Twenty years ago or so, a work contract took me from Kansas to San Diego for about a year, where one of my first outings was to a Moroccan restaurant in La Jolla called Marrakesh. Seb often jokes with me that my strongest memories are those that revolve around food, and this memory is no exception. I can no longer recall what specific occasion took me to that particular restaurant, but certain subtle details became forever embedded in my olfactory machinery. The ambience, the low seating and lighting, the washing of hands at the table, the belly dancers, and, most of all, the crispy, exotically rich, and oh-so-mysterious pastry full of chicken, ground almonds, cinnamon, and sugar. I remember wondering, is this supposed to be savory, or sweet? And happily concluding that it was, somehow, at the same time, inexplicably and perfectly both.
I have to tell you about one of my favorite things. Its name is Socca. It’s a very simple, very tasty, naturally gluten-free flatbread made from just chickpea flour, olive oil, water, and a few seasonings. It’s a popular street food in the south of France, particularly Nice, though its origins are just over the border in Italy where it’s called farinata.
Hmm. “Street food” and “France” don’t quite sound right together. It’s not like the French eat it out of hand while like, simultaneously walking or anything like that — non, non, they sit and eat it properly, off plates and all, and would never forgo pairing it with an apéritif of some sort, ideally a frosty glass of rosé. But I liken it to street food because sidewalk cafés in Nice often showcase the final product in plain view along the street, the better to tempt passersby. And the tables of these cafés spill onto the sidewalk, or the street itself, the better to sit and soak up the Mediterranean sun. And it’s definitely portable. You don’t need any cutlery to eat it, just some napkins.
Before I disappear for the next two months, I wanted to take one last opportunity to post something. This one is much easier to read and digest than my last post, I promise! No MBA required here — topics and photos include desert beauty, food, more food, fun exercise to work off that food, and a thank-you note to some very important people.
They say that Tolkien was inspired by his homeland of South Africa when he wrote The Lord of the Rings. How could he not be? We drove through dramatic mountain scenery in lush greens on our way from Knysna to The Cape Winelands.
Christmas morning, 2010. We’re crossing the Andaman Sea from Krabi to Phuket, a two-hour trip. It’s a gorgeous day, and we are lucky. When we entered Thailand a few days ago, we encountered a Frenchman going the opposite direction who said he’d not seen the sun for two weeks. Monsoon season is not quite over yet.
Langkawi… ahhh. I had never heard of it before beginning research for this trip, but apparently it’s “Malaysia’s best-known holiday destination” according to Lonely Planet, and now I can see why. Seb’s request for this vacation, well, besides being somewhere developed, was that we would find a place to spend several days in a row doing nothing but relaxing beside a beach. This was the kind of place I hoped he’d had in mind. We just had to rush through the first several stops to get here.
On Thursday morning we said goodbye to Kuala Lumpur and headed back to the train station with our $20 tickets. Seven hours later we arrived in Butterworth, then walked right on to a waiting ferry that shuttled us in 15 minutes across the Malacca Straight to the island of Penang for less than 40 cents per person! Continue reading