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The best ice cream scoop I’ve ever
used came from Syria, a place of simple, relatively austere cuisine — lots of
bean stews and lentil soups — shaped by poverty and the largely agrarian
economy (three out of four workers are farmers). The scoop is a piece of design
genius, a simple piece of gently-curving, wedge-shaped brass with a stubby
handle of the same metal, as contemporary as it is ancient. Super easy to wash
and super easy to use, it effortlessly scoops out the hardest of ice cream.
Try a block of halvah flavoured with
rose water from Iran — simple, sophisticated, surprising. You just know the
complex taste and texture have been painstakingly refined over the last
thousand years or two. And pomegranates. Never mind those hybridized ones from
California. Get your hands on a juicy, sweet one from Iran, where the plant
originated right through to northern India.
How lucky we Canadians are to be able
to trade with and visit Cuba. Dubbed by John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to
the U.N., as “beyond the axis of evil” along with Libya and Syria (Libya has
since redeemed itself and gotten off the list), Cuba remains dangerous and,
well, evil, in the minds of most Americans.
But we get to toast our friends in
Havana with rich, golden 16-year-old Cuban rum and genuine
, or sample Cuban melons from our local store shelves.
There’s something very grounding and connective about hefting a nice-looking
cantaloupe and then seeing a label, “Product of Cuba”. Who was the farmer who
grew it? Did he use mulch or irrigate? Is it from one of those organic farms
that sprang up after the collapse of the U.S.S.R. and the capital for
fertilizers and pesticides dried up?
Enjoy a big
pancake or a bowl of
bi bim bap
with the raw egg on top at a Korean restaurant, and you
can’t help but wonder if they eat similar dishes in North Korea. If they do,
who can afford them? What do they know about us?