There are other sweets out of Mogadishu that I devour enthusiastically, an array of crunchy, colorful, cookie-ish treats that generous colleagues hauled to the office for me during a recent trip. And when I write haul, I mean it: in total I carried more than 10 kilos of sweets back to Hargeisa. I daresay no one takes their sugar as seriously as Somalis, and after four years, it’s rubbing off.
…All this as prelude to the moment of my friend’s arrival, when he actually gave the mostly-eaten basket of pastries back to the waiter in disgust (at me, for ruining my appetite with these snacks!), and promptly ordered me to a rooftop I didn’t even realize existed, for a proper breakfast. Upward and onward!
In my estimation, fadiirad is, ethnocentrically speaking, the local equivalent of a Tex-Mex burrito bowl, eaten from an aluminum take-away box on the street. The base of it, literally and figuratively, is a grilled bread called sabaayad, according to The Googles it’s similar to India’s paratha – a flat, flaky, oily, simple combination of flour, water, salt.
I’ve been cooking for Z for years, taking fundamental nutritional advice from my previous boss in the States who had long prepared food for her pups, and adding in the fruits of my own research, tempered by local availability of ingredients. It’s a labor of love, one shared by old roommates, and one that requires at every meal either proper planning or clever improvisation. Occasionally, the improvisation borders on the absurd, as when all I have to offer Z are extras of what I’m eating, minus the spices or sauces or canine-indigestibles. So sometimes the dog gets a scoop of goat meat ‘n slop from the bucket in the fridge, and sometimes she dines on sauteed filet of fresh fish with a side of chopped Swiss chard. Go figure.
I’ve lived in Hargeisa for nearly three years, and learned a lot through trial and error and… more error. I can get around pretty well on my own, including at the market, diving in, finding what I need, negotiating a bit, and jumping back out. But there’s one section of the market I haven’t been able to wrap my mind around: Grain Alley. (This is a totally fabricated name that I established to reflect how intimidated I am by this place. It works, yes?). Grain Alley is lined on either side with giant sacks of legumes, cereals, and other dried goods. Vendors, all women dressed in colorful jilbab or wrapped in patterned scarves, sit perched atop their mountainous spreads , each sack not much farther than arms length… So, I’m reaching out, friends. Anybody out there a cereals/grains aficionado? Anyone cook regularly with these? What am I working with here?
I’ll admit pomegranate scones seem incongruous, like a peacock in the bathtub, but with some zest from oranges and mandarins (provenance: desert oases in Awdal Region of Somaliland) the tart pomegranate works. Did you know that winter is pomegranate season? (You probably did, you smarty-pants). At least in the northern hemisphere, that’s the case. The gems around our home had been looking awfully plump and crimson on their branches lately, despite dry and chilly weather. I just assumed they were in a good mood for whatever reason, but it turns out they, like me, get rosy cheeks from the brisk air!