Our need for food is inescapable. Like breathing, eating is one of the few things that we must do, whether with glee or dismay, to stay alive. I did, in fact, once see a guy on TV who did an experiment where he painstakingly created a nutrient shake that would allow him to forgo sustenance. I could’ve used this recipe in my college and immediate post-college days. Still, even that guy, an overextended law student who couldn’t be troubled with meals, if my memory serves me correctly, stayed on the super-shake diet for a limited amount of time. Ultimately, he missed the sensation of eating good food and the communal satisfaction of eating with friends and family.
Food was my first concern when I moved to Riyadh. But in the shuffle of moving from temporary housing to our apartment, we mostly ate fast food. I don’t normally eat fast food. I see it as less of a treat, and more as a reflection of a life in peril. Whenever I find myself eating fast food it is out of complete desperation and convenience. I do enjoy the crispiest of crispy French fries, but fast food is just…not very appealing to me.
Once settled, my husband and I were on the straight and narrow (for the most part), buying groceries weekly, with plenty of fresh produce in the haul. There’s a rather awkward and comedic scene that plays out every week in the produce section of our grocery store. In Saudi Arabia, you choose and bag up all of your produce. Then you go to a little counter within the produce section where an attendant individually prices and tags each bag. It won’t be priced for you later at the checkout if you forget. So this is a very important step. Our shopping cart always has more produce bags that the average customer, which leads to a slowing down of the whole process at the little produce counter. I always feel bad that we’re backing up the line and periodically my husband will let a person with one or two items interrupt our long tagging process.
I’m still adjusting to the absence of some of my most beloved foodstuffs (things that were not too long ago staples in my diet) and the presence of some new and interesting items that are locally in abundance. Here’s my shortlist:
+ Third-wave coffee – (i.e. Blue Bottle Coffee, Stumptown.) I’ve been alternating between a serviceable Sumatra and an Ethiopian blend, both from Starbucks.
+ Organics. Back in Brooklyn, we were members of the Park Slope Co-op and had access to tons of affordable organic produce and products.
+ Spelt bread. I mostly eat gluten-free, or low gluten in the case of spelt. Since I haven’t found any gluten-free bread, I am on a quest to learn how to make my own bread. All results thus far have been disastrous, but I’ll update you on my progress.
+ Bad things of the highest quality, like doughnuts and ice cream.
+ Pomegranates. During one of my first weeks here, we got a huge box of pomegranates for about $6. It ended up being more that we could handle and a good number of them rotted before we got around to using them. Knowing the price of pomegranates back home in the US, we couldn’t resist.
+ Turmeric root. As a juicer, I was a big fan of turmeric root before moving to Riyadh. I can always get a large amount here cheaply.
+ Spices galore.
+ Feta. Such a wonderful variety of quality Feta. It seems, at least at this point, that I’ll never get through trying them all.
+ Gluten-free flours. Our local grocery store, the Lulu’s Hypermarket on Khurais Road, is well stocked in spelt, kamut and buckwheat flour as well as other gluten-free products.
+ Mystery produce. I love finding foods that are unfamiliar to me. For example, I don’t actually know the name of the purple, leafy vegetable in the photo. My husband picked out that beauty and Google has been of no help. Any ideas?