Monday, August 22, 2005

You are what you eat - (Re-post)

This is a loooong post, so don't lose heart ...

Another endless source of entertainment falls under the heading "Things we have eaten". Firstly, the eggs : You have never seen such bright ORANGE egg yolks as these. We always learnt that pale eggs were somehow less nuturitious than the brighter yellow ones. Well, by that token, these egg are the healthiest eggs on earth - they are almost day-glow orange! I made scrambled eggs for breakfast and DD wanted to know why we were having lumpy custard on toast! And the pancakes looked like radio-active UFO's!!

At first, we could not find any fresh cream, the only cream we could find was so thick, you could virtually use it for butter. And it comes in all kinds of different flavours - strawberry, banana and honey - no good for making cuppuccino's! We did eventually manage to find thinner, beatable cream in one or two shops.

There are deli counters in all the big shops and you can buy all kinds of cold meats and cheeses, from all over the world. Mostly we just stand and stare at the countries' names : Lebanon, Egypt, China, Greece, Italy, Libya, Sudan, India, etc etc. Prices are quite a bit higher than SA. Especially fruit and veg, obviously because it comes from the other side of the world, lots of foodstuff comes from Australia. There are hundreds of varieties of cheeses - some look like balls of string (and taste like it, too!), there are cheeses that are bland, salty, very very salty, bitter, herb covered, ash covered, chilli covered, you name it - they sell it. We have seen more varieties of olives than we dreamt existed (some the size of golf balls!) and dates and raisins from tiny to humungous. There are nuts of every shape, size, taste and colour (including pea-green and blood red.) Herbs and spices are sold from baskets and consist of leaves, seeds, stems, roots, paste, granules and globs that any South African witchdoctor would be in heaven to see. Pickles are a favourite and it seems that any fruit or vegetable is a candidate for pickling, including lemons, aubergines, turnips, cabbage and even eggs. Many fruits and veg are also dried and then sold - somehow, the wizened up, crinkled, rock hard, blackened lemons and oranges look so sad!!

The meat is very pricey, but it is virtually fatfree, so you can eat the entire cut. Meat also comes from all over the world, we found the most edible kind comes from Australia and New Zealand. We did try the Syrian and Lebanese "lamb", but when cooked it had a distinctly UN-lamblike flavour - and smelt like a camel's armpit, so we now boycott those countries' meat products. Alas - no pork or ham in the everyday shops, but you do get many types of "bacon" - turkey bacon, beef bacon and veal bacon - it is edible, but nothing tastes (or smells) like bacon bacon. We saw some macon on a menu the other day - WTF is MACON?? There are some really strange bits of animal for sale. I saw lamb balls, and I figured it must be a kind of meatball made from minced lamb .... it is actually lamb balls! DH just cringed and turned pale when he saw them!! There are feet and tongues of every type of animal, and brains, cheeks, ears, even noses! We stick to chicken breasts, lamb chops and steak - bits we can recognise. Fish is quite cheap sometimes, it depends on what they catch that day. Prawns were very cheap the other day. They also sell crabs, mussels, clams, shark, cuttlefish and eels.

We have discovered an expat store which is more American and British than Arabic, and stocks some South African delicacies as well. We were delighted to find Milo, gherkins (at R34 for a small bottle!!) Deep Heat, Marmite (we had found chicken flavoured Marmite in the Arab mall - horrible and disgusting!!) and even the YOU, HUISGENOOT and SARIE magazines!! In a secluded area at the very back part of the store, with notices banning Moslems and warning customers that this section contained pork products, we found real bacon and, surprise, surprise, biltong (called bultung!!) and boerewors (actually called boerewors!!) I think the "bultung" was actually the dried up skin of a rhinoceros - tough as takkies and covered in chillies!!

There are some pretty strange looking fruits and vegetables : hairy lychies, bright white watermelons, knobbly cucumbers, metre long green beans, red pumpkin and other strange things that we are not sure whether they are actually fruits or vegetables. The only reason we know that they are for eating, is because they are in the vegetable section! We (read I) want to try them, but are afraid that we might end up munching the equivalent of a raw potato or onion, or cooking an exotic lettuce leaf instead of eating it raw. And just in case you think I am joking - there are many, many types of bananas - including the one which the fruit for eating raw and there is one that is a vegetable for cooking and using like a potato - so there! (PS - we even saw teeny tiny bananas, the size of a thumb!) They also sell banana flowers, stems and leaves!!

Then there are the mixed breeds, like the cross between an apple and a pear (DH likes these) - crunchy like an apple, but tastes like a pear, and is pale/white.

Compared to the puny sized fruit and veg in SA, the fruit appears to be genetically modified or fed on steroids - it all seems to have been supersized and/or handpainted. The grapes are the size of plums, the plums are the size of apples and the apples are .... anything from dark crimson red/black to translucent light pink and white. The oranges are the size of grapefruits, the grapefruits are the size of melons and the melons are .... well, just plain : huge! Many of the watermelons are perfectly round!!

They serve a lot of really fresh fruit juices and the other night we went to a fresh fruit juice bar and I had a green coconut with the top cut off. It was fun, but tasted like nothing. Just watery and slimy. DH had fresh mango and pineapple and DD had fresh strawberry and mango - both so thick they couldn't suck it up with a straw! They were lekker (yummy). Another restaurant offers a bowl of pomegranate seeds - which are munched as a fruit or sprinkled over meat like chutney!

Whilst out shopping, we treated ourselves to a cold fruit drink. DD chose a "Rainbow Blend of Pureed Fruits", which really looked spectacular - layers of pink strawberry puree, orange papaya, yellow banana, and green ...., well we weren't sure what the green layer was, but she bravely tried it. She couldn't figure out what it was, saying that it tasted familiar yet strange and the look on her face got more and more peculiar as she drank. I decided to try it and see if I could guess what it was ... it was pureed avocado pear!! In a fruit milkshake!! Well, needless to say, DD would not drink any more and went into a tirade about "people who drink eeew things!" (Actually, I don't think it was THAT bad ...!!)

And talking of strange flavours, at one restaurant we were served an appetiser of yoghurt in shot glasses with dates on the side. Neither DD nor DH would try it, but I did (will I never learn?) I had watched the people at the table next to us - they dunked their dates into the yoghurt and then swallowed the rest of yoghurt in one gulp. So, DM followed their example. Imagine my horror when the huge mouthFUL of yoghurt turned out to be SALTY, STINGY and WARM!! It was not the type of restaurant where you could spit on the ground (like the ones we normally go to ... ha, ha), so I had to close my eyes and try to force it down. The family couldn't understand my frantic hand movements signalling that I wanted ALL the rest of the dates immediately, nor could they understand the tears running down my cheeks and the slow shaking of my head. Or perhaps, they just didn't see - after all they were doubled over laughing!! It turned out to be yoghurt made from camel milk, and they serve it as a savoury, fermented to the "stringy" stage and at camel blood temperature! Yummy!!!

There are shelves and shelves of variations of honey - made from any flower or tree you can think of. They each have a unique flavour,and if that was not enough, they have honey with flavourings added. There is runny hunny (!), creamy honey, honey comb - you name it - they've got it. Even honey for waxing ladies' legs!!


just a mom said...

Those are some! Even though I read this when it was originally posted, I still enjoyed reading it again! You have such a great presentation - educational but interesting too!

~ Jenn

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