So we have been here for about a week – and I have already found a place to buy candied chickpeas!
Lucky for us, there is a Middle Eastern grocer about 5 minutes away from our home and, though it’s relatively small, it carries everything I would have wanted to find. Besides the candied chickpeas, I was hoping to find some Pomegranate molasses (and I did!). The Lebanese use this a lot in their cooking and I’ve been meaning to try it out because the few times that I have tried it, it was just so good. My mother in law makes particularly good use of this stuff and I’m hoping to follow in her footsteps. Once I’ve had a chance to try a few recipes with this little secret weapon, I will report back. Expect greatness.
J and I found ourselves feeling particularly at home in this shop and as a result we bought a lot of items simply because they were comfort foods, and not because we had any particular craving for them (though they will not be going to waste, I can tell you that). Its amazing how just having certain items in your fridge can make your little abode feel like that much more of a home. Here is a list of what we came back with:
- Labneh: a soft Lebanese cheese made by straining yogurt
- Pickled turnips (or in Arabic “lift”): you might have had these in a shawarma sandwich
- Macedonian feta cheese: this is what my dad always has in the fridge at home. J and I are hoping that the kind we bought will be just as good
- Za’atar: a mixture made up of thyme, sesame seeds and sumac. It can be used as a seasoning or can also be eaten with lebneh.
- Mango juice: reminds me so much of my visits to Egypt
- Halawa: a sweet crumbly spread usually eaten with bread at breakfast time but it can be eaten in a variety of ways any time of the day
- Candied chickpeas: these were not freshly made in-store as they are in the roastery in Ottawa and as a result they are quite expensive here!
The funniest part about this list is that the majority of these items are not ones we are accustomed to buying. They are tastes and flavours which we are usually fed when visiting family, or which our parents will just pick up for us when they go to the Middle Eastern grocery store. In fact, save for the chick peas, this is probably the first time I have ever purchased any of these items for myself.
The outing was special to us though. Though the Middle Eastern grocery store is not a regular stop for us in Ottawa, we naturally gravitated towards it here. I think it might be because we both have an unspoken desire and need to preserve our cultures and to integrate them into our new home. When we live close to family, we really don’t need to put any effort into this. Now that we are further away, it seems to have happened organically.
I don’t think I’ve mentioned yet on this blog that the reason J and I moved out here is because J will be starting law school here in September. We heard that Dal is a great school and that Halifax is a great city and so we figured this was our chance to see what living on the East Coast would be like. So here we are.
A few days ago, we attended J’s first law school function – a welcome BBQ. As is often done at such events, name tags were handed out in order to facilitate mingling. People were asked to indicate what year of law school they were about to enter by putting down “1L”, “2L” or “3L”. I fit into none of these categories and instead indicated that my place at this party was as the “wife of Jad”.
Though this comes as nothing new, I smiled to myself as I put on my label. There is a little part of me that always gets a thrill out of being in a new place where no one knows anything about me except what I tell them. In this day and age where the Internet makes it so easy to find out so much about someone just by conducting a basic search, I find peace in those moments where you are still in control of what people know about you.
In this particular case, I liked simply being “wife of Jad”. At a time in my life where I could potentially define myself in so many different ways, I found this particular definition to be simple and comforting.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about becoming a “contributor” rather than a “taker”.
Tonight, I got to experience one of my closest friends making her contribution. And it was beautiful.
Sherien and I grew up together, but have become especially close over the last few years. We share many of the same interests and ideas and I’ve loved seeing our friendship grow. Sherien has always talked about one day making a movie – and though I believed in her, I am somehow still blown away that she has actually made it happen. She started creating the film “Colour Me” two years ago – and tonight, for the first time, I got to see the final product – Sherien invited me to preview her film at a focus group here in Ottawa.
“Colour Me” is a film that explores the tough concepts of race and identity through the life of Anthony McLean. It is a powerful movie that is a great starting point for dialogue (and even though I am biased, I really believe this to be true). It touched me on many levels, because although the film focuses on ‘black identity’, I think the themes resonate with anyone who has ever sought to explore where they fit into society (which, let’s face it, is all of us). What I think comes through is that we all have many layers, and that any attempt at classifying a person into one sort of ‘sub-group’ will be a colossal failure. This failure is perhaps due to the fact that sub-groups in and of themselves are so difficult to define and demarcate. The movie asks questions such as what it means to be black as well as where our notions of black identity come from. It was amazing to hear stories not just from Anthony, but also from the youth who were profiled in the movie and who also shared about their journey in trying to answer these questions.