June 23, 2006

Busy Again, Alas

I’m swamped all of a sudden with unexpected non-writing related work I need to stay on top of. Blogging may be slow. I’ll be back with more as soon as possible.

Feel free to sound off about whatever in the comments. Just remember to be nice to your fellow humans.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at June 23, 2006 12:06 AM
Comments

Michael, I would like to start off by talking about middle eastern food, my favorite, though I have never lived or visited...I propose the controversial topic of which country invented baklava, and which is the best. Walnuts or almonds or pistachios? Orange or Lemon with the honey, honey? I realize this may be trite, but some of the most fruitful discussions are about food and recipes. What is your favorite thing to eat in Lebanon, and what do you absolutely have to have in Israel? Was there any particular dish you enjoyed in Turkey, Kurdistan or Iraq? Whose coffee is the best, and whose is the most suckworthy?

Posted by: Jauhara at June 23, 2006 01:57 AM

Almonds.

Me, I want to see more kitten and puppy photos.

Posted by: Gene at June 23, 2006 05:56 AM

On a slightly less appetizing note: is there anything we should avoid ordering when visiting the middle east?

Posted by: rosignol at June 23, 2006 07:13 AM

There is a marvelous little Persian resturant here in Columbus (the owners are Kurdish). Fantastic Lamb Barg, Saffron rice, Persian Tea, whatever the yummy eggplant/garlic paste stuff is... yum.

If you're ever in Columbus, you'll definately want to check it out :)

Of course, if you're ever actually in Columbus, you have my sympathies. ;-)

Ratatosk

Posted by: Ratatosk at June 23, 2006 08:37 AM

pistachios, obvi :)

Posted by: carine at June 23, 2006 09:12 AM

Walnuts or almonds or pistachios?

Pistachios.

Orange or Lemon with the honey, honey?

Lemon.

What is your favorite thing to eat in Lebanon

I don't actually have a favorite. There are so many local options, more than anywhere else except perhaps Turkey, and they also have foreign restaurants from all over the world.

what do you absolutely have to have in Israel?

I only spent a week there, so it isn't possible to have an answer to that.

Was there any particular dish you enjoyed in Turkey, Kurdistan or Iraq?

Turkish food is amazingly good, but I often didn't know what I was eating. (Sorry for being vague. I'm a bit sleep deprived.) Iraqi food is decent, but basic: kebabs, etc.

Whose coffee is the best

Turkey's (for Turkish coffee) and Lebanon's (for Western coffee)

and whose is the most suckworthy?

Worst coffee is in Douz, Tunisia. You can taste the salt from the Sahara.

On a slightly less appetizing note: is there anything we should avoid ordering when visiting the middle east?

Egyptian food.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 23, 2006 09:36 AM

Following up on the Eyptian food comment: Before I went to Egypt I asked a Lebanese friend of mine who had been there for some travel advice. He said Don't eat the food!

Also, Egyptian blogger Big Pharaoh told me as we walked past some cheap food stalls in Cairo: If you eat that, you'll die.

So I only ate in decent restaurants. And the food in supposedly decent restaurants was ghastly. I did not get sick, but they just don't know how to cook food in that country. (The "Egyptian Pancake" place next to Khan Al Khalili was good, though.)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 23, 2006 09:41 AM

Me, I want to see more kitten and puppy photos.

You got it. Puppies. Kitten.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 23, 2006 10:40 AM

I've been waiting for a long time for Michael to talk more about the food he was exposed to and/or enjoyed. I know that in Morocco I got awfully tired of swordfish while in Tangier and thought the mint tea tasted like spearmint gum, but I've never had such great cafe au lait in my life as in the Cafe de Paris (in the gran socco square near the casbah). All kinds of interesting salads I've never seen anywhere since, and great chicken with coriander and almonds and dates at restaurants up on the 2nd floor of some building in an alley -- you'd be waved down by some 8 year old kid.

But the food would turn out to be good (as well as inexpensive); you'd eat while sitting on cushions while some musicians endlessly jammed in between breaks to retune their heads by smoking more kif.

And for a couple days while sulking for some reason I ate nothing but 2 or 3 huge cardamom cookies while drinking bottled water brand name Sidi Ali while a lizard clung motionless to a high corner of the wall in my room and I played a Roxy Music cassette.

Everyone I met was named Mohammed and it took a little while for me to pay attention to the 2nd name in the introduction.

Ice cream parlors seemed very popular at night with the youth of Tangier. Also soap operas on TV from Spain. The only movie theater in town was shut-down indefinitely because the film projector was broken and no one had a clue as to its repair.

We played basketball in the sun and one guy was 6'5" and another had no hands. Because it was Ramadan they wouldn't drink any water when we were through.

Everyone was in such a good mood when the muezzin called at 7:30pm and they could finally eat. Downtown was lively then until 2 or 3 in the morning.

I'd finally be in bed with the window open and the muezzin would say goodnight but soon after this rooster would start crowing nearby; he sounded as if someone had already partially cut his throat and he was defying anyone who could hear him to finish the job.

The lizard (who I never saw move) next day was gone.

Posted by: Todd Grimson at June 23, 2006 11:56 AM

Re: the Middle East. Steve Sailer
(www.isteve.com) has posted some
interesting info about the secular
Donme sect in Turkey. Here is a
little bit:

>>I imagine most readers are heartily sick by now of my obsession with the Donme, the secretive ethnic group descended from followers of a Jewish false messiah who apparently make up much of the secular elite of Turkey, but it strikes me as reasonably important for Americans to understand more about how Turkey works:

- Although every country in the world, with the possible exception of Mali, has been described as "strategically located," Turkey really is strategically located. And it is a country of about 70 million, with a highly respectable military.

- Turkey has many high-level contacts in Washington, both neocon (e.g., Perle, Feith) and anti-neocon (e.g., Scowcroft)

- The U.S. is pushing for Turkey to be admitted to the European Union, with vast potential consequences for Europe.

- Turkish public opinion is rapidly becoming more anti-American and anti-Israeli.

- We are at war in Iraq, on Turkey's southern border.

- Although we are increasingly involved in that part of the world, we dumb hick naive Americans basically don't have a clue how Byzantine the politics of the old Byzantine Empire remain.

- The Donmeh have become a big issue in Turkey over the last 7 years.

- But practically no mainstream media outlet in America has mentioned this topic at all, presumably for two reasons: First, the ridiculous variety of spellings of the terms donmeh and Sabbatean make Google searches hard, and, second, for the same reason that Solzhenitsyn's last two books haven't been published in America.

Posted by: Julie at June 23, 2006 02:24 PM

Michael, my neighbors are from Iraq - Diwaniya, to be exact, and every night, the man of the house demands only kebab. And rice. Their daughter, almost a teenager and her mother sneak over to our house just to eat something different. When I tell them that as najis kaffirs we don't eat halal, and hey! there's bacon in themthar green beans, they wink, serve themselves up a portion and eat heartily! The situation with dinner has gotten so bad for the women at home, that the mother has taken to sabotaging the nightly meal by burning it. And she won't wear the niqab like her husband's mother, and she cut her hair short. Apparently, he is taste-deaf. Luckily, the women don't eat with the men, so it is a pretext for then to go out for Chinese. Or Sushi. No such thing as halal sushi, methinks....if I make choclava, would it cause an international crisis? Is it possible to make a blasphemous dessert, I wonder.

Posted by: Jauhara at June 23, 2006 04:55 PM

Julie: Are the Donme followers of Sabbatai Zevi? Zevi was given a choice by the caliph of the day: convert to Islam or I will have you beheaded. He chose to convert.

Posted by: Todd Grimson at June 23, 2006 04:56 PM

"Is it possible to make a blasphemous dessert, I wonder."
- Jauhara

Well, I dunno. But homemade Fudge must come awful close, lol.

********************************************

Oh, and Michael? If you're gonna go into Iran ya might wanna do it as soon as ya can. The natives are already restless, and GAS RATIONING may be in season there soon:
http://today.reuters.com/investing/F...NERGY-IRAN.xml

Posted by: Renée C. at June 23, 2006 05:57 PM

On a slightly less appetizing note: is there anything we should avoid ordering when visiting the middle east?

Egyptian food

I've never been to Egypt, but most of the Egyptian restaurants I've tried in the US have been great. There was one restaurant in South Jersey that was located in the ugliest building ever (a mustard-yellow former gas station). I think it was called 'The Nile', (as they usually are). The chef, Mohammed, made the best grape leaves, filled with lamb and covered with tomato sauce. Most dishes were a little spicier than the Lebanese version, but they were just as flavorful.

I don't know what political or culinary event caused the best Egyptian chefs to migrate here, but I'm glad they did.

Posted by: mary at June 24, 2006 09:24 AM

Me, I like Egyptian food. Maybe it was just the fact that for the six months I was there, that's all I had, but I could eat fuul, kosheri and that pickle stuff they put in felafel sandwiches happily for a long time. And, I don't understand why people hate molokheyyah so....

I will say, though, that the felafel sandwich I had at the Lebanese/Syrian border was just about the best sandwich I've had in my short life.

Posted by: jefe at June 24, 2006 11:36 AM

I once knew a guy who drove (yes, drove) from Pakistan to Egypt, by way of Afghanistan, Iran, and Yemen (took ferries across the water parts, I presume). I asked him what he did so he didn't get sick. He said, "Don't eat anything that's not well cooked. Anything."

Posted by: Yafawi at June 25, 2006 04:57 AM

I consider myself to be a connoisseur of shwarma. I could eat shwarma almost every day, and when I lived in Israel I did. I didn’t notice any major differences between shwarma served by Arabs or Jews, although no two reatuarants’ shwarma’s are ever the same.

Perhaps owing to the multi-ethnic makeup of Israel’s Jewish population, I noticed that Jewish shwrama and falafel shops (the two are usually served under the same roof) offered more side dishes and sauces to add to one’s shwarama. From the yellow tangy Iraqi sauce (forgot the name) to red or green fire-hot Yemenite tzchug, there were many ways to make each shwarma sandwich taste different. If I was really hungry I’d add as many “cheeps” (basically French fries) and as much “salatim” (different salads) that I could stuff in my sandwich. Some restaurants/shops offered chilled grilled eggplant... god, I love eggplant.

Currently two Arab restaurants in my city offer pretty good shwarma. One serves it in a regular pita-pocket, the other in a large “lafa” pita, which makes it look almost like a burrito.

In my opinion, Middle Eastern shwarma beats Greek gyros any day of the week.

A good Turkish friend of mine gave me a Turkish cookbook. From the looks of it, I can only imagine the variety of cuisine that can be had in Turkey.

I’ve never had any real Persian dishes, but I am dying to try some. I am a huge fan of eggplant, and the Persians eat a lot of it. It seems like they have quite a unique array of foods.

Is anybody well-versed in Persian cuisine, and if so, what are some of the best dishes with eggplant?

Posted by: semite1973 at June 25, 2006 09:34 AM

- But practically no mainstream media outlet in America has mentioned this topic at all, presumably for two reasons:

...The US asked Turkey to let the 4ID pass through enroute to Iraq.

Turkey said no.

Turkey is no longer considered a reliable US ally.

End of story.

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