimo's.  I certainly ate plenty of sweet cheese desserts in Jerusalem twenty years ago and maybe I had mutabbaq.  I even have a sneaking suspicion that I ate it at a Yemeni place in Arlington.

I'm still leaning toward a Middle Eastern origin because of the name.

28 August 2016

There are lots of times when I buy something at the grocery store without knowing what it is.  It's especially tricky here because you don't know if something is from Saudi Arabia, or the broader Middle East, or south or southeast Asia.  A lot of things are packaged with English on them so there are clues at the store, but vegetables and some packages can be a complete mystery.

I bought a package of square dough sheets not long after I got here.  There was no English on the package at all and no instructions.  I'd assumed they were for samosas when I'd bought them, but none of the few words on the package indicated that.  Google translate wasn't helping either and after googling several of the words in Arabic script and transliterated (still not knowing if I was looking at Arabic or Urdu words since there was no context- and I was guessing Urdu because of the style of the script) without any success, I stuck the dough in the fridge to figure out later since the expiration date was still six weeks away.

I decided yesterday that it was time to figure it out, or at least fill the dough with cheese because how can you go wrong there?  But I did try the Internet once more, and finally figured out what I had.  It's dough for mutabbaq.  I'd not googled that one in Arabic, just done Google translate which said it meant pure, so I thought it was telling me about the dough, not what the dough was.  I should have stuck with my real dictionary- more on that in another post- and googling.

Anyway, the dough has lots of possible fillings.  You mound the filling in a square in the middle of the sheet of dough then fold the dough over the filling and fry them in a little oil.  I'm thinking this will be a popular option at our house, especially since rolling out dough is not my favorite thing.  Since I didn't know what I was getting into before I started, I had to come up with a filling quickly and decided to do greens and feta, but the greens were bok choy which is certainly odd, but it was local bok choy which means the stems weren't as hearty (like the local bean sprouts).  I liked the greens, but I'd use a different type in the future. I also did some cheese ones which were obviously a hit.  There are so many more things we can do.

I'm not sure where these originated.  They're called murtabak in India and Southeast Asia so that sounds like they were borrowed from an Arabic-spelling country. There are also similar breads in North Africa that I've made before.  So some people say they began in Yemen and travelled east with the Indian community.  But others say they started in India since mutabar means egg bread in Malayalam, apparently.  Another culinary mystery, like so many I've discovered.  
Drain flies.  They were here when we moved in and I haven't been able to eradicate them yet.  But they are better than house flies or mosquitoes, and they're easier to dispatch.  

Plumerias.  We have lovely big bushy trees outside with white flowers on them, but I wasn't sure what they were.  They looked like plumerias, but how could that be in a desert?  Also, I wasn't smelling plumeria when I went near them (and I do that all the time since I rake up the leaves and dead flowers every day) so I didn't think they were. And I'd never gotten around to searching online to find out what they were, despite my best intentions.  But I was on FaceTime last night with my sister and she said they're plumerias, so I finally got my nose close enough to the blossoms to smell them (all the blossoms are above my head) and they are!  It's tempting to make a lei. 

Butter.  Like a lot of the local cheese that's processed, a lot of the locally produced butter I've tried is some sort of blend with oil that leaves an unpleasant aftertaste.  The goal the next time I go to the grocery store is to find some real butter.

Labnah/labaneh/laban- I'm slowly converting the family to labnah balls.  The oldest didn't try them the first time, but did the second time (which makes sense since he loves tart yogurt) and now I need to buy a much larger quantity, or just start making them but I generally try to buy local foods that I have to make elsewhere (like laghman noodles in Kyrgyzstan and salsa in Mexico) so we'll keep buying lots of them.  Also, middle son likes to take a couple for lunch.  Youngest may change sides later, but right now he's with my husband in the not-a-big-fan category. There's also plenty of Turkish labaneh that's the consistency of cream cheese and laban, which I keep hearing other expats accidentally buying instead of milk since it lives right next to the milk.  It was an easy mistake to make in Kyrgyzstan too. I love being able to get all the different lbn products in one place. 

20 August 2016

Pandan leaves.  I blended these up with a little water, strained it, and used it in a coconut cake (I just used a white cake and substituted coconut milk for the milk).  Everyone liked the cake. I'm going to try a chicken recipe with them next and in some rice.  They really do smell a lot like jasmine or basmati rice.

Drumsticks.  I sautéed these with mustard seeds, turmeric, chile and salt. I didn't really expect them to be a hit, and they weren't.  They're rather inconvenient to eat or prepare, depending on when you get rid of the peel.  
I've mentioned that I'm loving getting to know all the different expats here, but sometimes not so much.  The other day I spent a few hours with a certain type of expats and it reminded me why there are some groups I steer clear of.  After listening to a couple of hours of complaining, I don't know when I'll dare hang out with that group again.

Now, I get being frustrated dealing with some aspects of life in Saudi Arabia.  The limited transportation options here in particular have a significant negative impact on every woman's quality of life- there is no denying that.  (And no man can understand that, even if he never drives here. Having the choice is what's important.)

But many expat women, particularly white expat women, get a lot of the frustrations smoothed over.  People don't expect us to do everything right and allow us a reasonable amount of straying from cultural norms that many non-white expat women don't get, and certainly not Saudi women.  We have more choices that any other group of women here. So listening to wealthy white expat women complain doesn't really make me feel very sympathetic.  

And it's not just Saudi Arabia where you can't wear shorts and a t-shirt around your neighborhood without a lot of staring or where your opinion will be dismissed because you're a woman, it's a lot of other countries too.  And cultural change comes from within a country.  Expats wearing shorts are definitely not going to change the culture here. Nor are expats telling Saudis they're doing anything else wrong.  Do you know what will change Saudi culture?  Giving Saudis more opportunities to live in other countries (and that's something one party is advocating to end as much as possible).

You have to learn how to live differently in different places, how to interact with another culture, even one you think is very wrong, to learn from it or make a difference in it.  Interacting with another country and culture in the very same way you would with yours is one of the best ways to spend a frustrating few years overseas.

16 August 2016

New things from the grocery store:

Beef pepperoni.  We're trying this on pizza tonight and I hope it's not awful.

Pandan leaves.  These were labeled rambi and it took a bit of searching to figure out what they were.  I haven't yet decided what to do with them.

Stuffed grape leaves.  So these aren't new, but I can get an entire kilo for less than three dollars.  I will certainly not be learning how to make these here.

Banana leaves.  Not new either, but I finally found them today.  They're fresh, just like in Mexico.

Drumsticks.  I seriously doubt these will be popular at my house, but I can't pass up the opportunity to try them.


Shower doors. I think I have actually found a product that gets rid of hard water soap scum without excessive scrubbing.  I tried everything in Mexico, from imported things to concoctions dipped out of buckets at the tianguis and nothing was really great.  Barkeepers Friend did a good job but I still had to apply, scrub, and rinse.  I've bought a few different things here that haven't really worked either, but today I tried Scrubbing Bubbles.  Silly name, but all I had to do was spray it on, let it sit, wipe (no scrubbing), and rinse with the moveable shower head.  This stuff is my new best friend.

Dusting.  I am, at best, and indifferent duster, but I can't ignore it here.  But even when I do dust, it takes just six hours to look like it needs it again- as in you can write your name in the dust at that point.  That's dusty.  So even though I have dusted more here than anyone I've ever lived, you'd never know it.


It took 2.5 hours today for me to go to the grocery store.  The traffic was slow (I'm done with afternoon grocery trips) and there were four other people in the car so the pickups took a while and we left the grocery store nearly thirty minutes after the appointed time.  But the driver was one of my favorites and we had a nice chat.  He's from Eritrea and he and his wife are expecting their first baby in two months. And did I mention that the baggers here sort your food?  It helps keep things from melting in the heat.

We're coming into the busier driving season with school starting soon so it will be harder to schedule rides.  The driver today confirmed that mid-morning is a good time to go to the store because there's less traffic and it's after the school rush. Hope it works because I don't want to get stuck going in the afternoons.

13 August 2016

I am starting to wonder if two years will be long enough to try all the new ingredients I'm discovering.

I got a coconut shredded the other day. We're trying it in a Keralite mashed potato dish tonight.  We'll also have some spicy chicken and I'll make ghee rice again now that my spices are here.

The driver came into the grocery store with me and showed me some new things.  I have the right fish masala now, which we'll try tomorrow or Monday night, plus curry leaves which I've never bought before. He also made sure I had coconut milk and the right spices, which I do, of course.

And he told me to get something labeled black tamarind.  I had no idea what it was, but he said it was very good and necessary for meen kari so I bought it and searched online when I got home. Black tamarind didn't find anything useful, but I kept searching and finally realized it was cambodge which my Keralite cookbook calls for often, but I had no idea how to find it (and never would have, without help).  The curry leaves and cambodge are going into the potatoes tonight too.

I also finally found mung bean sprouts.  They're locally grown, which is nice, but they also look homegrown, which means fairly wimpy bean sprouts.  I have a sprouter coming later so I'll probably just sprout them on my own instead of buying them because I can sprout wimpy bean sprouts myself.

I spent most of the day putting stuff away, cleaning air conditioner filters, visiting IKEA, and assembling chairs.  This is one of the advantages of an abaya- even when your clothes really aren't all that clean because you've been doing stuff, you don't have to change, you can just put on an abaya and go.

09 August 2016

New cheeses. But first, there is a creepy amount of processed cheese sold here.  It's a little hard to make sure you're not buying it.  I bought some processed feta at the very beginning, not realizing that was even a possibility, and it was not for us. Soft cheeses are what's typical in this part of the world so soft processed cheeses make sense, I guess. And they keep me on my toes.

Baramily- this is a soft cheese from Egypt.  I am having a hard time finding a description of it, just that it's packaged and sold here.  I found a non-processed version.  Like the other two cheeses I'm writing about, I'll mix stuff in with it to make a dip. It's salty.

German feta- this is a soft feta.  I haven't found a hard one yet but the flavor of this was good.  Salty.

Thalaga- this is another spreadable, salty cheese.  Are we seeing a pattern here?  Yes. I need to come up with some more ideas for soft, salty cheeses that aren't cute little appetizers because we don't eat a lot of those.


I promise this isn't a desperate plea for comments, but I think that the commenting might not be working right now.  Or maybe just my mother's isn't.
Another helpful thing about Riyadh's weather, in addition to the cooler winter temperatures, is that it cools off quite a bit at night.  I go outside to work in the garden before the sun is really up and it's in the mid-80s, or at least below 90.  That feels really good in comparison to 115.  In fact, those temperatures have never felt so good before.   A thirty-degree drop in temperature at night makes a huge difference. I can keep up with the yard in thirty minutes a day without any trouble and it's perfectly normal to turn on the lawn trimmer at 6 am here.

And it's only in June, July, and August that the nighttime average temperature is in the 80s.  September and October's are in the 70s, and then you're down to the 50s (or even lower!) for the next five months before it starts warming up again in April and May.  So even though the high temperature is much too hot for six months out of the year, you only get three months of lows in the 80s (and they feel relatively good).  It may be too dusty here to keep the windows open much when it's cooler, but we can at least open them in the mornings for a bit when it's nice outside.

I'm putting this on the win column of my mental chart of reasons to like living in Riyadh (or, at least, why Riyadh isn't as bad as you think it is). 

08 August 2016


So, there is one big advantage to being chauffeured about all the time and that's having someone in the car who knows what they're doing.  We don't spend any time lost or confused because all of the drivers provided for us are very experienced.  They can get around the construction and avoid traffic (sometimes) and are just very competent people.

But even better, they can answer all kinds of questions and give their perspective on life on Saudi Arabia.  All are expats* so they know what it's like to transition to a new country.  It's different from asking taxi drivers questions, somehow, even though it seems like it shouldn't be.  Today's driver commented that I ask a lot of questions, but he'd also volunteered to drive me again so he knew what he was getting into.  He explained the colors on the license plates to me.  Yellow is for taxis and blue are commercial vehicles. There are also some older plates that don't have English on them like the current plates do.  The vast majority of cars of newer plates though.  And we saw a car from Yemen.

Something that often comes up is the driving here in Saudi.  Everyone complains about it and I've been asking what makes it so bad here.  One man told me that a big problem is that there are so many inexperienced drivers on the road because drivers are necessary here for many families and it's only expats who work as drivers.  Another unintended negative result of the ban on women driving.

I can't remember if I've mentioned it, but there also a huge amount of construction all over the city because they're building a metro. It's a hassle, and it won't be finished before we leave, but I'll take any inconvenience necessary to make it possible for women to get around the city on their own.  It seems to me that a metro will be a huge change here for women.

And yesterday I discovered that they city government determines school start times, including for private schools.  Only Saudi children can attend local Saudi schools so there are many international schools here, both private and community (and I'm going to start asking the drivers about education here because I have a lot of questions about that, especially for expat children).  With so many private schools, there are major traffic problems in the morning and afternoons because few children can walk to school. So the city staggers start times which means that the Ethiopian schoolkids leave home at 6:10 to get to school at 6:30.  I wasn't happy about how early my kids are going to be picked up, but no complaining anymore.

*So far I've talked to people from Yemen, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Eritrea, Ethiopia, India, and the Philippines, if I'm remembering all of them. 

07 August 2016

Things that are going well:

I finally, finally had enough time at the grocery store to feel like things are under control.  There is food in the freezer and the fridge is full (I hate crowded fridges, but sometimes you have to).  And I had enough time get some things from the olive and cheese counter.  Not any olives, of course, but you have to call it that since half the things available are olives, but we tried mish, labnah with chile, and shanklish with freshly-baked flatbread.  Other than Lulu, I like Danube at Hayat Mall because they bake bread there, have a great bulk section, and more peanut butter than Lulu, which makes sense.  I also got some grape leaves and hummus, because I hadn't yet.

The house still isn't bothering me, and we cleaned the whole thing yesterday.  The bathrooms are actually designed to be cleaned, which seems like a no-brainer with bathrooms but still almost never happens.  There are drains in the floors and the bathrooms are slightly sunken so you can spray all over and then squeegee all the war into the drain.  And since there are bidets and removable shower heads in all the bathrooms, you really can spray anywhere. Also, I figured out why it's so convenient to close off half of the downstairs- there's a men's section and a women's section.  We live in the women's side. And I'm loving the line drying. I know it's less than three weeks in, but I'm still hopeful I'll like this house. 

Everyone is less bored.  There is still boredom, but it's not as acute as it was.

Reports on new foods we've tried: 

Jeerakasala rice- this is from southern India and it quite small.  It's often used to make ghee rice.  I made a simpler version, because I didn't have all the right things last week, and just fried the rice in some ghee that I'd already cooked some onions in, then added water and salt and simmered till it was done. Usually you'd add in onions (I didn't add the onions because I only had one and I put it in the chicken instead) and some spices, raisins, and nuts too.  I really liked the rice so we'll enjoy it here because it's not something you can get in most places.

Mish- this is a soft, fermented, salted cheese from Egypt originally.  I think we had a Jordanian version and it had chile in it.  I liked it and it would make a great spread.  We had it with flatbread and dried flatbread chips.

Shanklish- this is a Levantine cheese that's usually covered with za'atar. It's another soft cheese and formed into a ball. I think the version we got was spiced a bit inside.

There's nothing new that's a problem right now.  Just dealing with more moving to a new country things.

04 August 2016

Food.  Anytime we move, finding food for everyone in the house is my main job and it can be really challenging.  Every country has its own set of things to figure out.

My biggest problem right now is adjusting to not going grocery shopping daily, or at least five times a week.  For years (with a few exceptions) I've filled up the pantries or cupboards with staples and then bought produce, meat, and dairy as needed, usually for dinner that night.  No planning ahead, no long shopping trips except for the filling up the pantry part, no food waste because it's always fresh and used within a day at most, and it requires that you get out of the house and get some exercise even on the days when you just want to stay home and away from everything.  For me, there are almost no negatives to shopping frequently although I know it's not for everyone.

But here, that's impossible, at least when it's hot.  I will be able to walk to two small grocery stores when it's cooler, but I can't right now and I can't be chauffeured off to the grocery store every day to buy food for that night.  It's a major adjustment for me and since the pantry still isn't full (because I always, always run out of time at the grocery store), I'm just glad we've eaten dinner every night. I'm working on a better plan and I'll be more organized, but it'll take a little time.

Another challenge is that you can't just run to the store for ice cream for an impromptu party or for something you forgot.  I usually don't keep treats around so we'll be glad when the ice cream maker arrives. And again, it's complicated to go out or order food so we've eaten dinner at home every night.  That's not a problem, but it's nice to not have to cook dinner sometimes, especially right after you move.

I'm beginning to see why there's a full-size freezer in the house.  

But other than that, food here is amazing.  So much fun. It's quite possible that Lulu will be my favorite grocery store I've ever used, anywhere in the world.  It's like going to a Middle Eastern, Asian, American, and European grocery store all in one place.  I can get muesli, bulgur, matta rice, flour tortillas, cardamom pods, cane vinegar, rice noodles, cheddar cheese, golden syrup, and so much more and I still haven't even seen the entire place.  As soon as I get organized, the possibilities are endless.

And did I mention yet that jusay is in all the grocery stores?!  I have no idea which ethnic group eats it or what they do with it or what it's called (since it's almost never labeled, and if it is, it's just labeled chives, and the vegetable man didn't know when I asked him), and it's a lot messier than jusay in Kyrgyzstan or the US, but it's my jusay.  :)
Today's successes:

Signed up for an Arabic class
Found sharp cheddar cheese at a reasonable price
Found a book about Old Diriyah which is a World Heritage site near Riyadh
The driver on the way home told me that I can buy coconut at Lulu and have it opened and grated at the store.  

General successes:

-We have a temporary Internet solution.  I hope that means that the long-term solution isn't pushed off for months, but for now, we have Internet.
-The garden is wonderful.  I'm figuring out the irrigation system and most of the plants were hacked back before we arrived, but they're starting to grow back.  There's papyrus all over; and large trees with white flowers; and maybe, if I'm lucky, bougainvillea; and a big tree in the corner just had a couple of yellow flowers open and it's covered with buds
-The house is still not annoying me yet
-We have had enough to eat every day
-We have enough water to drink
-I never have to use the dryer
-The drivers are an amazing resource, both for rides and for information, despite the missteps below

There are obviously missteps all the time.  We schedule a ride to get something done and it takes much longer than it ought to, but our ride home is leaving; or our request doesn't get on the right paper so a car doesn't arrive and you have to call to have someone else sent out; or I just don't ever have enough time at the grocery store to feel like I'm done. The stuff won't be delivered for a while still even though it's here in Riyadh. You'll notice that most of the missteps have to do with transportation.  I honestly don't know how Saudis put up with this when Saudi women are well-educated and well-employed and many have driven outside of the country.

03 August 2016

Pancit Canton

Since I haven't lived in the Philippines yet and since their food is supposed to be amazing, this seems like the perfect chance to try Filipino cooking since it's easy to find the ingredients here.  We started easy last night with Pancit Canton.  This is totally doable in the US if you have an Asian grocery store.  A regular grocery store might not have the noodles or oyster sauce. This is another good way to use up odds and ends of vegetables in your fridge. It's also a flexible recipe- you can do more or fewer vegetables, whatever protein you want (or not at all), and if your noodle package is a different size, you can adjust the broth accordingly. It's also a really easy one-pot meal. I'm betting we will have this a lot.

A couple of tablespoons of oil
1 chopped onion
Lots of chopped garlic
Lots of chopped vegetables- at least 1.5 cups, and I used lots more*
1 cup or so of protein**
3 cups chicken broth
5 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 pound pancit canton***
Cayenne to taste
Vinegar, lemon, or lime

Sauté the onion in the oil in a large wok, skillet, or pot, depending on what you have, for a couple of minutes, then add any hard vegetables (like carrots) you might be using.  Cook a bit and add the garlic and protein and softer vegetables and stir-fry everything for a few minutes, at least until the protein is cooked if it wasn't already. Add about 2.5 cups broth and the soy sauce and oyster sauce and bring to a boil.  Add the uncooked noodles and work them into the saucy vegetables to cook them.  It's a little tricky at first but you'll get there. It helps to be working in a large cooking vessel.  Keep cooking and stirring until the noodles are done, adding more broth or water if necessary.  Add more soy sauce or oyster sauce if needed, and top with spice and sour.

*I used carrots and red peppers because that's what I had, but you could do green beans, cabbage, broccoli, so many other things.

**I used cooked, shredded chicken. You can use pretty much anything. 

***I bought noodles that were labeled this, but I'm not sure I've seen them labeled this way in the US, at least in areas without a Filipino population.  Look for Chinese wheat noodles- they'll be round and thicker than spaghetti, but not egg noodles or rice noodles.  I've bought them before in the US.