Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The foods we've missed

Moving to Ifrane changed not only our lives but also our diet. Being in a small town in the mountains meant giving up a lot of the foods that were part of our everyday lives, foods that we had gotten used to, and those that were readily available. I found myself having to adjust some of my recipes, throw others out, and create some entirely new dishes based on what I can find.

Here is a list, by no means extensive or comprehensive, of things we miss.

Butter ~ we have not had butter since September 3rd. While olive and vegetable oils are in plenty in our new town, butter has to be trucked from the city, is expensive and not popular at all. Rather than risk purchasing rancid butter and investing many dirhams on it, we decided to give it up altogether. Of course the croissants that we eat on occasion are amass with the fatty substance but we have not had it slathered on bread, baked into cakes or used in cooking.

Cheese ~ and by that I mean REAL cheese. The faint yellow, the white, the salty, the sweet, the one with the rind, the one with the holes, the local, the imported, the "unprocessed." You might find it shocking that we have not had cheese in over 2 months, but I tell the truth! The only available specimen of "cheese" in our locale is the processed cream cheese Kiri and La Vache Qui Rit. Gone are the days of a cheese board, grilled cheese and mac and cheese.

Chocolate ~ or rather artisanal chocolate. While mass produced chocolate, both local and imported, abound, we had been used to the Godiva treats my mom brought us regularly. I did not realize how much I missed those hand-crafted bite size indulgences until I arrived in Beirut and reunited with them. A little chocolate is good for the soul; my soul!

Cucumbers ~ or should I say "baby" cucumbers or "Persian" cucumbers as they are often referred to in the US. In Lebanon they are just cucumbers and they are not found in Ifrane. What is found there, though, are the large European/English style cucumbers that are more seeds than flavor. We have been living without!

Fish ~ yes, there is a fish monger at the marché and you can certainly find fresh and frozen fish in the nearest city an hour away, but long gone are the days of fresh salmon, halibut, tilapia, sea bass, and scallops. The frozen shrimp leaves much to be desired in terms of size, texture and quality. I hear there is a trout farm in a nearby village but seeing how we do not have a car, we have not been there, nor have we tried their product. We are also yet to risk purchasing fish from the guy who trucks them in on ice three times a week from I-do-not-know-where and I just decided to hold out on seafood until we are back to "civilization" and go the canned fish route.

Labneh ~ JR used to eat labneh on a regular basis back in the US, on bread, with a spoon, or as a dip. And although the labneh there and that in Beirut are starkly different, the creamy, tart, rich goodness still ignites the taste buds especially when partnered with cucumber, tomato and olives. These days I have it as often as possible knowing that these servings are numbered until I can make my own in Ifrane.

Leafy Greens ~ spinach, kale, chard, arugula, and broccoli to name a few are no where to be found in our new locale. There is plenty of cilantro, parsley and mint but none of the iron-rich bright greens my family and I are used to. Cabbage is hard to come by, endives are considered exotic and spring mix is something of the past. Beet and parsnip greens, however, are in abundance but I have not yet experimented with them. JR's love for broccoli has been put on hold and our spinach scrambled eggs breakfasts are no currently no more. They have been replaced with koussa scrambled eggs and these are a close second.

Lettuce ~ or rather Romaine lettuce is a rarity in Ifrane. While you can find it in the big stores in the city, it is not trucked to our little village. Since it is not a popular crop, it is not found at the weekend market. What you can find, though, is iceberg lettuce in abundance. The locals call is "salade verte."  I tried it a few times in my efforts to maintain the "green salad with dinner" routine that I have had as long as I can remember then gave up: there is little I could do with it as a main ingredient to flare up a salad. We changed routines!

These are but a few of the things that come readily to mind as I sit between naps and feedings thinking of how our lives have changed in the past couple of months.

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