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?
It’s getting to be that time again…when my stash of comfort foods from home has waned and I’m weeks away from my next trip, so it’s time to get creative with local finds in a non-local kitchen (see Somali loxoox, still beyond my level of skill). It’s an expat food-lover’s conundrum: How to create magic, or at least something edible, out of a selection of options you’ve spent too much time with already. (This may also be a regular lover’s conundrum). In the interest of honesty, I’ll admit that the first cute little flour volcano I molded and filled with bright yellow eggs on our slightly angled counter top turned into a sticky, slip-and-slide disaster; I tried to whip it together with the gentle dexterity of Godzilla and ended up with egg yolks in my lap. That may have happened with the second cute little flour volcano as well. Then I wised up, forwent my ego, and mixed the dough in a perfectly reasonable bowl, which worked out a bit better, per my lap. A breakthrough: orecchiette. Al dente thumbprints that held pockets of buttery tomato sauce and delivered them in perfect form right down the hatch, one after the other.