INGULFED

(Notes for the Abu Dhabi Bar Mitzvah)

Archive for French

Coal, Soup, and Television — الفحم والشربة والتلفيزيون

There’s no better way to identify differences between countries than to get sick in them. Sorry mom. All of the comforts, the dietary staples, the bad television the body demands are identified clearly in the mind — either to be found, or to indicate in their absence a different cultural approach to coughing, or breathing, or eating.

Suffering from something like a cold, which lingers ironically in the now 95-degree autumn steam, I set out on a mission to find soup… in delivery menus. Almost nowhere would even offer soup — not Lebanese places, not the American places, not the Indian places. Cuisines from the Asian subcontinent sometimes make soup-like things, but often resembling other simple dishes watered down. Where are the microwavable cans of soup and soft foods upon which America’s unwell have built their empire?

Instead, the advice for the wheezing illustrates in Abu Dhabi just how multicultural the place really is. A good citizen of Pakistan will push a tea called “Johar Joshanda,”{1}
which tastes of herbs and licorice and smells something like an old shoe. And those under the influence of French medicine still monger charcoal. “Charcoal, it’s good for gas,” they argue. No, no — it’s better than a gas stove. One word misheard by some French chef turned house-calling doctor and now we’ve got a whole continent pushing smelting materials on the already sick.

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