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When food takes you back to the time and the place
Last month I had to go Are Prada Trainers Made In Vietnam to Agatha Ruiz Dela Prada Book Bags Jerusalem. I’m always grateful when I’m sent Agatha Ruiz Dela Prada E Shop to exciting places by my bosses, but for me Jerusalem is extra special. I’ll do almost anything to get there. This is not because I’m an adrenaline junkie; I am a terrible coward, as it happens. Nor has it anything to do with religion C though I’m a sucker for mother-of-pearl crucifixes, olive wood rosaries and all the other Christo-kitsch you can buy in the Old City. Mainly, it is a Proustian thing. While Marcel had his madeleines C a rather boring sweetmeat in my opinion C I have Authentic Prada Handbag Uk zaatar manouche which, in case you don’t know, is flatbread topped with a dry mixture (zaatar) made from sesame seeds, salt, sumac and thyme. I have only to smell zaatar manouche and I am 10 years old again. And Jerusalem is an excellent place to indulge in this kind of time travel.
I spent my entire childhood in Sheffield except, bizarrely, for a three-year period when my family lived in Israel, where I went to school in Jaffa, then mostly an Arab town. What I’m about to tell you will sound like something from a cheesy movie, but it’s absolutely true. In my class at school there were four Arab-Israeli Are Prada Trainers Made In Vietnam boys: two Samis, and two Georges. Being local, these boys were allowed out of school at lunchtime. They could go home to their mothers, Black Prada Bag With Gold Hardware or they could go down the road to the famous Abulafia Bakery in Yefet Street.
Being a pasty foreigner, Authentic Prada Bags Online Singapore I was not allowed out of school. So this is what happened. At lunchtime, I About Prada Products would give one of the Samis, or one of the Georges, the chocolate wafer my mother had put in my lunchbox. In exchange, they would go to Abulafia and buy a round of zaatar manouche with their lunch money, which they would bring back to me while it was still warm. Both parties were extremely happy with this arrangement, and I believe my brother had a similar thing going with a boy in his year. Certainly, I remember that he and I would gleefully refer to “that bread” in conversations on the way home (we didn’t know it was called zaatar manouche until years later). Was it good, “that bread”? My God. It was the best bread ever baked. I mean, ever.
You can find zaatar manouche in all sorts of places these days. In London, city of tasty international treats, I go to the Edgware Road when desperate (I recommend Green Valley, a Lebanese supermarket on nearby Upper Berkeley Street). But it’s never the same. The bread is too hard and chewy, and the thyme insufficiently bitter. In Jaffa, though, or Haifa, or Ramallah… well, it’s a different thing altogether. In Jerusalem, I finished my interview and then I all but ran through the Authentic Prada Fairy Bag For Sale streets C time was scant C until I reached the part of the city (the east) where freshly baked zaatar manouche is available on every corner. For the next hour, I was in heaven. If you walk while you eat, it’s amazing how much bread you can consume in the space of 60 minutes.
Why do certain foods taste better in certain places? Is it only the con trick of memory? At this time of year, back from your summer holiday, you may have good reason to ponder this question. Foodie purchases often make for the worst kind of souvenirs: what tasted good in the sunshine may not work in the damp of a British autumn. In the case of zaatar manouche, though, I like to think there is something more mystical going on.
A friend once told me that it is to do with what the French call “terroir”: the idea that land bestows geographically unique charms on its crops. The thyme that grows in the Holy Land, she insisted replica prada handbags, is stronger, more iron-filled, more resolute than Are All Prada Products Made In Italy the thyme that grows in Europe. It is a survivor of a plant; like the people who harvest it, you cannot keep it down for long. I remember, too, my beloved Claudia Roden, who notes in her Book of Middle Eastern Food that Arab bakers offer one invocation to God before they knead the dough, and another before they put it in the oven.
Perhaps you’re wondering: did I bring some zaatar back? Yes, I did. In a small plastic bag (I was worried it might be mistaken for drugs, though, to be honest, that would have been the least of my problems given how El Al security feels about the stamps in my passport). But I won’t be eating it. Some of the best journeys take place in the mind. If I open this little bag and breathe deeply, I can be elsewhere in an instant.