(contains pork)

Hello again, Lunch! Welcome back, Diet Pepsi In The Car! And Coffee At Work - it's been too long, how lovely to see you.

As usual, it will take me a couple of days to repress the imposed connection between drinking water and shame. But we made an effort to have some good indulgent food yesterday - no shuwa unfortunately, as most of our kind donors are out of town. By the way, where are the goats this year? Has there been a blanket ban on keeping them at home? Some kind of caprine epidemic? For years, I've been woken by their bleats days before Eid, which sets off the inevitable rush of sympathy followed by self-loathing at my hypocrisy. It's quite the tradition now. And this year, because of the twice-daily dog walks, I have an unparalleled knowledge of what animals are where in our neighbourhood - we have to avoid mother cats, hapless chickens, etc. Not a goat in sight.oLD 

To the first post-Ramadan lunch. Annoyingly, my favourite recipe resource, bbcgoodfood.com, is currently full of suggestions on just what to do with that marvellous glut of blackberries from the garden. I'm sure it's because berries here are so massively expensive and our garden is made of sand that I find this slightly nauseating and smug. But ploughing resentfully through these recipes did put me in the mood for fruit, and we had the best lunch: peaches, mozzarella, prosciutto and mint, with an olive oil and lemon dressing. To offset the price of the prosciutto, go get some own-brand Carrefour mozzarella - it's on special offer now, so there are nine in our fridge. And use those weirdly squished-looking Tunisian peaches, that look like they've been genetically modified to stack better in crates; they're cheaper, fresher, and sweeter than the European ones. This dish is the only one I can think of that is just a load of ingredients on a plate, no preparation needed except taking things out of their packaging and ripping them up a bit, but that is also different and delicious enough to serve to guests.

And dinner was also fruit-inspired and brilliant. (If I'm sounding nauseating and smug myself, please note that my breakfast was toast, and some yoghurt that I shared with the dog.) Maple-glazed grilled salmon with pineapple salsa. The photo is terrible - two yellowish foodstuffs on a yellow plate under the yellow lamp on my side of the sofa - but the flavours are fantastic together. Here's the recipe. Use a bit less maple syrup and a lot of good mustard, it's what brings it all together and saves it from over-sweetness.






Here's a Ramadan story. 

We took our dog on a spur-of-the-moment evening walk in Ghubra Beach Park. It was 44 degrees. There's a limited extent to which you can cool down by immersing your steaming ankles in tepid surf, but this is Carmen's favourite park so we were there for over an hour. Being a dog, she was able to drink the ice cold water we had brought for her; being humans, and therefore subject to the social and cultural norms of our adopted country, we couldn't hydrate ourselves. So by the time we were back in the car, we were sweaty and knackered and parched. No, not as parched as people who had been fasting all day, but pretty much at our own personal limit. 

It was time for Iftar when we drove home, silently, panting like the dog in the back would have been had she not been well-watered. We hit red at traffic lights, and cursed them. There was a gentleman on the road leaning into the window of the car in front. (I don't know how, after eleven years in Oman, but my first thought was that we were witnessing a car-jacking. Maybe by one of the South Central Bausher Crips? Of course it wasn't that at all.) The man came up to our car, we wound down the window to see what he wanted, and gave us each a cold carton of water! He had dates and laban too. He progressed up the queue behind us and distributed his gifts to the occupants of each vehicle. 

Not being a Muslim, I feel a bit disconnected from all the good stuff about Ramadan - not just the religious side, but the families coming together, the celebration, the spirit of the whole month. This gesture made me so happy. I was beaming all evening. What a thoughtful and kind thing to do. Apparently, this is an Omani initiative called Feed The Fasting, aimed at all those people still on the road when it's time to break the fast. It's compassionate and practical too - fasting that long, and in this heat, you wouldn't want to miss a moment before taking that first sip of water or nibble of a date, so it's natural for people to rush to their homes or the mosque and that means the roads seem much less safe at sundown. The ROP also hand out Iftar packs, for the same reason. I really loved the fact that the young man taking his time to do this didn't ask whether we were Muslims, or fasting - we were just included. And very grateful.





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