The Middle Eastern Pop-In
Apparently it is customary to visit someone's new home here in Amman. You get to have a nosy around, drink some tea, bring a gift. Last night, when I was at my in-laws, I was told that an uncle would be stopping by today and a whole slew of other relatives and friends of the family are calling my mother-in-law to schedule their visit to see our new apartment. Suddenly I understood why sets of little tea cups and sugar bowls and trays were hoisted upon me by my in-laws before we moved in - we will be entertaining frequently it seems!I think living here is much like it must have been 70-odd years ago in small town America. Everyone knows one another, they are often distantly related in some way, you inevitably bump into each other while out and about (note to self: a little makeup before leaving the house is necessary!), and have absolutely no qualms about the pop-in. A good wife always has the tea kettle at the ready and a cake or some homemade cookies ready for whomever happens by that day. In London we would have people over for drinks or dinner, something planned weeks in advance to accommodate everyone's hectic schedules, but never just a casual, unannounced visit in the afternoon (and here afternoon stretches from 4pm until about 8pm). Many of you know that although I might be considered the social butterfly of my family, I'm a little bit recluse and need lots of time alone. That time alone is hard to come by here as we often will have three or four different casual social meetings on any given day! So I'm learning to get up early and enjoy the quiet mornings when little to nothing happens here as I never know exactly what the rest of the day holds in store! I've also made peace with being the pop-in-er. At first I was mortified to be stopping by unannounced, but as no one else seems bothered by it, why should I?So with our guests imminent, this morning, I ran to the corner shop and bought a bunch of butter and started baking! I certainly could have bought some chocolates and sweets at the many bakeries here - this region's sweet tooth is legendary and hence the shops satiating it are too - but it was a wonderful excuse to brush the dust off my KitchenAid mixer and test some recipes for our business too. I decided on a classic lemon tea cake, but have added a bit of lavender to the glaze on top, some little cheese crackers, and walnut shortbread cookies. Now, I know I used to share all of my recipes with you guys, and for some of you that's probably the reason you come and read my blog, but I'm afraid I'll only be able to share occasionally going forward. You see, I'm told that if other cooks or chefs here in Amman know the recipes I'm using, they'll simply copy them and use them in their own businesses. While I realize that I'm not doing anything revolutionary with either of these classic recipes, I still hope to keep my versions uniquely for me and my customers. I hope that perhaps even if I'm not sharing my own recipe you'll try one I suggest (see links above) for your own pop-in guests!