I absolutely adore eating. Nothing in the world fills me with more pleasure than filling my stomach. Once I became a vegetarian, my palette completely changed. Where before I would eat nothing but popcorn or Cheerios or chicken, suddenly I wanted broccoli and grapefruit and enjoyed things that were veritably exploding with flavor. As the years flashed by, I found myself enjoying spicier things that I would never have dreamed of eating before, and soon I had discovered the glories of Indian food, and upon that, there was no looking back for me. I was reading the paper a while back and read a review of a restaurant called Kathmandu which specialized in Indian and Nepali food. It had a tremendously good review so I simply had to see what all the fuss was about. A friend and I went to the lunch buffet one weekend and I was a bit wary at the onset. On the outside, it looks pretty rough and the inside isn’t that much better. It reminded me of the little shops you pop into to buy a soda in Cairo or Mexico City — a bit overstuffed and an obvious attempt made to liven the joint up. It was shady but in a tremendously welcoming way. The staff was very pleasant and the proprietor went out of his way to make sure we enjoyed ourselves. It was toward the end of the buffet service but there was still plenty to sample and a wondrous assortment of vegetarian goodies. I took a hearty scoop of everything and then after taking my first bite I knew that I would be doing the same again. The saag paneer was delicious as it is literally everywhere, but the other dishes were amazing and I don’t know what they’re called but they gave me life. The okra was better than is reasonable. The daal was spicy but in the best way. The other dishes consisted of vegetables known and unknown perfectly seasoned with decadent spices. The naan was soft and divine and I can’t stop thinking about this restaurant. It absolutely earns the rave reviews that it has garnered. I can’t get over it and I need to get back just as soon as I possibly can. It’s so wonderful to come across these delicious places near to home. When I get overwhelmed by the overbearing Americanness of Iowa I can escape to places like this. For me, there is honestly nothing quite so refreshing as sitting in a strange place listening to conversations in languages I can’t even name as I devour something hearty and delicious. That food made me feel so good. Maybe I should marry an Indian guy who’s a chef. That is probably one of the better ideas I’ve ever had. Please send in your applications for my hand in marriage, gentlemen. Cheers.
The Oriental Institute:
The Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago is a legendary and iconic location for me. It is the premiere school for Egyptology in the United States, and I have always had a fantasy of starting a new life where I pick up and move to Chicago and dedicate myself completely to the study of Egypt. I might someday. It’s more likely that I’ll pursue my studies at UCLA because of the palm trees and LA. I adore Los Angeles and I don’t feel that way about Chicago at all. It’s just a matter of time I suppose. Anyway, this weekend I took myself to Chicago for a late spring break trip. I had to do a practicum for my college classes during my actual break, so I spent my usual vacation in a rural high school. Bit of a shocking change for me! Being ever anxious to be anywhere else but home, I booked two nights at the haunted Congress Plaza Hotel and hit the road. I have always thought I hate road trips, but the drive was rather pleasant. On Saturday I made my way to the University of Chicago campus and fell head over heels in love with the place. The architecture is stunning, the grounds are peaceful, and many of the students are wearing fashionable clothes. And the second I went into the Oriental Institute, I just felt immediately at home. I have been here once before, years ago before I ever visited Egypt. It was at the start of my rededication to all things Egyptological. This second visit though was unexpectedly emotional. When I read the information cards on the displays I sighed with tremendous pleasure because I knew exactly where they had all come from. When I read a statuette had been unearthed at Medinet Habu, I found myself walking again amongst the ancient pylons with Yasmin and sipping tonic waters at a dusty cafe with her and Hassan. And when it spoke of Luxor in general, there I was again in the gardens of the Winter Palace and wandering down Television Street and hugging Debbie at the Lantern Room. And I was on the corniche, looking for Chicago House, that elusive research facility that is owned and operated by the Oriental Institute in Luxor and dreaming of befriending the entire staff. As I looked through the artifacts, I happened upon an alabaster vase with an intriguing cartouche. I could read it just fine, but it didn’t correlate to any ruler I was familiar with. Fascinated, I sat down and started researching on my phone and an hour later found myself in the throes of archaeological fever. And I had the same revelation that I’ve had a few times in the past: every moment I don’t spend devoted to Egyptology is time wasted. The study of ancient Egypt satisfies and completes me in a way that absolutely nothing else ever has. It was a rapturous time, reader. And I didn’t even tell you about the special exhibit that was the reason I returned to the Oriental Institute at all! I suppose that’ll be next.
Book of the Dead Exhibition:
The reason that I went to Chicago last weekend was to study the Book of the Dead exhibition at the University of Chicago. I make it a goal to attend every Egyptological exhibition I possibly can, and when I found out about this one, I knew I had to attend. How I was unaware of it before the last two weeks of the show, I do not know, but once I received an email about the closing, I made plans to visit Chicago. We just discussed all of this, though, so it’s no news to you. The exhibit wasn’t large at all, and you could easily go over it all in about fifteen minutes. I spent a little over an hour in the exhibition hall in a fit of Egyptological passion. There were two complete ancient Egyptian Books of the Dead on display. I have seen examples of these a couple of times in New York and Paris and Cairo, but since they are each so unique, I had to see these two as well. They were absolutely beautiful and I had the most fun looking at the beautifully rendered hieroglyphs making out the few words that I was capable of translating from the long dead language. In addition to two fully unwrapped scrolls there was an embarrassment of wonderful things. There was a mummy and scarabs and ushabti and a bit of a coffin. But of all the pieces in the entire exhibit that thrilled me the most was an unwrapped scroll of papyrus. It had been tightly wound up millennia ago and had never been seen again. It has been subjected to several types of investigations, but scholars still are not sure what might be on the papyrus. It might not be anything at all. But regardless, how fabulous! It was all enchanting, well worth the trip.
Veggie Grill in Chicago:
Half of the reason I went to Chicago last weekend was of course to see the Book of the Dead exhibition. As you read, that was amazing and well worth the six hour drive. But the other reason that inspired me to cross state lines was the opening of the Veggie Grill. I wrote about this a few months ago when I first learned my favorite vegetarian chain restaurant from California was going to be opening up nearer me. Finally this gave me the opportunity to head out and bliss out in the glory of absurdly delicious vegan foods. When I went to LA, I ate here probably five times a week. It never got old, and in addition to too many things, the Veggie Grill made me miss Los Angeles more and more. Whenever I return, it’s one of the first stops I make. Saturday morning, in the throes of a cold that you will certainly be reading about, I made my way to the blessed Veggie Grill and felt physically relieved the second the door shut behind me. I felt like I was at home! The friendliest waitress in the world sought me out to offer recommendations and enthusiastic chatter about vegetarianism. She was the absolute sweetest. For my lunch I had a dish called a rustic farm bowl which was filled with delicious things like mushrooms, yams, white beans, tomatoes, broccoli pesto, and more. This was topped with a faux apple sausage that was honestly too good. The whole combination worked so well together that I was scraping the last bits out of my bowl. I was so happy. It had been worth the wait and the drive and it was just as good as it had been in LA. I could have cried. And if I wasn’t blowing my nose every five seconds, I probably would have. I only regret that I didn’t go back fourteen times before my return home. It was divine. Get there reader.
Y’all. I am livid. I have been sick for what feels like forty years. Since I’m only twenty-eight years old this isn’t possible, but I am the QUEEN OF HYPERBOLE. I have honestly been dying of some malady since last Monday, so at the time of this writing, I HAVE BEEN UNDER THE WEATHER FOR TEN DAYS. I was sick in Chicago. I was sick at work. I was sick everywhere. Having multiple sclerosis symptoms was hella scary and worrying all those years ago, but honestly, this has been way worse. I mean yeah, I was blind in one eye and couldn’t feel my leg and ballooned because of injections and was so dizzy I could not stand BUT I’m currently deaf in one ear and have so much sinus pressure that I cannot walk without my teeth throbbing. I even went to the doctor two days ago. I don’t do that even though I preach it. But after literally being on my deathbed for three days, I decided it was for the best to see somebody. I don’t have the flu or Ebola (like I’m always secretly hoping for) but I just have something they called scientifically “The Crud.” I was not at all amused by this very common sounding ailment. If I’m going to be sick, I at least want it to be something very exclusive, like gout, an aristocratic disease caused by an excess of good living. So I was given a regimen of antibiotics and sent out the door. I’m feeling next to no better. Well, that’s not true, I’ve been popping Amoxicillin for four days and I no longer feel like I’ve been beaten up. But I still can’t hear out of my left ear. I put on my new wireless headphones and could hear absolutely nothing in that ear and it has me beyond freaked out. I don’t want to be deaf! I always thought it might be kind of nice to never listen to everybody’s endless bother, but it turns out this is the height of inconvenience. People have been talking to me and I have had no idea. I have rarely been so embarrassed. I went to the doctor again and now I’m on steroids for a week. AND I STILL CAN’T HEAR. Never get sick reader. NEVER.