December 12, 2019

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  • Buttered up: Out with the old

    BY SARAH KHANNA “Chili sauce? But where’s the ketchup?” I huffed and puffed at my bag of artery-blocking fries, limp after their trip to me on the back of a motorbike. Only having started to eat ketchup recently, I could not understand why my new home at the time, Kuala Lumpur, was not delivering on my need to fit into the ketchup-dunking French fry-eating globalized world of 2008. Surely I could not yet be expected to accustom my tongue to rojak (a mixture of fruit and a zingy shrimp paste dressing) when I was still so fresh off the Boeing….

    Buttered Up: Cowhide and turnovers

    BY SARAH KHANNA Only yesterday I was gifted an early 1980s Rwandan cowhide rug as a housewarming present. At first I was unsure about laying it out, granting it the power to open up thoughts of guests about the ethical treatment of animals. What does it say about me, about our home? It has been a year since I witnessed the slaughter of a sheep for the first time. On Friday, it will happen again and I have chosen to go. It is not a pleasant experience. It is unlikely that it ever will be, but it is necessary to…

    BUTTERED UP: Raisin cake and the seed bombs

    BY SARAH KHANNA Felix Baumgartner is on television and in about a minute he will jump from an altitude of around 39,000 meters to Earth. I am piled up on a cream couch, cool blue blanket on my thighs and a thick cut of cake in my hand, eagerly waiting as the television presenters call it a historic moment like they do with most else. He opens the capsule and flies as I gawk with a gaping mouth at our world which hauls its farmers into court over patented (genetically modified) GMO seeds; which now passes pizza off as a…

    Buttered Up: A story of chicken liver

    BY SARAH KHANNAI like chicken liver. It is a recent attraction. For the first 20 or so years of my life, liver had not been deemed welcome in my vicinity. At the times I encountered it, I could only smell rust and decided early on that it was not the kind of smell I’d like to have in my mouth. Growing up in the Arab world, liver was a dish that was bound to come up, at a dinner, as a mezze, at a family gathering, on many a street cart; it was too everywhere for my liking. “What does…

    Buttered Up: Restaurant service blues

    BY SARAH KHANNAI can forgive a chef for a mediocre day in the kitchen. I may not have enjoyed the meal but if I’m comfortable in my space, haven’t gotten ill and am greeted with pleasant efficient service, I will readily come back to give the place another try and order something different on the menu. Eating out at any of the new hip places littering Zamalek and Maadi doesn’t come cheap and so it would be assumed that service must be procedure and detail oriented. After several visits to those that call themselves gourmet and to those boastful of…

    Buttered Up: Granitas for summer’s end

    BY SARAH KHANNA My sweet tooth was a late bloomer with a so-so desire to occasionally inhale shortbread biscuits, chocolate mousse and carrot cake — in that order of preference. Away from those, there was little that captured my attention. I was the child at the party that might forgo a slice of birthday cake topped with a clean cut of the marzipan superhero’s head. I’m still the person at the wedding who really doesn’t want any sharbat, who’d rather not have the sugar-coated almonds offered when a baby is born, who’d be a dull partner at a cupcake shop….

    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…

    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…

    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…

    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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