Arabs, Russians, and a Hookah Bar

It only took me three stores and a possible cultural faux pas to get them, but the pickled turnips have been acquired and I’m well on my way toward making my own Middle Eastern food at home.

It took more than a little coaxing to get Mr. CPQ to try them, and he choked, sputtered, gagged, said something about this is how terrorists are made let’s just say that he didn’t appreciate them as much as I did, but this is also the man who thinks Spam is a delicacy so please take his reaction with a grain of sodium nitrate.

The store that had them was near NC State’s campus in a shopping center that also contained an Ethiopian restaurant and a hookah bar, so let’s just say my lily white English-speaking self might have been a little conspicuous, but I was on a mission and didn’t let a little minority status stand in the way of food nirvana.

After about .6 seconds in the store I realized that my two years of high school French weren’t going to get me very far with the monolingual Arabic man behind the counter who seemed concerned to see me with an uncovered head and unaccompanied by a male, but this is America and I had fresh highlights that I paid too much for to hide so I just flashed a winning smile and kept saying “turnips” slowly, loudly and repeatedly until  we managed to find a jar.

It was not unlike when I was living in Little Rock right out of college and my friend Robin and I saved our money and drove to Memphis for a girl’s weekend and on the spur of the moment decided to get a massage at the spa in the hotel where we were staying.  The therapist was Russian and the only word I knew in Russian was “Perestroika” and all he could say was “Reagan” which he said over and over and loudly and that has absolutely nothing to do with this story except for it just flashed in my head as I was typing and, wow, did I think I had arrived at the ripe old age of 22 by getting a massage in a strip mall Howard Johnson’s Hotel with a stunning view of the interstate.

The shop keeper asked me what I was going to eat with the turnips and when I told him, his eyes lit up and he proceeded to tell me about the right kind of chickpeas to use and how long to boil them and between his broken English and a little translation help from another customer, he managed to give me a recipe that sounds delicious and also invited me to come back sometime to taste their lamb.

It was a beautiful sight; an American girl and a Muslim man, bonding over food.

Our own little perestroika moment.

Peace. Love. Falaffel.

Have a nice day.

19 responses to “Arabs, Russians, and a Hookah Bar

  1. Thanks for taking us all on these little adventures, CPQ. I don’t even have to taste your pickled turnips to have my life a little more spiced up. All I have to do is stop by the blog. 🙂

    And are you up in the middle of the night, too? I don’t know what it is, but lately I’ve had a 3:00 waking hour. Grrrrr…

  2. That is, hands down, the funniest thing I’ve read in a long while. I desperately needed that today. You have no idea. Uber kudos, Superwoman.

  3. Love it! It’s my life…only there!

  4. Peace, love and falaffel to you to! I’m going to remain skeptical on the pickled turnips….

  5. I think all foreign relations issues could be solved with pickled turnips and chickpeas.

    Either everyone would hold hands and sing that old Coke song about learning how to. (Sing…not hold hands.)

    Or…everyone would just sputter, gag, cough, choke, and die from grossness.

    But awesomely cool that you dig ’em. I think.

  6. Way to break down barriers! He just might go home and tell his wife to get some fabulous highlights.

  7. I love your adventures. This made laugh out loud!

  8. Okay, I’ve just caught up on more than a week’s worth of your post, so this may be a really long comment. I have so much to say! I’m tempted to call you, but since we haven’t met in person and I don’t actually have your phone number, that might send off a few too many stalker vibes. And I’m not a stalker — just excitable. 🙂

    The pickled turnips oddly intrigue me. I think I’d like them very much! In fact, I would totally come over if you served them. Which reminds me of your expired food issues.

    Haven’t we tweeted about this?! Lady, PLEASE STOP FEEDING YOUR FAMILY OLD FOOD!! It’s makes me so nervous. True: I may be a little hyper, but that just goes to show how very, very much I hate being sick. I have had miserable experiences with digestive issues (food poisoning and stomach bugs while pregnant, just to name two — I LOST ten pounds in four days during my first trimester with Z.) and I really don’t want your family to suffer such.

    Okay, back to food. I can’t wait to try your summer rolls recipe! Oh, and I laughed out loud at your title for this. “Hookah” just makes me think of Kristen Chenoweth’s book. She called her lady parts her “hoohah” and insisted and singers must sing from their hoohahs. And then she had an unfortunate accident that cracked her pelvic bone, so now she can sing and predict the weather with her hoohah. Who wouldn’t want that? LOL. She’s a very funny lady and I was happy to see her sing at the home opener for the Yankees this week.

    Oh, and I’m not sure if I should be excited or tortured that you’ll soon commiserate with me in real estate adventures. We found a place that we really want, but no one is accepting or even considering contingent offers. We have to sell this one before we can get that one, so we lowered our price last night. It’s only been a week, but panic seeps in quickly. Why is faith so hard??

    All right, friend. I think that’s the end of this short book. One last note: thank you for reminding me to make my lady visit so I can get that lovely prescription as well. Rick will be thrilled. 😉

  9. I love it! And you 🙂 you’re so fun and adventurous and I feel like I wish we could hang out all the time!

  10. Tanya, I’d rather not think of it as feeding them expired food. Isn’t it nicer to think I’m BUIILDING THEIR IMMUNE SYSTEM?

  11. You’re too funny! I made the summer rolls last weekend, by the way. My husband, the big Asian food aficionado in our home, LOVED THEM! Thanks for broadening my horizons. Now that I have all those ingredients on hand, I guess I’ll have to broaden them even more…

  12. Seriously, a road trip or even a grocery shopping trip with you is now on my bucket list. I don’t really have a bucket list, but am starting one now.

  13. I admire your tenacity in tracking down the elusive pickled turnip.

    Maybe there’s a reason they are hard to find? Like…no one wants them because they sound nasty? Or I suppose they could be in high demand. Nah, I’m going with nasty.

  14. Ewwwwwwwww. Pass the biscuits/gravy and fried okra please.

    As my father in law would say “it’s good to those who like it” and clearly you do! so yay!

  15. This is one of my favorite posts.

    Genius writing. Genius.

  16. Well, since the southerners eat all the greens, you gotta do SOMETHING with those turnips… I actually like boiled turnips with a little butter, & I like pickled beets, so who knows?

  17. Think I’ll eat over at Tiffani’s, thankyouverymuch.

  18. If you find a falafel recipe that works, please share it.

  19. My daughter and my husband LOVE the chick peas, but turnips are a no-no. Though your telling of the story was lovely.

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