I am a woman. Except when I get a cold, like this nasty one I have now. Then I am a man, in the sense that when men are ill they turn into babies. I'm a woman-man-baby. That's as insightful as this post is likely to get with all the Tixylix pumping round my system.

Food should be able to cure me. I'm no Fruitarian, and nor do I believe - any longer - in the healing power of shop-bought supplements. (I should be a god by now, I necked so many multivits during my teens. And oils and algae powder and enzymes. Probably a whole mine's worth of zinc.) Food makes us feel good and keeps us alive, the only thing on earth that does both*. The Tixylix is for symptom-alleviation only; to expel all the disgusting germs from my body, I use carefully-selected foods, which are chosen based on strongly-held opinions formed over a lifetime of believing almost anything people tell me. It's pure coincidence that this nutritional approach takes exactly the same amount of time to work as a normal cold would to run its course.

Here is what I recommend:

Honey. One of the ones with flavour. I like the strong, earthy Yemeni ones in the kiosk just outside my shop in Muscat Grand Mall. A very nice man runs it and although we share no common language, he always calls me over to try new varieties, some massively expensive. A good honey is a real investment, although that sounds like a slogan for a dating service in the 50s. Those cheap ones only taste of sweet. You can drizzle an excellent honey on ricotta when you're feeling better (no cold cheeses now though! Only melted and hot), and when you're not you can load up your lemony hot water with it and feel it coat your throat and soothe your chest. 

Homemade broths and soups. These are excellent for keeping you nice and warm - you must eat, and then go to the sofa and keep the heat in your body by wrapping yourself in a blanket. There's a little added heat in the tortelloni broth, in the form of nduya, which is a fresh, spiced, sausage from Rome that is so soft it's spreadable and has a unique type of heat that turns up the volume on the flavour and flames up the palate, but doesn't burn or sting or make your eyes water.

Begum's. Everybody knows that curries make the blood pump more efficiently round your body and are full of spices that contain special atoms that fight flu and fever, so I called Begum's and asked for a delivery. They couldn't bear to listen to my wheezing croak, so they let me text in my directions - I liked that! I had a list of suggested dishes from the lovely people on Oman Restaurant Review, so I ordered them all plus a few more, and then for just OMR 11 I had five complete meals in my fridge. Bargain, tasty, highly effective, always better the next day, my takeaway stash was a brilliant idea that let me stay home and concentrate on gathering my failing strength to write this. I'm alive because of chicken malvani. Note in the photo the gentle glow of the TV reflecting off the takeaway bag - what a class act I am.

Spiced hot chocolate. Just before bed (and you must sleep with a hat on, to prevent the loss of heat necessary to boil the toxins to death) have cocoa with a pinch of chili flakes. Very Aztec, and you know they were quite efficient as a race. They knew what they were doing: you'll feel an instant hit of better. If you're starting to recover to the point that you can be seen in public, go and try the one they make at S&H Chocolate Lounge in Al Khuwair, it's piping hot and delicious. 

What you'll notice about all the above foods is that they taste really good and make you happy, as well as being scientifically proven to help relieve illness, and if not scientifically then anecdotally, or not at all. I'm going back to bed now.

*Is this true? It is! Food is the only fun essential. Water, air...essential yes, but not at all pleasurable. God I'm so bored of drinking water. What else do humans need? Gravity? I can take it or leave it myself.
This new year I met four new and excellent family members, when Maurizio's brother and his family came to visit. My new nephew Marco had his 12th birthday while he was here and to celebrate, we went for a pizza at Tomato at the Intercon (separate post to come on the wisdom/folly of taking Romans for a pizza in Muscat). Being left with some slices to spare, we asked for a takeaway, which we were given - along with this form to fill in. An A4 page, waiving liability for any harm that might befall us on eating our cold margaritas for breakfast. Including space to fill in your credit card details. A bit weird, no?

I know that hotels are constrained in this way with, for example, the giving away of leftover food from banquets etc. When I worked at the Hyatt I was always trying to work around that one: I just couldn't watch while grilled lobster was being thrown away. And all those delicious miniature pies just going in the bin, too sad. I understand that food stored badly might make someone ill, and a poisoned patient might blame the restaurant for their own poor kitchen hygiene. But this waiver is definitely new, to me. Why wouldn't every pizza delivery in the world have you sign something similiar if it were necessary? Any restaurant offering take-out or collection, in fact. Or supermarkets with deli counters. Is it a specific license thing? Did somet incident spark this off? This is hardly the most litigious of societies - what must they do in America if this is needed in Oman? Why the credit card details? And, it's pizza! Not only designed to be taken-away, but also among the most benevolent of foods. It's not something that can actually kill you, like that Japanese blowfish or mayonnaise.

Anyway, it was a lovely evening and the waiters brought over a tiramisu with a candle in for Marco to blow out, and I didn't take offence at the presentation of the waiver - I just thought it was odd. And a little jarring at the end of a happy occasion. I know at least one lawyer, an Italian and a staunch advocate of pizza for breakfast, reads this blog, and I'd be interested to hear if this is a normal thing. (Not that I'm soliciting a paid consultation.)

My favourite part of the form is definitely "reason". You'd think "hunger" or "disinclination to waste food" or "starving children in the world" would be the most common but it is quite tempting to write something more random. I will award a prize for the best suggestion. (Prize is leftover pizza. I am in no way responsible if it makes you sick.)

When I was a child, I was in love with Stephen Fry. We even corresponded for a couple of years, and he was very kind to me. For one reason or another, we both ended up married to different people, but the obsession must have stuck in my mind because to this day I am very keen on tracking down and devouring the perfect fry. My mature self has more realistic expectations though and I contain my stalking to the potato kind.

Top local contender until very recently was Elevation Burger. Yes, I'm aware this is a topic that divides neighbour from neighbour. Their fries were on the soggy side; I'm not denying it. But they ticked more boxes than most in my fry checklist.

1. Must be made from potatoes.
2. Said potatoes must have come to the kitchen in original potato form, not as readymade chips.
3. Potatoes must never have been frozen.

Those three are the musts. You may disagree. (And there are times when you're not looking for the perfect fry, anyway - cravings don't always encompass the best example of any food, or I would be scarfing down bags of dried apricots instead of my hoard of Rowntree's Fruit Gums. So I do understand that for some, or for some sometimes, a McD's fry might be the one and only.) My list of desirable attributes goes on:

4. Skin on. Yes please. Tastier, adds crunch.
5. Soft-ish. If there was a nicer word for soggy, I'd insert it here. I have a literally sensitive palate -Pringles make me bleed.
6. Just crispy enough to absorb malt vinegar without getting mushy.
7. Covered in malt vinegar.
8. Organic, fair trade, socially-conscious, locally-sourced, low carbon footprint potatoes. Grown by a happy farmer. Who does only good in the world.

Why am I thinking about fries to this almost excessive degree? This week I went to a tasting at Steak Escape and I think I might have found my next fry base. Steak Escape opens at The Walk down at The Wave next week and it's a really nicely-done grill and sandwich place, an Ohio-bred franchise, managed here by the enthusiastic and very patient Nadim. I questioned him closely about the fries, and he assured me that each and every one is made right there in the kitchens, out of a genuine potato. The team do the frying right in front of you. The skin is on. The crunch is there. The fries are hot and fresh and delicious, and there's malt vinegar on the table - all in all criteria 1 through 7 are met, placing Steak Escape firmly on the FryMaster radar.

Shall I start the post by exclaiming over my long absence from the blog and apologising for it? No...I'm sure you all survived without FatSu and were enjoying one of the most celebratedly gluttonous times of year with your loved ones. 

And I don't think I need to try and keep this blog chronological, do I? Timely posts might be useful when they have you rushing to try out a new restaurant, but not to undermine their huge importance, but meanderings on the provenance of cheese, or rageful outpourings against poorly-described fruit drinks, are pretty ageless. So I'll get around to Christmassy food posts at some point, and the food adventures we just had with Maurizio's family, but this evening I'm thinking about last night's Back 2 Business event at the Hyatt. 

B2B is an excellent annual networking event, the country's biggest, and last night was its second outing. I came away with a sheaf of business cards and a very happy belly. Not to denigrate the highly addictive miniature pies I've stolen so many of at previous business gatherings, but I'm so glad that the catering industry has realised that there is no need only provide exclusively bite-sized food to those attending events. I mean really, proper food is just multiple-bite-sized. Why limit me to eating seven bits of chicken on sticks when I could just as easily have a plate of chicken? It won't make me eat less or leave earlier. Tables are generally easy to find in function rooms and can be used as a handy surface to place a wine glass. I can balance a plate in my hand fairly easily. 

Last night, the buffet laid on for the networking guests was comparable to the extravaganza at the Hyatt's New Year event, a beautiful set-up, with an improbably large leg of beef (see the guy in the picture? He's only two feet behind the beast), a whole roast salmon, freshly-rolled sushi, gorgeous desserts and oh-my-lord pasta. Normally I'd avoid buffet pasta, not usually the most spectacular offering, and a dish I can eat on the comfort of my own sofa, but hovering by the veal ravioli station were Giuseppe and Angela, who urged me on with full mouths and clean plates. I turned and asked the chef serving if the pasta was really that good. "Of course. What, you think I can't cook Italian because I'm from India?" Well, the chef said it in a most light-hearted way - laughs all round - but then served me only two ravioli, a cruel revenge considering I hadn't actually said a word about the whole origins of chef/origins of cuisine argument (that has to be dealt with in a later post, once I get up the energy to be more political), but anyway they were soft and rich and truffly and I went back for another six.

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