Friday, October 29, 2010

Duty Free Heaven

Did I tell you that Bronwyn and I cook like...two people who cook a lot?  Because we do.  I have greatly missed the World's Largest Felt Collection and all my yarn and fabric and crayons and sparkly beads - basically anything I can get crafty with - so cooking has been a great creative outlet for me.  Bronwyn is a fantastic cook and we drool over cookbooks and her Bon Appetit magazines looking for great recipes to try out. 

Today we hosted a luncheon for some of the ladies here.  We cooked and cooked and cooked.  Oh, did we cook.  Most of yesterday and all of this morning.  Someone walked in said, "It smells like an American kitchen in here."  Which it totally did.  An American kitchen in the Fall.

Our menu:

Ricotta, Proscuitto and Roasted Tomato Tostini
Strawberry Lemon Ginger slushie punch
Pumpkin Soup (You guys, this soup makes me feel like I just won something.  It's that good.)
Butternut Squash Gnocchi
Parmesan Rolls
Lime Coconut Cookies

It is not always easy to find ingredients here.  Canned pumpkin, for instance, is a miracle.  Who cooks down pumpkins anymore?  Tunisians, that's who.  Or they must because it's certainly not canned.  And their pumpkins are slightly different from ours, in that they're green on the outside and have about a foot more meat on the inside, which ups the roasting time to 20 gajillion hours and then you're left with 20 pounds of roasted pureed pumpkin in your freezer.   

We got a lot of stuff from the commisary at the embassy but were still missing a few ingredients so Bronwyn got directions to a duty free shop out by the airport that was rumored to have hard to find American food.  So we headed out a few days ago.  Remember when you were a kid and you'd be thumbing through the Highlights magazine at the doctor's office and it would have those games in it where there would be a bunch of jumbled curvy lines and you had to follow the line to figure out which ends connected?  That's how the streets are here.  And only half of them have numbers on them.  So we had the address and the name of the place and we knew we were in the right neighborhood but we could not find it at all.  We just kept driving around and around.  So we asked a cop, who drew us a map while standing in the middle of the road and directing traffic.  And we still couldn't find it.  Then we asked a mechanic we found down some side street and he pointed us right back to where the cop sent us.  Which was this unsigned, gated, guarded building.  We drove up to the gate and the guard waved us in, like he was expecting us.  We figured out that he saw our diplomat plates because apparently only diplomats can come in.  So he opened the gate and pointed us towards the underground parking.  We headed down and then another guard lifted another gate, and then another.  It was like some kind of espionage film.  All we were looking for was molasses but you would think the building held the secrets to cold fusion with all the security they had going on there.  We half expected someone to slide a door open and ask for a password.  There were still no signs indicating where the shop was but we were directed to an elevator which took us up to the second floor and when the door opened it's like we'd walked into Duty Free Heaven.  There were counters for Dior and Prada and high end electronics.  And there were enough cigarettes and liquor to really make you believe you found your way to the Tunisian speak-easy. 

But no molasses. 


Laura said...

Well aren't you fancy with your diplomat plates! Still not fancy enough to score some molasses though. Oh, I'm DYING for pumpkiny stuff. We might have to have pumpkin party in January, so feel free to bring some green Tunisian pumpkin back with you!!

Andrea said...

Sorry you had to go through all of that just to find there was no molasses. At least you got an entertaining story out of it.

I made some of that "Yummy Pumpkin Stuff" a few days ago. I'll make sure I eat some for you.

Stephanie said...

Sounds like a fantastic menu. Can you get brown sugar there? That might be the easiest way to get the molasses flavor - it would just be a little sweeter.

Good luck!

Rach said...

That menu is so fancy! I want to try those recipes just so I can say I've made them. My mom made a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving while we were in Italy out of a green pumpkin. It was weird looking, but it tasted just like home. We went to a duty free shop in Finland, and half the Wind Symphony bought their weight in Finnish chocolate bars that were three inches thick. I was kicking myself the whole way home for not buying some. But the one we went to wasn't in a special place with a bunch of guards. It was in the airport.

Chris said...

Sounds delicious.

Is a gajillion more or less than a gazillion?