Food & Drink » Glenda Bartosh on Food

The terrorist dinner party

A great equalizer where the devil is seldom in the details

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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 mojitos , 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 jeon 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?

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