Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Well, I’ve been back in Pakistan for a week now. I’m adjusting to the combined increased social status (white-foreigner/memshab status with a house staff of 3 [okay, two of them are my daughters] ) and reduced standard of living (driving a tiny low-budget Suzuki car, owning a new house but having very little spending cash) it’s all just a daily clash of dichotomies.

I have begun the difficult and dangerous job of assuming my role of alpha-female in the kitchen.

First, I banished all filthy rags and ruined tea towels from the kitchen and bought new ones. Let’s face it, I’ve seen cleaner towels on the ground at the car wash than what was passing as dish clothes at my house. Ugh.

I’ve been ordering things scrubbed that haven’t seen soap and water for a year, I’ve begun to arrange the cabinets’ contents to my own taste, and I’ve tried to bake bread. So far the bread is in remediation. I’ve had to give it a second shot of yeast to replace the first batch I killed by adding hot water. It has 2 hours to recover or out it goes over the wall.

The other day, I noticed the glass canisters of decorative lentils in the kitchen window were looking rather animated. The jar of urid dhal (cracked black lentils) had it’s own eco-system of insects.

I poured the contents of the jar into a small plastic bag and threw it over the gate to the end of the driveway, hoping some poor person whom (grammar-check made me do it) didn’t mind washing the bugs out of the lentils would come and find the bag and take them home to cook. I hate to waste anything here with so many poor and hungry people around. And to tell the truth, having bugs in your food is just a fact of life here. A few weeks more and I won’t even care again. Making the bread today required sifting the bugs out of the flour, its just part of the reality here.

Soooooo, to make a short story long… A couple days later hubby, with eyes wide and wearing a serious look, said, “Someone tried to put a curse on our house. I found a small bag of black lentils at the end of the driveway. Superstitious people here use black lentils to make curses.”

“Oh, that. I did that myself.” I blithely replied. I told him about my attempt to find a new home for the bag of bug infested lentils. He looked relieved and continued to tell of other cases of “food curses” he had seen as a child; some of which were rather tasty. The girls and I found it all so amusing. He threw the lentils in the empty lot beside our house, we can’t have the neighbours think we are cursed can we?

Speaking of curses… The ghost of Salvador Dali has been haunting the kitchen in my absence. I found several evidences of bent handles in the cabinet drawers. The girls claim ignorance as to how the handles got bent, so what other possible explanation could there be, but Dali’s ghost?

Abez claims I can’t reclaim the kitchen till I bake in it, so today I made Gazpacho soup and tried to make French bread, but …..6 hours later the dough is still looking very flat. I’ll go check to see if the injection of fresh yeast has given it a new lease on life or ….

I do have a back up plan in my attempt of a bloodless kitchen coupe… plum pie. I have 4 cups of plums waiting to go into a pastry shell, which I planned to bake along with the bread. That should save face in case of a yeast disaster. I’m hoping to serve it with vanilla ice cream and the fresh plum sauce I made yesterday. The husband keeps buying plums, and the girls complain that they have to eat plums everyday, so I’ve been trying new ways to make them more appealing.

All in all, it’s good to be back with my adoring hubby and daughters, however, I must say I miss the boys, daughter-in-law and grandsons back Stateside. Once again I voice my complaint of having an internationally split family. I spoke to my daughter-in-law and my dear 2 ¾ year old grandson the other day.

It was like having a conversation with a parrot, (with my grandbabe) he often just repeats the last word of your sentence, but it was so good to hear his little baby voice. The girls were thoroughly delighted to hear him talking since they haven’t seen him since he was 11 months old. They have been hanging on my every word as I pass on stories gathered from my 11 months as a live-in grandma. It was a unique and delightful experience.

And with that, I’ll close and go check the bread and make the pastry shell. I resume my post as alpha-female, the queen of chaos, the duchess of dirty dishes.