Posts Tagged ‘Food’
Note: this post was written on June 1.
After I arrived back in Amman from Jerash (see photos below), I went straight to a café to use up their internet and make some phone calls. I received an update, via facebook, than unlike me, he was home on time and got to enjoy fresh mansaf with the family for lunch. I sat there with the taste of envy in my mouth as I sipped some overly sweet tea.
Much, much later than night, I devoured the leftover mansaf. He wrote quite extensively about his mansaf experience, and after I scrapped up the leftovers, I understood why. Even though this is my second consecutive year in Jordan, this was the first time I ever tasted the national dish.
Ohhhhhh man, it was so good. Whatever word is the next level up from delicious is, I would use to describe this meal. Delectable? Scrumptious? Mouth-watering? Excellent? All of the above.
Not my usual go-to midnight snack— that’s cereal or some tea— but certainly a step above. Mohammed and Raed sat across from me in the kitchen as I tore meat off the bone with my teeth. And when I say tore, it sounds far more vicious than it was; this meat was so tender, as soon as I took even a little bite the entire chunk of meat just slid off the bone onto a bed of rice.
I don’t have a picture of this meal for my food slideshow, because I was too hungry to think of anything other than the plate of food in front of me, and my growling stomach. But, again, Matt posted about his mansaf experience, and took some sweet shots of the meal. This was funny to me because it has sort of become my thing on this trip. And he
usually always gives me grief about it. But it’s all in jest; he, too, succumbed to the food’s beauty and put his camera before his appetite.
Last night, for the first time in quite some time, Mohammed cooked, this time for both of Matt and I. (Last time he cooked for us, he served the poached egg dish pictured in my last post. He also made me a lentil soup when I got sick before the Badia. More on that at another time, in another post.)
We arrived promptly at 10 p.m., on time for once, and walked through the door as he completed his masterpiece of a meal.
Three plates were set on the table, the white ceramic a stark contrast to the line of bright red tomato slices, hugging the sides of the plate like a set of parentheses. And the top of the plate- twelve o’clock, if you will- three long slices of cucumber arranged as a three-leaf clover, topped with one, vibrant piece of lemon.
In the few moments it took to walk into the bedroom, drop off my backpack and slide off the sneakers, the piece of art was complete. What had been an empty, white, framed center was now filled with chunks of deep brown meat sautéed with onions. The oil and juices flowed around the plate, saturating and darkening the vegetables. It was beautiful, really. And that’s exactly why, after just two bites, I ran to grab a camera. I had to capture this meal on film- err, chip, I suppose, in this digital age- before I devoured it.
On that first day two weeks ago, I was far too hungry to snap photos before ultimately stuffing my face full of juicy, tender chicken, carrots, onions and rice. I may have also still have been half asleep after my sleepless night and early morning.
Below are some images of the food I have been served over the course of two plus weeks living with my host family. Note: I’m usually starving, and thus dive into the meal before I pull my camera out. Some of these images may be of half-eaten food.
Also included in this slideshow gallery are other photos of meals, snacks, and munchies here in Jordan over the last two and a half weeks. Check captions for clarification on which is which, but you will probably be able to tell for yourself.
Note: this post was begun on Tuesday, May 15. It has since been edited to include more detail, and another blog draft that has been sitting idle was ultimately integrated into this post.
Last year, I was welcomed into the home of Mama Munira, Albert, Danny and nana, a lovely Christian family that resides in Shmaissani, a neighborhood of Amman. Ryan and I lived with them for just two weeks before we departed for Istanbul to complete the second half of the program. I still remember the day we were picked up from SIT like it was yesterday.
Yesterday, the group checked out of the Imperial Palace Hotel and was aboard the big yellow bus by 9 a.m. I had a Skype interview for a co-op position at Newsday at 7 a.m., and I had trouble falling asleep after a night of laughter and nargeela (read: hookah, shisha, argeela, hubbly bubbly, etc.) poolside that ended around 1a.m.
So, in true Anthony fashion, I convinced myself that staying up until my interview would be a good idea. (It wasn’t a good idea.) I was left in the hotel lobby with two other hookah pipes and a table full of empty plates, glasses and bottles. Every time a waiter came by to pick up another tray full, I tried to give him the “this isn’t my mess” look. After watching him go to and from the kitchen a handful of times, it was a little after 3 a.m. and I was in the middle of a reading assignment.
My eyelids felt as though they weighed a million pounds, each, and my stomach was making noises that are usually heard when walking through creaky old haunted houses. Next time the waiter came strolling through the lobby, I called him over and ordered a cheeseburger. Unlike staying up all night, ordering food was an excellent idea. I was already in too deep into the night- err, morning?- to give in to sleep.
A few more hours
passed crawled by, I made some limited progress on the reading, and it was almost time for my interview with Newsday. At some point, Melissa joined me in the lobby and began clicking away on her laptop. After we had some breakfast from the hotel buffet, she shared some words of encouragement before my interview and I ran up to my room to brush my teeth and shower to wake myself up- or rather, freshen up. At 7 a.m., Eileen Holliday of Newsday called on Skype. I answered, obviously, and we chatted for about a half an hour, maybe more. Who has an honest sense of time at that hour, especially after not sleeping a wink AND being jet lagged? Not I. (Disclaimer: I never have a good sense of time. Ask anyone who knows me, especially my brother or any of my cousins. Or my father, if you want a more impassioned response.) The interview went very well, and I immediately shut my laptop and loaded my luggage onto the bus.
Samantha and I boarded the bus, and we were the first two of the group to do so. All of the curtains were pulled shut. Near darkness. It was wonderful. I passed out on her shoulder while she read, but I think she eventually gave in to sleep too. Some time later- remember what I said about me and time- everyone began to hop on the bus and claim seats, and I woke up to the sound of screeching and chatter, mostly from the back of the bus. Dammit, I thought, the bus had been so nice and quiet. Alas, our busy day would begin eventually, and I could only blame myself for being this tired. But hey, I had a job offer to show for it.
We drove to SIT, where everyone unloaded their bags from the bus and lined them up against the exterior wall, along the windows.
Hours later, host families began to arrive at SIT to pick up students in pairs. Slowly but surely, the room emptied as people were called out to meet their families. Within 20 minutes, Matt and I were called out. We filtered out of the classroom into the main, larger classroom at the front of SIT, and there stood Carlene, Dema. Between them was a man wearing a blue and read plaid shirt, blue jeans, and a navy blue baseball cap with a smile under his graying mustache. His name is Mohammed, and he has been my host father here in Amman since Matt and I met him, two weeks ago today. “Nice to meet you,” he said, as he shook both of our hands. I noticed there was a strange, southern-American accent beneath his Jordanian accent. (I later learned that he spent six years living in North Carolina, where two of his brothers live with their families. It all made sense, now.)
We followed him outside, gathered our bags, and loaded up a silver mini van. We were carpooling with Sam and Joey, two of the Arabic students. We later learned that Sam and Joey live with our host mother’s brother and his family. (We’re all host cousins!) I nodded off more than a few times during the ride through Amman, so I couldn’t really tell you what was discussed. I felt bad- what a terrible first impression I must have made, falling asleep like that. But I was dead-tired and couldn’t help it. Each time I woke up, I saw everyone else in the car chuckling. Even Mohammed, from the front seat. Oh well.
When I woke up, the third time, we were slowly rolling to a stop on a narrow street. Matt and I, apparently, had arrived home. We shuffled out of the car, grabbed our bags out of the trunk, and bid farewell to Sam and Joey. Mohammed led us through a narrow black iron gate and up two flights of stairs. We entered the apartment and were directed into a living room to the right of the entrance. It was a formal seating area filled with golden light coming in through the curtains. The couches and carpet were all different shades of brown. We took our seats, me on the couch and Matt across from me on a cushioned chair. Mohammed sat across from Matt, on the other chair.
We all began chatting and got to know each other a bit. Then, an adorable little blond boy with eyes that looked like milk chocolate chips appeared in the doorway. Mohammed called to him in Arabic, and a slight smile appeared on his face as he wondered into the room and toward his grandpa. (His name is Ahmed, and he is too cute. The son of Mohammed’s daughter, Rozenn, who lives in a nearby apartment.) He glared, first at Matthew then at me. I opened up my suitcase and gave Mohammed the salt water taffy that I brought from Boston. (I know, a lame gift. But, in my defense, I also bought two Boston mugs. Then I forgot them on the flight from London to Amman. I can be such a space cadet sometimes.) Matthew gave Mohammed the book about Oregon that he brought, and Mohammed flipped through the book before placing it on the coffee table.
He opened up the taffy, and handed a piece to Matt and myself, as well as Ahmed. This boy is so funny; he takes a bite out of his piece, then holds it up to Matt’s mouth, and then walks over to me. Kids in America could learn a thing or two about sharing from him. I wish I could bring him back with me. Then our host mother, Ruwada, came into the room, and Matt and I stood to shake her hand. She didn’t (and still doesn’t, duh) speak much English, a few words here and there, but communication is seamless, and she’s a very sweet lady. Plus, I’m often around both her and my host father at the same time, and Mohammed is good about translating for Matt and I, which is helpful. (Living in North Carolina was a good thing, I guess. I could never live down there. Ever.) Mama walked back into the kitchen, which is just across the way from where we sat. The apartment was filled, from the moment we entered, with an aroma that turned my stomach all sorts of sideways, in the best way. I was starving.
After we sat and chatted a bit more, mama shouted in Arabic from the kitchen, Mohammed slapped his knees as he rose up out of his chair, and he said, “Let’s eat lunch, boys.”
I was back home, in Amman. It’s a different house than last year, and I’m surrounded by new people. But it’s home.
Note: this post was written on Sunday, May 13. It hasn’t been modified, even though I’m posting it two weeks after it was written. Just pretend you’re reading it on May 13.
Today, Sunday, was our final full day as guests in a hotel. Tomorrow morning we’ll be checking out and meeting our host families at SIT. The big yellow bus- not a school bus- is waiting outside. We’re all going on a bus tour of Amman today, with (all too brief) stops at the King Abdullah I Mosque, downtown at an ancient Roman Amphitheatre and up to the Citadel, where the Temple of Hercules, or what is left of what it once was, sits perched above the busy streets of modern Amman. I remember this day last year, when the sky was overcast and gray. Raindrops fell intermittently, and as a result we were rushed back onto the bus. I thought maybe this year, with clear blue skies, we would be allowed to explore more on our own.
I was wrong. 45 minutes, be back on the bus. Half an hour, be back on the bus. Ugh. This is why I hate traveling in packs, being herded around like an animal. I find the views from the Citadel and the sound of the call to prayer echoing in the city below to be breathtaking, and think these sites deserved more than a passing glance. Yes, this is my second time seeing these sites, but both visits were not my own. They were controlled visits, designed and meant to be brief.
If it were up to me, I would have spent the better part of the afternoon up there, looking down over the bustling beige city of Amman. But, it wasn’t up to me. After climbing up to the top and to the edge with my friends Sam, Melissa and Matt, we posed for a few goofy shots; the prom picture, jumping shots, almost falling over shots. (Thank goodness for self-timer, and that no one actually fell off.) See some of the pictures from the day below:
At the end of the night, we all went to Top (pics in the gallery above), a restaurant I did not dine in last year. This was a nice surprise. Everything to this point felt exactly as it did last year, but with a new group of people, not quite take two. Tonight was the first truly unique part of the trip. The food was delicious, fresh, bursting with flavor. I scooped salad onto my plate, and covered a heaping pile of rice with chicken and vegetables. The meal was one I won’t soon forget, and moments after I thought I was full, dessert was served. Naturally, I was going to try a piece. I didn’t get the name, but it was similar to the Greek pastry called galaktoboureko, which is crispy, syrupy dough filled with a custard. This variety was also topped by rumbled pistachios. Mmmm mmm, good. I also got to see another friendly face; Morgan arrived from Paris in time to join the group for dinner at Top. (Morgan, Joe and I are the three veterans this year. We three traveled to Jordan and Turkey last year.)
Note: this post was written on May 12, about day two in Amman.
Day two brought back memories, too, but bad ones. As soon as I arrived, I started sweating. I plugged in as many fans as I could around the classroom. I knew it would be a long day, I had been through it before.
I sat through orientation at SIT, and it was just as dry and drab as last year. Joe and I kept darting looks at each other. The staff went through what to expect, culture shock, what was proper behavior and what was not, sexual harassment, this list goes on and on and on.
I don’t think I blogged about it last year, and for good reason. Mind-numbing. Painful, really, especially the second time around. It was almost over, I kept telling myself. In reality, though, I couldn’t believe I was sitting through it again. Shouldn’t Joe and I have gotten to sit this one out? I guess not.
Well, all I can say is, at least the day was broken up by a nice lunch in Abdoun Circle. At the same restaurant as last year, no surprise. The food really is tasty, though, so no complaints from me.