Friday, March 25, 2011

Galeries Lafayette Gourmet: Dubai

I love my major. In retrospect, when thinking back to the time when I was fifteen or sixteen and deciding what I wanted to study in college, I think I have made the best choice. I can’t even remember all the other things I wanted to study. Was it business? I think I wanted to study business for like a day. It was law at one point, and genetic engineering at another. And for a couple of months, I was torn between the two. And one day during the summer of 2006, I realized it was international relations. My family and I were in Malaysia and after having spent hours perusing through all the books at Kuala Lumpur’s Kinokuniya (the Dubai one hadn’t opened as yet, and that bookstore to me was unlike anything I had ever seen), I bought a book called “The Big Book of Majors”. I remember sitting down next to my mother in the hotel room and peeling off the plastic wrapping (all Kinokuniya’s books have plastic wrapping for some reason- although they voluntarily open it for you if you want to read a book there). I started flipping through all the majors and was fascinated by the sheer score of choices. Every major had its own page and there was a little subsection called “Good if you like….”. That section listed various interests and if you happened to like most of them, then International Relations (or whatever major it was) would be a choice to consider for you.

All the listings in that section applied to me. Traveling, check. Geography-related trivia, check. Social issues, check. And on and on the list went. I excitedly showed the page to my mother and after reading it she exclaimed that everything on that page applied to me. I then knew then it was International Relations which I wanted to study. What I didn’t know was that WHY didn’t I think of it before? Sometimes all you need in life is a tiny push in one direction…. And the rest is you and your merit.

So now, three years into university, I do think I’ve made the right choice. I love reading different opinions about things, I love being able to apply them to day-to-day life, and I love that the main focus of international relations is PEOPLE. Human beings. I don’t think I’m the type of person who would be able to work in a field where the main object would be machines or numbers or anything of that sort. I sometimes joke around by saying that all we’ve ever studied are just opinions.

Reading through politics articles, books, and essays, you realize that there could be a thousand explanations for one occurrence, and a hundred ways to go about something. You want to open up your economy? Sure. That’ll be a great chance for foreign investment and it would increase productivity. But what about domestic markets? The infant industry argument? Or, you want to transition a state to democracy? Do you start off with votes and then establish the institutions or do you delay votes till all the mechanisms and institutions are stable? You get the picture. Every one of these arguments can be and are valid. But if there’s one thing that I’ve learnt in IR, it’s that it depends. Nothing is ever universal. There’s always a unique set of characteristics and events at play that a certain solution might work under those circumstances only. That’s why we see states who imitate other successful economic models fail miserably sometimes. And unfortunately, mistakes made in foreign policy can often have devastating consequences.

It’s quite like life, isn’t it? No two people are alike, and neither are their lives. You can’t judge and you certainly can’t give the best advice or make a good decision by applying what worked in one situation to another. In life, just as in international relations (which arguably is life, or the greater workings of it), everything depends. But depends on what? Depends on each other. Life is a series of consequences. But that gets me thinking about that whole great debate on whether you make your own decisions in life or whether everything is sort of predestined. I love that discussion, but for some reason it always ends up in spirals. I’d like to think that it’s a sort of combination, that you make your own decisions but ultimately your path in life is set. It’s confusing to understand how that works, but I like to think of both opposing mechanisms working in tandem….somehow…

OK by now you must be wondering what place all of this has in a food blog. Well, I went off topic.. like I do in everything.. but I was talking about my major and how I love it.

Sometimes, I don’t love it. Like right now. Sometimes I get tired of all the reading and writing and analyzing and repeating. Sometimes I wish that all I had to do was cook. And cook and cook and cook. And feed people. And animals. Feed family, feed friends, strangers, children, beggars, lawyers, architects, entrepreneurs, artists, cats, dogs, stray animals, sick animals…

I want to be able to wake up in the morning and have no idea what I’m going to do that day. I want to create masterpieces in the kitchen and attempt all sorts of things I had never tried before. I want to travel the world, live in small towns around France and Italy, meet the locals, develop my own cooking style. But more than all of that, I just want to make food. Makes me sound like a glutton doesn’t it? Meh. I have a whole list of things I want to try making and I want to be able to make them without other interruptions- like getting a Bachelor’s degree.

A few days ago, I was thinking about just this. How I’d like to be a “freelance cook” as I call it. I then realized that that meant a housewife. Well, kind of. Not to undermine it or say that homemakers don’t have other responsibilities- they’re often the very foundations of our society- but for some reason, I think that housewife was the most accurate word to use when thinking of freelance cook. No business deadlines to meet or to menu orders to churn out at the speed of lightning- just you and your kitchen, making three meals a day and maybe some snacks. Mostly up to your creativity. That came as a little shock to me. I don’t think I’d like to be a stay at home mom. Not for long, anyways. But I think I’d always like to cook. If only life could be such that you could glide, at whim, in and out of corporate profession to uninterrupted domesticity. Maybe you can do that. It all depends.

So my love of food, and the desire it has sparked in me to devote my life solely to exploring all its wonders, has led me to be more creative in the kitchen. It’s a slow process, but one that’s certainly progressing. Earlier on, I’d only invent savoury dishes. Stir-fries and pastas. But now I’m inventing recipes in the world of baking. Which can be scary. Baking is just like chemistry; get one measurement messed up and there goes your experiment. As I type this, I actually have a cake in the oven- a cake whose recipe I developed. Major yay factor for me there. And it’s midnight. Almost 1AM. I’ve been getting these creative urges at nocturnal hours of the day. Quite surprising since I pride myself on being a morning person… but there’s something very different about night. Perhaps the perceived solitude which gives rise to creative energy.

But no, this blog post isn’t about the cake. It’s about Galeries Lafayette’s Gourmet section. I visited it yesterday and as I was browsing through the aisles I got all these wonderful ideas for things I could make. Mediterranean things in specific. Complete with backdrops of azure sea, white-washed buildings, bougainvilleas, and cobbled streets.

I bought olive oil with sage, green olives with Pronvencal herbs, a tomato sauce, an artichoke sauce, and red habanero peppers.

I ate habanero peppers stuffed with cheese at the restaurant called Olives in DFC’s Crowne Plaza. It was heavenly. Since then, I’ve been wanting to make my own but I never found habanero peppers anywhere. I bought them as soon as I saw them and this afternoon, I sliced the top off, removed the seeds and stuffed them with spoonfuls of Philadelphia cheese, since that was the only cheese we had at home that I thought would work. I roasted the whole thing in the oven for about five minutes…. The Philadelphia cheese started oozing out of the peppers and OH MY GOD, the peppers were the spiciest thing I have ever eaten. Spicy to the point that I had a nano-bite and my tongue was on fire. It was horrible. What happened to those sweet, juicy, SLIGHTLY spicy habanero peppers at that restaurant? I started thinking that maybe I got the pepper’s name wrong. Maybe they looked like habaneros but weren’t. But then what’s the explanation for all these habanero peppers stuffed with cheese recipes that I see everywhere? Needless to say, everyone had a tiny, tiny bite and gave up. I can’t believe how spicy they were. WORDS do NOT describe them.

On a good note however, I used my olives with provencal herbs in a little salad I tossed together for myself. Roca leaves, semi-dried tomatoes, olives, red and yellow capsicums, some balsamic vinegar and that sage olive oil. Worked perfectly. And was very, very appetizing.

Galeries Lafayette Gourmet is definitely worth a visit. What I find odd though is that they sell things that you find in all other supermarkets… Chocos and Nesquik cereal, local canned pineapple juice, 7up, Pepsi… It’s a full fledge supermarket with a very gourmet flair. I think they should have focused only on the things that you don’t get elsewhere. For one, all the regulars things that you get elsewhere were extremely overpriced, and second, not many people (according to me, anyways) are going to go to the 2nd floor of Galaries Lafayette in Dubai Mall to do their monthly grocery shopping. Or even pick up something that’s run out in the house. I think they’re trying to emulate the great food halls in departmental stores around Europe, but it isn’t really working. Don’t get me wrong- the food selection of things that you don’t get in regular supermarkets in the UAE was fabulous- amazing. But I really think tissue boxes and detergents were slightly out of place.

Oh, on a totally random note, what was totally cool was that their shopping baskets were little gold things. Oh, and the vegetable section is amazing. Habanero peppers and artichokes and all other ingredients you rarely find in some mainstream chain supermarkets around Dubai.

On another note, I just wrote 1826 words in around an hour. Why isn’t it this easy for me to write an academic paper of the same length? SIGH.

Recipe for my epic salad:

1 cup roca leaves
1/2 red capsicum, sliced
1/2 yellow capsicum sliced
1/4 cup green olives
1/4 cup semi dried tomatoes
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Feta cheese (I didn't use it but it would be great)

Place leaves, capsicums, olives, and tomatoes in bowl.
Mix well.
Add one tablespoon (or to taste) of balsamic vinegar and an equal amount of olive oil. Toss salad together with cubes of feta cheese, if using.


  1. Firstly, I love galeries lafeyette as well! I don't think I ever explored their gourmet section though which is a shame. Next time! Also, your recipe for the epic salad seems delightful. I always love that refreshing, healthy feeling of a salad.


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