Monday, August 29, 2005

Dinner Party

I knew that it was only a matter of time before my plan to avoid cooking this year (since my meals in the cafeteria are all free) would go crashingly to pieces. I can't not cook. I just can't. And so, I had my first "dinner party" last night. My housemate Joanna and I co-hosted what was supposed to be a potluck, but we provided most of the food and I made most of that, so I think it counts more as a dinner party. I did have several moments of panic trying to think of what to make since I am utterly incapable of cooking without a recipe, but finally settled on corn-flake coated baked chicken, mashed potatoes with cheese, and stir-fried green beans and tomatoes. It was heaven. We had 5 people over for dinner itself and a few more turned up for tea and dessert. All in all lots of fun. I've posted some more pictures, including of the dinner, so check them out.

This seems like a good opportunity to also comment on grocery shopping. It is a whole different kind of production here, given the complete lack of anything even vaguely resembling a Giant Eagle. Instead you have a gazillion tiny stores that sell a variety of random crap, some of which is edible. Actually, that isn't fair. There are several actual grocers, though only one who sells both dry goods and produce. The fabulous thing, though, is that the grocers deliver, so I wander down to the store (or just call), give them a list, and it shows up the next day on the back of a coolie. Manpower is abundant and frighteningly cheap here, so the "coolie" charge is usually under a dollar. And for that, he hauls my food up the mountain instead of me. It really is decadent and I love it.

The only problem with this system is that you don't have the opportunity to really comparison shop, or even know what the bill will be until it arrives. I was a bit stunned by how expensive my diner party fixings turned out to be. Indian groceries would be cheap, but I still don't know quite what to make of the bewildering array of spices, grains, and unidentified condiments. "Imported" (i.e. Western) food, is rather expensive. But the cheap produce (20 cents a pound for bananas) almost makes up for it. All the grocers operate on credit--a simple system that consists of you telling them your name and where you live and them writing it down then adding what you owe them under that.

The other source of sustenance worth mentioning is the "bread man." This is exactly what you might guess--a man who walks up and down the mountainside selling bread. He carries a big tin box on his back, full of his homemade carbohydrates of varying forms (bread, muffins, donuts) and knocks on your door. Unfortunately, he comes by Mt. Hermon after I've left for school, but I've solved the problem by bringing money and my bread tupperware with me and meeting him half-way down the hill. It's great! I'm hungry. Lucky for me, only half an hour till tea-time.


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