Culinary Trails

September 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

Today, unexpectedly, was for getting to know the world a bit better through its food.

I stopped at Algier’s Coffeehouse for a dose of dusty academic ambiance and my morning caffeine. I opted to try the Mocha Arabica instead of my customary latte. The coffee is boiled directly over a flame in a long-handled cezve, ground so fine that it sinks to the bottom of the cup once poured. They brought the coffee to the table with two dainty demitasses and a tiny sugar bowl, still steaming in the gleaming brass.

I knew the story of Kaldi and his jumping goat, but just today learned about Shiek Omar, a healer from Mocha credited in Arabian legend with the discovery of coffee. Exiled to the deserts of Arabia, he chewed on the fruits of a berry bush to stave off starvation. He tried to roast the berries to remove their bitterness, but they became hard. He tried to soften them in boiling water, and they turned the water fragrant and brown. Drinking this elixir, he was sustained for days.

The mocha was strong and sweet. I was going to ask the waitress for milk but there was no need.

From Harvard Square, I walked down Mt. Auburn street to the cemetery to see the view from the tower. Afterwards, I continued in the same direction and found myself in Watertown’s stretch of Armenian markets. At Sevan Bakery, I spotted a pile of cezves in a bin by the window. Stepping inside, I instantly regretted having brought lunch with me. The market was a feast: there were fresh cheeses and stacks of flatbread, yogurt and dolma and byoreks and so many little pastries.

I learned that in Armenian, a word for sweet is anoush. I ordered two pieces of paklava, one filled with hazelnuts and one with sweet cream, and a small package of pistachio mamool.

What can be said about baklava done right? I cried for the mouthfuls I wasted on baklava done wrong. I loved the touch of cinnamon mixed in with the nuts. So, so good. So anoush and so good.

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