Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Unexpected side effects of living abroad

Let me tell you about cooking.

When I was a kid, my parents, at one point--I was somewhere between 8 and 12, say--had me cook one meal a week. Ostensibly to teach me how to cook, and make me understand that the hot food on the table didn't magically appear from the kitchen sometime between after-school cartoons and bedtime.

When I went to college, cooking became a necessity. As a schol-haller, it was occasionally part of my duties. As a roommate in a dilapidated student ghetto house, it was that or starve. And of course, who hasn't fixed themselves a cheese-and-thousand-island-dressing sandwich after a night at the bar?

Post-college, I experimented with more complicated dishes. Sometimes it was out of boredom, as I looked for ways to expand my culinary horizons beyond soup (canned), sandwiches (cold) and chips (potato). Other times it was because I wanted to impress someone with two X chromosomes and a taste for the finer things.

But it has never been anything I did regularly... until I arrived in the Dhabs.

Witness. Yes, this was more complicated than it looks.

I find myself cooking--really cooking, with ingredients and a plan and stuff--about three times a week, which impresses me, if nothing else. Most of the time I turn out something pretty good too. I think that has to do with practice and lack of pressure. A notable example of the pressure getting to me: I tried once to do something German for Mrs. Blog, who is Krautish, and wound up buying spaetzle, cabbage, sauerkraut and some other starch that I can't recall at the moment. Despite being seasoned by a ton of good intentions, a tasty meal it was not.

Here, for the most part, I'm cooking a meal simply so we can enjoy something nice to eat. Hunting and gathering. Stuff that is in my genes. (plus, we have a barbecue grill, which I'm always comfortable using unless I'm stuck with that awful Saudi Arabian charcoal)

So here is the point, and thanks for waiting around for it. I have moved to the Middle East, and because of that, I cook more often and am better at it. As far as side effects of expatriatism go, that is one I would have never expected.

And it tastes... it tastes like success. With barbecue sauce.

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