Friday, July 2, 2010

Rich Gentlemen have it, boys: IN-DI-GES-TION!

I just finished watching Julie & Julia and was a little inspired to write a little disclaimer. I am not anywhere near as ambitious as Julie Powell so don't expect me to start cooking for this blog, but I do admire what she did, and I loved the movie. Stanley Tucci totally stole my heart - was Paul a great husband or WHAT? But besides that, it reminded me of myself and how I feel right now. I write because it makes me happy, but also because it might make someone else happy out there on the internet. I also write because it gives me a sense of purpose during my time here. Besides trying to not screw my life up, it is important that I do something which is truly just for me. Yes, grad school is also about me, but it's different. Don't ask me how! So, I hope I never become self-centred or difficult because of my blogging. I don't want to lose what is truly important to me - these precious moments in Riyadh that make me feel things, either happy or sad. So, this entry, let me talk about something happy. This blog needs a little cheering up, in my opinion!

Today, I am going to talk to you about one of the most wonderful things in the world: FOOD. Oh, how I love food! I love eating, making, and looking at food. And when I say food, I mean  food - real food, not fast food or junk food.

When I was staying in the US, I have to admit that the food I ate (most of the time) was absolutely dreadful. The college I went to had disgusting food 90% of the time, with the other 10% varying between pretty good and just about edible. Outside of college, I ate mostly Bagel Bites and other forms of pizza. What can I say - the best thing about New York IS pizza! Even after going to Chicago and eating its famed deep dish variety, I gotta say that New York pizza wins the prize. Sorry, Chicago! Don't worry - you have the shiny bean. That is seriously cooler than pizza...maybe.

Anyway, I really started to hate food when I was living in the US. I then realised that something was SERIOUSLY wrong. How could I hate food? Food is not only necessary, but it is so full of joy and colour and love! But yet, I was still losing faith in food because nothing tasted right and everything was gross and oily and bad for me. It was only when I left upstate NY during the summers that I would remember why food was so incredibly worth the time and pain it takes to prepare and TOTALLY worth any money you could pay. Good food, to me, is a better investment than gold. You can lose a necklace but you can't lose a meal you already ate! Well, unless your stomach hated it, and...oh, yuck. Let's not do that.

FOOD! Glorious, food. Yes, I just referred to a song from Oliver! I was in that once, when I was still a musical theatre junkie back at school. But that's totally off track. Today, when I knew I was going to write about food, that song got stuck in my head and I needed to open up iTunes to make it go away. But you know, it's probably still there, lying in wait. But you know, that song comes from my heart today. Food truly is glorious! I have been waiting all summer to get to Riyadh for the promise of good tasting, healthy foods. And here, in Riyadh, you may find it surprising to know that great food is available in abundance! It has absolutely made trips here worth it in the past.

Today, my father treated my mother and I to a meal at the best Chinese restaurant I have ever been to, period. I have been going to this restaurant since I was a little girl; during my first time living here. It has not changed much, and the food is consistently worth it. I took some pictures:

The Golden Palace Restaurant

Oh, how I love you and your red and green decor, running water and "islands" built for us to sit and eat! Once upon a time, this place had live birds in cages that sat next to all the tables. The kids looooved it. While we were sipping on Saudi Champagne (fizzy apple and grape juice with pieces of fruit floating around in it. Non-alcoholic, and pure bliss with a meal) my Dad mentioned that we could never bring my little niece there. She'd go nuts with the water. There are no longer any birds in cages, but the decor is still extremely unique. More pictures!

Check that OUT! It's extravagant and over the top but I absolutely adore this place. Here's a little detail; I hope the picture is clear enough:

This is the kind of thing that would drive a child wild. "Look, Mommy!" screams the child as he stands in the running water, splashing viciously with his little hands. "I'm a fountain!"

When we were there this morning, however, the restaurant was pretty empty. We were the first ones there for lunch, at 13:30. It seems pretty late for me, to be honest, but it works for the people around here to come later to meals. It probably has to do with the heat and the fact that it is soooo hard to wake up early on Friday morning (remember: Friday is the second day of the weekend; i.e. it's Sunday for most of the rest of the world. Can you wake up early on Sunday morning? Do you want to?)

Sadly, I could not take a picture of the food I ate because well...I was eating! I kind of forgot that I should be taking pictures. I ordered something called Enco Shanghai Shrimp. I do not know what that really is, but I can try to describe it: juicy shrimp cooked in coconut milk, a little ginger, and tiny pieces of cooked chopped tomato. It is divine and basically the best thing on the menu, in my opinion. With a side of fried rice, I was extremely happy. I would have preferred steamed rice, but my Dad ordered fried rice so I dealt with it. The fried rice is simple and it is nothing special, but that shrimp...oh, Lord! Soooo good. I took the rest home with me and I will DEFINITELY enjoy it tomorrow.

Every time I have gone to eat Chinese food in the US, I was always left severely disappointed. Last time was at the Jockey Club in Chicago, which I honestly find to be one of the more decent places. I made a mistake of ordering something with the ever vague title of "Shrimp cooked with water chestnuts". I love shrimp, and water chestnuts, so why not? Oh man. It was eating shrimp in snot. With chunks of something chewy; i.e. badly cooked water chestnuts. What the hell happened? It was very, very upsetting. I could barely touch it. It not only looked like snot, but it truly tasted like it; like the snot of some huge, monstrous animal. Ugh, I shouldn't have started talking about it! I feel like I am going to be sick.

The Golden Palace is superb. I would recommend it to everyone who dares venture into Riyadh. However, it has its good days and its bad days. It is consistently decent, but on some days it is much better than others. Then again, it is always better than American Chinese. Which isn't even real Chinese, mind you.

There is something else I wanted to talk about. Since I was unable to eat dessert at the restaurant, I decided to talk about something else that was sweet and delicious; it ended up taking the place of a potentially tasty and fattening dessert. What I wish to display to you here is the legendary peach fig.

Oh, peach fig. How I love thee! Of thy kind, there is no other fruit. I was going to take a picture of a full peach fig but I ended up eating half before getting my phone out. Too lazy to get another one, I decided to take pictures of this half-eaten treasure:

The half.

The juicy, juicy flesh of this gorgeous fruit.

I wish I could tell you something more interesting about the peach fig, but honestly I cannot find any information online! I bet that it is given another name, a more popular and better sounding one than "peach fig". However, I have not yet found it. I think that it is sold in the US, but according to my parents, it is extremely expensive. Here, it is quite cheap and we basically buy it every week since now is the season. Oh my God, I have never been so enthusiastic about a fruit in my life.

This is what I appreciate about Saudi Arabia. Here, they know the importance of fruit. Due to the diverse cultures that have converged here, fruits from all over the world are available; some more expensive than others to be sure. However, food in general is much cheaper here than in the US. Therefore, I feel the need to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity. As long as I live here, I will definitely be pigging out on the peach figs. Mmmm...

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