Thursday, February 26, 2009

Dickensian life - A tale of two days

That's me! (Courtesy of Antonie Robertson)

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Never has a saying been truer than at this current moment in time. Yesterday was literally amazing – I was researching a feature for the magazine on rock climbing so spent a full day out in the open air, perched atop a big pile of rock testing my strength against its will.

The result? Probably about 7:3 to me – the seven because I kicked that mountain’s ass like you wouldn’t believe. The three to the mountain mainly because of the big bruise it left on my ass when I slipped and fell and collided with the rock, butt first. You win some, you lose some (I’m beginning to feel a cliché theme for this entry. How many more proverbs can I get in? Wait and see).

The remaining factor detracting from my 100 percent scorecard is the fact that after blithely climbing up and abseiling down the rockface a few times, I still whined like a baby as we set off the steep and very rocky descent back to terra firma. Surprising what the comfort of a rope will do to your mental state of mind no?

For those of you that think of Dubai solely in terms of a playboy’s fairground, filled with obscenely expensive hotels, restaurants and bars, I suggest you make the effort to get out of the city and head off into the sunset to live happily ever after. It's nice spending a weekend layover in Dubai, but if you spend a bit more time you can really get out of the city and into the desert.

There are things to do that don’t involve drinking or eating (though I’m loathe to count these out completely, this being a food blog n’ all). Scrambling up some mountains for example.

Anyway, as you can imagine, after a day’s worth of baking in the sun, clinging to a rock like a limpet, not forgetting posing for the photographer like a very sweaty and grumpy supermodel and using muscles I never even knew I had (ok ok, but that was a cliché too good to miss), I was fairly famished by the time we got back into the car. The prospect of the hour-long drive back to the city with my stomach growling, murmuring, bubbling and sometimes shouting with hunger was not very appealing, so Tonie and I decided to stop off along the way and pick up some chow.

The chosen place – a little road-side drive-by eatery in Al Madam (I kid you not, that’s the town’s name). Considering that I’ve been turning down invitations to the top restaurants in the city in an effort to stop eating out, I wasn’t overly enthused about the idea of a greasy spoon. Even less so a drive-by one, which is only marginally less offensive than a drive-by shooting, that other reviled practice.

What a mistake. The friendly guy spooning the grease showed me what a snob I’ve been. He greeted us with a welcome that would have put most other restaurants to shame. In less than five minutes after we’d rolled up, he’d whipped up a burger of chicken coated in delicately-spiced breadcrumbs and topped with some kind of spicy mayo and encased in soft, steaming bread. It was like how KFC should be, the KFC of the adverts, juicy chicken, crisp coating and mounds of crunchy lettuce. I’m not a fast food person, but Al Madam burger joint has been jotted down on the list of exceptions.

The burger of magnificence was washed down by a vat of mango juice. It. Tasted. Of. Real. Mango. This is something you don’t take for granted. A juice actually tasting of the fruit is supposedly came from? Revolutionary. It was slightly sweet, thick enough that you’ll keep your facial muscles in good shape sucking it up a straw but not so much so that there were huge chunks of mango in it (this happened to me the other day, I had to throw it away, it reminded me of vomit).

The only failing was the chips, which were crunchy but cold (unforgiveable) and so stiff they’d show rigor mortis a thing or two. I chucked them in the bin and blithely forgot about them while chowing down on my burger.

Over all too soon, we were soon winding our way back to Dubai where I saw Spyro Gyra play as part of the jazz festival. After thirty years, those guys still know how to put on a show and jam the house to its feet.

And then it was today. I woke up and had been bitten all over my face. My taxi didn’t turn up. I missed a John Legend press conference that I’d been looking forward to for months. I’ve got articles to write and no time to write them. Life’s busily trying to restore the equilibrium of yesterday’s high with a new low. But you know what? I’ll always have Al Madam’s greasy spoon. And that’s something.


Anonymous said...

Hey Jules, how are you?

I'm absolutely in love with your blog. Not only do you write beautifully, but you picked my all time favourite subject to write about!

I've loved the recipes so far, and really enjoyed the fact that there are a lot of baking ones. I usually shun recipes (being from the school of 'throw it all in the pan and see what happens' - but that only ever ends in disaster when I'm baking. I think it's because I still haven't understood the science of what flour and eggs really do together!

Anyway, your blog is currently one of my favourite internet distractions, and it's great to hear about your escapades in Dubai, both food related and not.

Hope you're well,


Julianna Barnaby said...

Thanks Jess - I'll be sure to keep on writing - let me know how it fares when you try the recipes :)

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