welcome to whatever this is.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Trouble With Blogging

I think this must happen to everyone who starts a blog.  All you want to do is blog. Even if you don't really have anything to blog about. Ok, that's great, assuming you are not also blogging while you're in your office at your full-time job as deadlines pass you by and your boss is getting fed up with not receiving anything from you in the last week.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, Lori, you have 4 blog posts.  Big Deal. I'm pretty sure you can handle your full time job AND writing 4 blog posts.  But if you are thinking that, then you obviously do not have a blogging obsession, and I don't know if there's anything that I can say to help you understand what this obsession truly means. But I will try. OH, I will try.

Let's start with the fact that IF you want anyone to read your blog besides your boyfriend, you have to network.  This means going to other people's blogs, leaving your business card in the form of a link back to your blog, commenting on their posts and what not.  Ok, fair enough, if I were a robot, I could do this pretty quickly.  However, I am not. I go onto other people's blogs and I CAN'T STOP READING THEM. I sort though their posts, dreaming of tasting the food that they've so beautifully photographed.  So the blogs I have listed in my Food Blog list...well, I love them. I know them, I've looked through pages of their stuff.  I go through and wonder how they came up with these recipes. How did they get the photos to capture the deliciousness of the food? I look at how they have all these really cool graphics that I don't have the first clue on how to create.  They have these indexes and search engines. They have GIVEAWAYS. They even have awards.  Did you know that blogs can win awards? Now don't worry, I recognize the my blog consists of 5 posts, photos stolen from the internet, and links to the sites where the actual information is located.  I am not going to start dreaming of awards.  But people have followers in the thousands!!

The blog world is fascinating. And exclusive. And I want to be a part of it.  Now, I also don't want to get fired from my job.  Can blogging and working be reconciled? Well, I'm sure that if there was a mother of 3 blogger reading this, she would say, "Uh, YEAH, you self-involved blogging newbie.  What do you think I do, sit at my computer blogging while my kids starve and run naked through the neighbourhood?"

But MY blog has FOUR goals. cook, travel, write, learn, remember? ok, let's admit it. the learning element isn't real. it just looks good and i can say i learn while i do all the other stuff. fine. But man, finding freelance writing work is hard. I will do it, but it's hard.

So. I'm going to post this and get back to work. And I won't return until I've handed my boss a paper on interventions in the post-harvest fisheries sector.  got it?  good.

But first,  a book. My friend Tamara gave me this book when I told her I wanted to start a blog:

Pretty good price right? It was pretty good, and I used it combination with a lot of online how-to-start-a-blog blogs.  Which are great. Except maybe a TAD bit overwhelming. Just read other peoples blogs and see what you like.  Easy-peasy.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Samosa To Remember

Ok, it's time to talk seriously about a topic about which I am particularly passionate: Samosas.

(This photo was stolen from the internet. I can't even give the credit to someone because it came up so many times when I googled samosa. My camera is broken and this is a new blog. Give me a break, and please don't sue me over some kind of copyright infringement. PLEASE.  only my boyfriend reads this anyway)
Now, I've always known and recognized that I love samosas.  When I see the word samosa, I feel warm and loved. When I think about the different possible fillings, I feel excited  I would like to write an adaptation of Jimmy Buffet's "Cheeseburger in Paradise", substituting in samosa instead.  It wasn't until a two weeks ago, though, until I realized that samosas may actually play a larger role in my pursuit of happiness than I ever thought. It was a Friday night and we were going to a friend's birthday party. We walked in, there was a sprinkling of people, and some music playing.  In the middle of greeting some people, I noticed the table of food behind them.  On it were plates of samosas. I immediately proclaimed, "This is the best party ever!".  I realize now, that I have an affliction.  In a daze, I walked away from whoever I was talking to to grab one of those tasty pockets to discover what was inside.  It was a meat samosa. Meat samosas aren't even my favorites, but still, I was in heaven. 

I honestly don't know where my love for samosas stems from.  My mom never made them, in fact, she generally doesn't even like any kind of greasy food.  I share this obsession with nobody in particular, and yet everyone in general. I remember arriving in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, only to discover that lentil filled crispy samosas were on the menu for breakfast at every cafe in town.  I have nothing but fond memories of Ethiopia. In Nairobi, I popped into the little shop every day on my way home, picking one up as an after-lunch, pre-dinner snack.  They guy at the shop laughed at me everyday, and still, I couldn't not go. The underground stations in London even! How they have them right next to the pasties, taunting you to take one on your way down to the the tube, and again on your way out. (I am well aware that Transport for London actively discourage eating scented food on the tube. And I don't like eating on the tube myself, I'm just saying, the option is there. Don't get all London commuter on me.)

So, the other day, I started thinking about this.  My best friend Jenn, can take or leave samosas.  But we have never been obsessed with the same foods, so that's not a surprise. But, the more I thought about it the more I realized, I'm pretty sure that the city from which I hail, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, could very well be obsessed with them in some kind of discrete, underground way.  Now, before I get into this, I realize, samosas can be found everywhere, and so there is a kind of general love for samosas around the world.

But while we Haligonians struggle to find stalls of shops that offer decent burritos, jacket potatoes or savory pies, you never have to walk far to find a samosa.  And this is a province with less than one million inhabitants, of which something like 95% are of Scottish, Irish, English, Welsh, French, German and Dutch descent.

The fact that you can find samosas across the entire town, one might predict that the samosa market is now saturated in this city of less than 400,000.  However it turns out that, in the business world of samosas, always room for one more. The recent opening of Serious Samosas attests to this. And this is not just limited to the city of Halifax.  In the (relatively by Canadian standards) nearby cities of St. John and Fredericton, they also share this healthy, if not curious, love for samosas. CaveatDoctor, with his love of the samosa industry, writes about a third samosa stall opening up at Boyce's Farmer's Market in Fredericton. Population: 50,000.

Now, I think it would be useful to stop and take a look at the history of this entrancing, pocket-y delight that tantalizes the tastebuds. Why, you ask? And to that I respond, why not?

It turns out that samosas actually originated in Persia, like so many other culinary successes.It was called sanbusaj, and we only have to look over at Samosa Connection to get the facts and history of this tasty triangle. However, I can summarize:

What seems to have happened was, the sanbusaj was not content to stay in Persia and be enjoyed by the Persian people alone. Despite its love for its homeland, it knew that it had more out there to see, it had something it could share with the world. I imagine that the people of Persia were initially hesitant about one of their own leaving them to go off to strange lands. But the sanbusaj would have assured them that it was not leaving in its entirety. No matter what happened out there, the sanbusaj would always be Persian first.  And so, the sanbusaj put on its backpack and traveled the world, much like Marco Polo, or Ferdinand Magellan.

Now, while the sanbusaj recognized that it had intrinsic qualities that could be enjoyed by populations across the world, it also knew that it had to adapt to local tastes in order to be truly accepted. Whether this meant adapting its filling, its wrapping, its shape or its method of cooking, the sanbusaj was willing. The sanbusaj discovered that while it originated in Persia, other cultures had so much to add, so much to give it.  And so over hundreds of years, the sanbusaj developed friends and family in the form of  Singara, smosasumosa,  சமோசாsamosa, sambusak, سمبوسك‎, samsa,  somsa, sambusa, самбӯса, سنبوسه, samuza, chamuça. Resulting in what we have today.  Sanbusaj(s?) that come in triangles and tetrahedrons, that can be adapted to vegetarian, vegan, lactose-intolerant, gluten-free diets. 

And so, as much as I believe that the maritime provinces are a special, magical part of the world, I know now that their love for samosas is a love that transcends provincial, national, and state boundaries. It is not surprising that this little guy, hailing all the way from Persia, is able to slip into Eastern Canada's farmers markets, which pride themselves on organic, local produce. 

I would like to take this moment to suggest that the samosa be nominated as the international food of peace, for its demonstration that globalization does not have to include domination. As a disclaimer, I realize that with that last statement I have lost all credibility with any of the readers I may have had (Basically just Roddy, but he knew what he was getting himself into when he started dating me).  

But to bring it back, I found a good samosa recipe, at The Tamarind Tree.  You can click there to get their  recipe, OR you can embrace the adaptive mantra of the samosa/sanbusaj and just, make it however you want! 

Get crazy, experiment with flours and water, the different types of fillings, and the way you cook it.  Try a feta cheese, pesto and potato filling. Whip up a dhal and throw it in there. Bake it, boil it, deep fry, pan fry!!  Just make sure that when you make it, you make it with the spirit of the samosa ever-present in your mind!

Finally, in honour of Persia, I will link to this cookbook, from the food family that brought us the sanbusaj.


UPDATE 19/05/10:  I found this samosa-taco recipe at the Cooking Photographer.  I mean, could the timing be any more perfect? Look at the continued evolution of the samosa.  Just look at.. :)

Eritrean Delights in the Form of FOOD!!

I was not planning on writing anything today, as I haven't actually cooked, written, or traveled. However I have tasted and I have learned.

Last night I was invited over for dinner at my good friend Biniam's house. Biniam is from Eritrea, and we were having a dinner to say goodbye to his brother Alex, who was heading back to London. Now, I spent a bit of time in Ethiopia and absolutely LOVED the food.

Eritrean food is very similar to Ethiopian, actually I can't tell the difference. When I ask Biniam if there is a difference, he always says no, but then he'll point out that in a specific dish, Eritreans might use or add an ingredient that Ethiopians might not. As I feel slightly obsessed with the Habesha people, I plan to investigate this further.

For those of you unfamiliar with Ethiopian and Eritrean completely, I can only suggest you get yourself to the nearest Habesha restaurant. Two of the most distinct items in this food is the use of berbere in their sauces, as well as injera, which is the rice to one's thai green curry, the naan to one's dal makhani. Traditionally made with Teff, a grain that can only be found in those countries, it's usually substituted with wheat outside.

Ok. So enough with the descriptions. I have search and searched for a blog or website devoted to Eritrean and Ethiopian cooking, but to no avail. As well, cookbooks covering recipes from here are lacking. All I want is a great Shiro Wat recipe (peas stew). And for a region that has such amazing food, the lack of resources to cook this amazing food is just unacceptable. I will see what I can do.

I did have look, and found and these Ethiopian cookbooks. I had a flip through the first two here in Cairo, and they looked great. And as soon I get money, I plan to buy them, but I figure, what's the rush when I'm still getting invited to people's houses for Eritrean and Ethiopian food...right?
 Ethiopian Delights Cookbook

I had looked at one of the Eritrean cookbooks, but the reviews weren't great and it definitely didn't seem like it captured the essence of Eritrean cooking. The rest seem to be mainly cookbooks that cover the entire continent. I am always surprised when I come across an African cookbook, as I can't imagine how the author would have attempted to tackle that challenge. It would be like creating a European cookbook, or an Asian cookbook. How could you possible choose which recipes to put in each country's chapter? I do not envy the person that embarks on that task, that's for sure.

But I digress. For those of you who are looking for a little sample of Eritrean or Ethiopian food, I would take a look at http://ethiopianrecipes.net, although the site itself can be a bit difficult to navigate. Also, DK at Chef In You has done so much of the trials and testing, presenting what appears to be an amazing gluten-free Injera recipe.

And that is all I have for you. I have not cooked, but tasted. So I can assure you that tasting some of the delicious dishes that come from this region, as well as learning about this incredibly rich culture and people, will only bring you joy.

So. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, if there is anyone that is reading this and knows of some great recipes from this region, put it out there for the rest of us to enjoy!!!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

On my own for my first week of goals


Well, I have to say that the inspiration for cooking has always been pretty good, I love cooking for other people. And, I have been blessed with an amazing flatmate, Maya, who coincidentally hates to cook AND loves when I try new recipes. Unfortunately, Maya is going back to the UK for the week, and I will be left to cook on my own. I can't imagine I will motivate myself to cook something fantastic this week, unless I venture to invite OTHER friends over for dinner...ok. We'll see what happens, I'm not making any promises.


This bodes well for my writing goals, as I will be all alone. My goal for this week is to get and complete one paid writing assignment. Even if it only pays 2 dollars. Anything.


I am currently living in Cairo by the way, I think that I mentioned that in my last post. So, where can I go to share with you some of the joys of this crazy city? Well, luckily, I need to go get some presents to send back to Canada, so I will head to Khan el-Khalili armed with my impressive observational skills and a camera if I can get a hold of one...


Wow. My own blog. I have been inspired over the past few months by other people's blogs. Mainly cooking blogs, because I find people that have a gift for cooking to be incredibly inspiring. Those people who know the secrets of how to get certain flavors out of vegetables, how to work with different flours and how to know when to stop cooking something before it becomes overdone.

I am not one of those gifted people who can cook without recipes. I usually start by searching 15 different ways to cook one dish, then combine them to make a dish that 1) uses ingredients that I can actually find, based on my location (currently Cairo), 2) omits things i don't like in dishes (raisins), 3) is compatible with the fact that I forever struggle with finances.

Ok. So, in order for this blog not to be completely self-indulgent, I will use it for the creation of a goal which combines all the things that make me happy (outside of family and friends and love and all that jazz, of course).

I love cooking. I love traveling. I love writing. And I always always always hope that whatever I am doing, I am learning.

What will I do in this blog? And why should you read this blog?

1) I will experiment with the best recipes I can find. And cook them. And share with you the joys of trying to cook recipes in a countries that generally don't have half the ingredients.
2) I will share the joys of travel. As I mentioned before, I am forever and eternally broke. But I am a firm believer that this should never stand in the way of doing anything you want, and I want to travel.
3) WRITING. Ok, I have to just say it. I have had a love-hate relationship with writing since I learned how to write. Example: Once I learned to print, I decided that learning cursive was pointless and useless and I have refused to write cursive ever since I left elementary school. Example 2: I have always wanted to make a living through writing, but have yet to make a dime from it. (Unless you count that working as a researcher is kind of making money from writing, but I doubt it because a TON of researchers can't write for all the tea in China.)
4)Learn. Learning is without a doubt the one thing I can say that I have done, through all the cooking, traveling and writing. And I don't know if one can really learn from someone else's experience, but if it is possible, I will try to learn some amazing lessons and articulate them in the most share-friendly way that ever existed.

So. Here I go, let's see what happens. 


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