March 20, 2019

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  • Buttered Up: Lunchbox pasta

    BY SARAH KHANNA My lunch box was not a friend. I didn’t bond with it, would not look forward to hearing it snap open and found no pleasure in its content. Considering it a waste of my arm’s energy, I slugged it over to school reluctantly, with a new trick I had learned — the eye roll. The only thing I liked about it was that I’d choose a new one each year, reflecting my ever-morphing personality through brightly colored images glued onto boxed plastic. In the first grade, I was dubbed a “cookie monster”, protesting against sandwiches until I…

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    Buttered Up: Rehashing croquettes

    Potato Croquette.

    BY SARAH KHANNA I was one of the few children allowed into The Ranch without a second look, a bar with Western saloon-style swinging doors that slapped me on the way in a few times too many. My friends by then, nighttime, would have left the hotel for their own homes — the hotel that we played at on weekends, a place my father worked at the time as Food and Beverage Manager, a collective country club of sorts. Recovering from the greeting smack of hard wood against my upper back, I would make my way to the highest ground…

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    The two sides of Ramadan

    BY DARAH RATEB ‘Tis the season to be cranky” seems to be the daily jingle ringing in the ears of many Egyptians this Ramadan. With the long hours of summer delaying the intonations of the Maghrib call to prayer exacerbating the fasting nation’s frustrations, along with the excessive power cuts all over Egypt, it’s easy to forget at face value just how special this month is. People from all walks of life go out of their way to come to Cairo in Ramadan, but what is it that amplifies this city’s charm during the holy month? It’s hard to put…

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    Buttered Up: Cakes and careers

    BY SARAH KHANNA There is usually that one thing you wished you were when it comes to your career: bolder, smarter, luckier. I have none of those desires but feel that it might have been easier to climb that ladder in the male-dominated food industry if I was born a man. “So, what’s next? Knitting?” asked a friend, a previous colleague who could not wrap his head around the idea that I had left a well-paid job in advertising, in selling fantasies to people, for a career in, according to him, frosted cupcakes. The fact that I did not have…

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    Buttered Up: Samosa, Sambusak

    BY SARAH KHANNA Thinking back, samosas may have been the first food to confuse me, a never-ending love affair that was tedious to understand. Never knowing what I should call them when chatting with people hailing from different places, never understanding just what were to go in them, I went on a mental hunt quite early on in life to find out just what a samosa was. Stuffed with curried potatoes and peas then folded into tight triangles, these were the samosa I was first acquainted with. Popping them straight onto my tongue from the bubbling oil without a second…

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    Buttered Up: Finding Ramadan

    BY SARAH KHANNAMy first Ramadan in Cairo after years away has rolled in and with it a slew of television shows crammed with farcical advertising that I don’t watch, extravagantly sweet desserts that I haven’t eaten and a generous spirit of camaraderie that has me puzzled as to where it annually disappears after the boisterous celebration of Eid. Restaurants have asked their social media accounts to bombard those unfortunate enough to be following them with incessant updates on iftar and sohour menu rotation schedules along with everything in between: sugar, shisha and Ramadan tent reservations. In a month that is…

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    Chef’s Table: A victorious concept

    BY SARAH KHANNA A one-night event at the Cellar Door Bistro, quaintly hidden away on a quiet street in Maadi, promised to be, if anything, interesting. Chefs Ayman Samir, Moustafa El Refaey and Wesam Masoud had lured a small but curious crowd to savor their chosen flavors of summer in a casual setting: tan linens, multicolored runners and pristine white napkins. Inviting us to share three large communal tables, diners mingled well before the first course — a vibrant atmosphere prevailed. Served in disposable plastic, a hurried thought although somewhat trendy in shape, came a tomato consommé to begin, served…

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    Chit Chat on the Nile: Police polo

    BY HEBA ELKAYAL Polo is apparently not only a clothes brand; it’s a sport often played by handsome, debonair Argentinean and English men and, as I discovered last month, by some Egyptian policemen. Polo is known as the game of elites because of how costly it is: a groomsman is needed to care for the horses, the polo field needs constant tending to, and the price of buying and keeping horses can be exorbitant. Yet, for some reason inexplicable to me, the Egyptian police force has a team. Their horses have shiny brown coats, strong long legs and an expression…

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    Buttered Up: Figs and fear

    BY SARAH KHANNA I stepped into the kitchen, freshly cleaned for us, the new tenants from Egypt. Grey corian countertops, white cabinets and an aging fridge welcomed me into the square room that I would now force myself to enter routinely. Dishes would eventually pile up and we would, sooner than later, need to stop eating out like tourists every night.There were no mommies to send the newly married couple food to hoard in our freezer. There was no Cairo where I lived in the office and everything was delivered. This was the reality of things. For my first week…

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    Buttered Up: A way to eat

    BY SARAH KHANNAIf I were to map out my life through the memories of my stomach, I would pair my fondest moments with one particular element — my hands needing a good wash from the powdery leftover wheat bran of baladi bread, a staining turmeric-rich sauce or the fatty gloss of deep-fried chicken skin. It is true that I might not appreciate the drippings of a wet burger slithering down my forearm, especially in public, but there is an increased feeling of well being, of being human, of connecting with where I came from by eating with no cutlery. Growing…

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