I still clearly remember when I first started longing to travel. I was in eighth grade, and in my social studies classroom, I was sat very close to an old map of the world. Obviously I had seen a map before then, and I had thought about the countries of the world many times. But that was when I first started considering the possibility of taking off somewhere new. All of my past experiences had kept my worldview well grounded in North America. Now I was ready to fly off somewhere new. And the very first place that I dreamed of going was London. I was captivated by the comedy and the differences and the concept of blood sausage and the monarchy. I found the Queen fascinating and the institution is so steeped in tradition and ritual that it was endlessly interesting. Finally when I was in high school, I went to Europe for the first time, and well, that was it for me. My cultural interests have since settled in France and Egypt, but my Anglophile side is never fully dormant. I went to the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton and all, you remember. So whenever news comes from the Palace, I’m deeply intrigued. Recently, a documentary aired on the BBC about the coronation of Queen Elizabeth. Marvelously, the documentary featured an interview with Her Majesty. Such a thing is a rarity! She was delightful. Quick witted and funny. It was wondrous to hear her memories of the day she was crowned Queen. I particularly enjoyed her looking at the Imperial State Crown. It was so amusing to see her touching it and moving it around and poking at pearls after it was reverently sat beside her by the royal jeweler. And I had the loveliest time researching the Crown Jewels after the documentary. I was fascinated by the huge diamonds and the story of their shaping into the stunning jewels they are today. And the oil used in the coronation ceremony was something I had never once read about in my life. It was a wonderful documentary. The most charming moment was when the narrator read an excerpt from the Queen’s reflections on her father’s coronation. “I thought it all very, very wonderful and I expect the Abbey did, too. The arches and beams at the top were covered with a sort of haze of wonder as Papa was crowned, at least I thought so.” It was a lovely documentary and a wonderful way to pass an hour.
Since going to Egypt the first time, I have become obsessed with traditional Egyptian foods. I love falafel and lentil soup and ful medames and koshari and that delicious flatbread that is served with every meal. Koshari has been on my mind since last summer. I found an Egyptian restaurant in San Francisco that had an amazing koshari. I decided to finally make some for myself and, reader, I could not have been happier with how it turned out. I suppose I should tell you what it is. Koshari doesn’t sound all that great or look that beautiful, but it is the most divine concoction. In a bowl you serve equal portions of white rice, lentils, and macaroni noodles and then top this with chickpeas, spicy tomato sauce, and fried onions. It is extreme comfort food that keeps you full for ages. When I served myself a heaping portion, I was so happy, and felt like I was in the capital of Egypt again where I had it for the very first time. I was out walking in Giza after sunset with friends at the hotel and we stopped at a busy koshari cart. It was during Ramadan, and the fast had just ended for the day and the very hungry Egyptians were craving a meal. I was enthralled to find a vegetarian option. I had been terrified that I would find nothing to eat whilst I was in the Middle East, but the vegetarian options were seemingly endless. And so cheap! The koshari there cost me just a few Egyptian pounds and I was completely stuffed by the carbohydrate rich concoction. It’s not healthy by any stretch of the imagination, but it is certainly delicious. I have enough leftovers to feed half of Cairo, I think, and I can’t wait to serve myself up another steaming portion of koshari for dinner and dream that I’m back on the Nile. I must get back to Egypt just as soon as I possibly can. I miss it so much.
French Fried Onions:
If there is one thing I can’t stand, it’s a casserole. The very word strikes fear in my heart and sends a shiver of dread up and down my spine. The idea of a dish filled with mushy vegetables and canned cream of something soup is not a concept that should delight anybody. I always think of a quote by Julia Child’s friend, Avis DeVeto, who said, “There isn’t one casserole in a hundred that is fit to eat.” Truer words have never been written. But I did discover over Thanksgiving that green bean casserole is edible. I don’t crave it by any means, but it’s all right. And the reason is the topping of crispy fried onions. I have long turned my nose up in disdain at the idea of fried onions in a can. What on earth could prompt somebody to eat something like this? And then I tried them, and now I totally got it. They are absurdly delicious. Ever since this discovery, I have been adding them to literally everything. Every single dish is enhanced by crispy fried onion. I bought a tub of them at IKEA the last time I was there and I just started eating them like popcorn. It’s a bad habit that helps explain my rapidly ballooning body. Yesterday I was like a junky and ran to the grocery store quick to grab a new jar. The usual kind isn’t nearly as good as the ones from IKEA, but they are still salty and oniony and perfect. And these make the absolutely best topping for koshari, which you just read about. I love onions. I will always have these on hand in the future. I also need to go on a diet. Oh well. Someday I’ll be thin again. Maybe. Who cares?
Financial Aid Dispersement:
Reader, the most amazing thing in the world just happened to me. I’m getting money! I mean, it’s a student loan so it’s not really money that I get for free, but it’s money that I can use. For those of you who are lucky, you have savings and no major bills to pay, and so you don’t constantly have money on your mind. For people like me who use literally every penny of every paycheck to maintain our lifestyle, extra money is a foreign concept and an unexpected luxury. So far in my higher educational pursuits I have paid everything in cash or been lucky enough to get tiny little scholarships to help pay. And while it’s been great to cover everything and have no accumulating debt, it has really ruined my lifestyle. I don’t make much money to begin with. People at McDonalds make more money than me over the course of the year. I don’t defame people at McDonalds, mind you, I’m actually really envious of them. Can you imagine working around fries all day? It sounds simply dreamy. Anyway, now that I’m attending a private university, the prices are hella high and I could no longer afford to pay. So I accepted student loans. I know that I have to pay them back, but I don’t have to right now, and I won’t have to pay back huge chunks like I’m accustomed to. I can pay off the credit card I’ve been using to get books and pay for credits and all that. I’m just so happy. There’s nothing so luxurious as money. I’m going to probably buy myself a bottle of champagne as a treat. I deserve it. And maybe I’ll get a shirt! And maybe I’ll save a goodly chunk and spend it this summer in Mexico City when I basically move there for two months. God I feel light and free. My skin is cleaning, my anxiety is dissipating, my multiple sclerosis is going into remission, my tanning bed burn is fading, I’m losing inches off my waistline. Life is grand!
So I never was officially diagnosed with the flu, but I had literally every single one of the symptoms. And, I’m a psychic when it comes to disease, so rest comfortably knowing that I had one of the worst flus to spread across our nation in years. And because I almost never get sick, this was a tremendously and profoundly awful thing to have happen to me personally. I started coughing Monday night, and then I didn’t feel human again until that Saturday. And that wasn’t the end of it. It took me a week and a half to get back to my old self. Waves of awfulness washed over me with irritating regularity. At times, I felt like I was fine and that I was close to being myself again, but then a new round of pain came. My body throbbed with pain. My head ached. I couldn’t stop blowing my nose. I couldn’t stand up. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t stay awake. I just couldn’t do anything. Don’t catch it. I really don’t have much else to say. I missed four days of work. I think that’s about as much as I missed when I was getting steroid treatments for multiple sclerosis the first time. It’s been a nightmare, but I, like the great Dolly Parton, can see the light of a clear blue morning. Oh, let’s have a musical interlude:
I am alive but not well. Avoid this flu. It is the plague, reader.