I saw this question on someone’s FB post yesterday. One of those posts with random questions that you are meant to fill in and pass on. Usually I ignore them but this caught my eye. Salt on watermelon? The persons whose post it was had answered with shock…what a preposterous thought. However, it made me think and then search Mr Google to find out if this was, indeed, something people do.
Watermelon is big here at the moment – perhaps I should say that the watermelons here are big! They are simply enormous, weighing in at 5kg for the smallest. I love watermelon and although I do buy these bohemuths, I prefer to buy the slices otherwise my whole fridge is filled with bright red slices and squares which never seem to go, no matter how much I eat. Although the thought of having it with something savoury seemed odd at first, watermelon is often served with feta cheese, a salty cheese. An appetiser that I would choose if on the menu. It appears that the salt brings out the moisture and flavour. So for breakfast I added a pinch or two of pink Himalayan salt to some watermelon – it certainly did bring the melon to life. We have salted caramel that is a very popular flavour at the moment and chocolate with sea salt so the idea of salty and sweet is not so unusual. I do like some freshly ground black pepper on strawberries. Had a conversation about this last night with my mother – she insists it should be the finely ground white pepper on strawberries but then she eats banana sandwiches so we shall agree to disagree on this as well as the correct ripeness of tomatoes…that is for another post!
So what other fruits are enhanced with seasonings? Pineapple is one that salt brings out the flavour of and even chili salt is recommended. Who doesn’t like avocado on toast – a pinch of salt is essential to bring out the flavour. Who would have thought of sprinkling salt on tart green apple slices? As for tomatoes – I had always thought that adding salt to tomatoes was not advised as it turns them mushy. However, if done just before eating, salt is a perfect partner to tomatoes.
It appears that just about any fruit or berry’s flavour can be enhanced with some salt or pepper! So instead of reaching for sugar to make your fruit sweeter, try a pinch of salt or a grind of pepper…you never know what new flavour bombs you will find.
I love breakfast. There it is, I have made my affirmative statement for the day. There is nothing better than a leisurely breakfast and it does not even matter what the weather is like. Today it is looking pretty grim out there. The dark clouds are gathering and I do not want to say it as it is only mid August…there is a not summer chill to the air. Even the impending thought of the end of summer does not dampen my enthusiasm for breakfast which I am eating on the enclosed balcony of my apartment overlooking the Ishm River in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.
Here in Kazakhstan, breakfast is a daily ritual. We even serve it at school and children and staff will come in early for a bowl of porridge (I never knew there were so many ways to make porridge) and eggs in some format. Without a bowl of porridge, nothing will be achieved here – have even heard of a near protest when our sister school in the south of the country proposed a menu change removing ‘kasha’, the generic name for this essential morning food.
If you travel in Kazakhstan or any of the neighbouring ‘stans’ such as Uzbekistan make sure that you stay in local ‘homestays’ as you will experience breakfast at a whole different level – even the best hotels that I have stayed in around the world cannot compete with the variety of breakfast delicacies that will greet you on these vast tables. Of course every breakfast starts with ‘kasha’ whether the weather be hot or cold. It might be made of seven grains, oats, rice, quinoa…the ingredients seem endless but it is sure to be delicious. On the table will be some fresh made bread. In Uzbekistan it will be there famous round breads with the bakers stamp baked into the centre. The bread that Timur’s soldiers marched on, the bread that build the great cities of the Silk Road and filled the Mongal raiders. Although delicious on it’s own, it can be eaten with fresh butter and the local jam. This jam I have had in many places and is not like any other jam you will have tasted. It is made from the berries gathered in the mountains and the steppe and has a freshness that brings your taste buds alive. It is runny so you have to dip bread rather than spread the jam. The table is already laden with different jams and bread but suddenly another course appears – it might be an omelette or fried eggs or fresh cottage cheese wrapped in thin bread and fried – whatever it is, it is quite simply irresistible. Lashings of green tea, black tea or tea made from the herbs and flowers gathered along with the berries completes the breakfast of nomads, Mongal warriors and Silk Road traders.
Of course, breakfast always tastes much better when someone else has made it for you.
One of the perks of travelling is breakfast and trying different breakfasts as every culture has a different breakfast cuisine. Being Scottish, the fry up is part of our breakfast culture – although the country was built on porridge too. You can see it on menus as a ‘All Day Breakfast’ with the possible addition of chips to make it a more appealing lunch or dinner option. Key elements of a Scottish fry up as opposed to an English fry up are the square sausage, black pudding and either the fried pancake or potato scone. Baked beans are not a traditional accompaniment. Square sausage is also called Lorne sausage. It does not have a sausage skin and is, as the name suggests, square. Black pudding – the ingredients may not sound too appealing but it’s slightly spicy flavour cut through the salty bacon and rich creamy eggs and is essential to the overall experience. A fried potato scone – or sometimes a pancake, depending on where you are – is a delight. Even on it’s own, popped into the toaster with butter dripping off it, a potato scone is particular Scottish delicacy. You can make them yourself but it is near impossible to recreate the fluffiness and softness that the bakeries achieve. A friend of my mother’s did have the magic touch. Was it the way she cooked the potatoes – baked or boiled?
Is this our world today? Everything that we thought was stable and would never change has changed. Nothing is for certain anymore. Words and phrases that were unknown or unfamiliar to us just six months ago dominate our daily conversations.
Who else has left the house and then suddenly reaslised that they have forgotten their mask? – not their keys, purse or phone although we do still forget them too but not with such consequences. I did this only yesterday. However, as most of you will now have, I had a spare mask in my bag…in fact two of them. I am building up quite a collection to suit my mood:
the cat print one for planned trips
the one with ‘goodbye’ in Kazakh for walking along the street
the one I have hand crocheted (close knit with a pocket for additional filter) for meeting friends
the blue one to match a different colour palette
the pack of surgical ones that are in every bag and pocket
the one with large covid type virus cartoons and the message ‘if you can read this you are too close’ for days when I just cannot be bothered
I also have a face shield – thought would be good for communicating with people. It is only when you cannot see someone’s facial expressions that you realise how much you actually read faces. Having said that, you can still read an amazing amount from eyes. However the shield is really only an additional protection along with a mask. I have seen some masks on Amazon with a clear plastic part at the mouth – for working with children, this would be essential.
Of course the other challenge is for those who wear glasses or if the sun is actually out and sunglasses are needed – they mist up from your breath, your hot steamy breath seeping out from your mask. I remember from my scuba diving days that you could stop your mask from steaming up by spitting in it…wonder if the same would work with glasses?
I do wonder in amazement at how quickly we have adapted to this new normal life. Sure, we are all still living on a roller coaster of covid emotions but somehow we are carrying on. The stilts of our lives might have seemed precarious when we realised that our world was having to redefine ‘normal’ but they are actually strong and flexible.