ADVENTURES IN DUBAI: YOUR FAVOURITE NUMBER ONE BLOG BRITISH DESIGNER LIVING IN DUBAI TELLS (NEARLY) ALL
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Pease Pudding Hot, Pease Pudding Cold
Hands up, how many of you have ever experienced the delights of Pease Pudding? It's a peasant dish from the North East of England, and I like to think of it as 'Geordie hummous'. I used to hate it when I was a kid, but after I'd lived away from home for a few years I actually tasted some that my mother had made, announced that I quite liked it, and for every trip home thereafter there was a huge bowl of freshly-made pease pudding.
It's amazingly simple to make. The finished article should set to a spreadable consistency. Take a couple of handfuls of yellow split peas (chana dal, in these parts). Soak them in water for a few hours. Chop an onion into smallish bits, chuck 'em into a pan containing two or three litres of salted water, rinse and drain the peas and hurl them into the pan from a height of eight feet*. Bring to boil, cover and simmer for a couple of hours. That's basically it. The peas and onion will disintegrate and you'll be left with a thickish goo - you might need to let the goo reduce over a high heat for a bit to get the consistency right. At this point you can either stir in a big blob of butter and transfer it to a bowl to set, or you can tie it in a piece of cheesecloth and hang it over a sink for the excess moisture to drain away (I've never used this method but my mother always did).
Another variation is to add the knuckle of a haraminal at the start of cooking. This releases gelatin which helps the setting. When it's all cooked you can strip the meat from the bone, shred it into, well, shreds, and stir them into the goo.
Oh, by the way, the title of this post refers to a bit of an old English nursery rhyme:
Pease pudding hot, Pease pudding cold, Pease pudding in the pot, Nine days old.
It really does improve over time, but nine days is pushing it a bit!
Never let it be said that I don't give credit where credit is due.
I received a package from Aramex this morning. No fuss, no hassle, no phone calls asking 'where is your location', no confusion about where I would be at what time. The guy just turned up at my house and gave me the package.
I've been thinking about writing this post for a while, but it took me reading a few posts on other blogs to push me into it. I'll be up all night writing this, but I feel it has to be done. So here goes.
The true value of any post on any blog is to be found in the comments for that post. It'll take you a while, but read the original posts and then read all of the comments. It won't make you feel good, but it will give you the background to what I'm going to witter on about. Here are the posts:
Reading these things, you might get the idea that there is open warfare on the streets between locals and expats. It's not actually happening yet although it might explain some of the driving on Sheikh Zayed Road.
I am probably as unhappy about the demographic imbalance in the UAE as any local. In case you don't know, the population of the UAE comprises something like 80% expat to 20% local. If I was a local here I would be seriously irritated by that. But as an expat, all I can say is 'it's not my fault, I have a perfect right to be here, as do most of the others. And I'm leaving next summer.'
If locals are feeling swamped by foreigners then I suggest they take it up with 'the concerned authorities'. But here's the thing. As far as I can make out, the plans for the future of Dubai suggest even more foreigners arriving. Anyone who wants to buy property in the UAE will be made quite welcome. Although not to the extent of having guaranteed right of residency or anything like that.
The problem lies in the fact that there are so few actual locals. The post on Balushi's blog indicates some kind of a problem. If the authorities will not give passports to huge numbers of people who clearly are entitled, then the expat:local ratio can do nothing but go down.
I worry about the quality of the gene pool. The UAE discourages marriage with foreigners, but it does not object to you marrying your cousin. Consequently there is a high risk of children being born with genetic defects such as thallasaemia.
I personally have no desire whatsoever to become a UAE national, but there are plenty of expats who do. Grown-ups and trailing spouses generally know what they are getting into, but their kids who are born here have no say in the issue. They grow up here and know no other place as 'home'. This really bugs me. I know a lot of kids in that situation, and I feel that something should be done.
The UAE has this idea that it is building a nation, and for that it needs imported labour. It also needs architects, designers, engineers, project managers etc, to design and build these projects. These senior people need housing and schooling and healthcare for themselves and their children (the labourers don't, they are here as 'bachelors'). They will do their jobs and leave. But if we ever get to a stage where there is no more building, there will still be a huge need for people to do the menial jobs - the bus and truck drivers, shopworkers, garbage collectors, street cleaners, domestic helpers etc. If an Emirati would stoop so low as to do any of those jobs then good luck to them. Otherwise you are stuck with these expat workers forever, so quit whinging about it.
Where I part ways with some locals (especially the younger ones) is when they say 'we built this country, we don't need you foreigners, kindly go away'. They did not build this country in any way, shape or form. 35 years ago, possibly more, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum realised that there was this thing called 'oilandgas' out there in the Gulf, and that it would make his emirate rich. He envisaged setting up all kinds of things that a proper town/city needs and so he brought in Seven Wise Men from the UK to help him build the required infrastructure: hospital, port, airport, water, electricity, police and army. Those guys (and I knew a few of them) were treated like princes during Rashid's lifetime, and were given houses to live in and residency until they died.
Now, I see a lot of things written by locals complaining that expats do not respect the Emirati culture. And I'm really sorry that I have to ask this, having lived here for twelve years, but what exactly is 'Emirati' culture? If you strip out anything that is part of Islam? Or common to other GCC countries (falcons, horses, henna, that thing you do when you don't want any more coffee, buying cars you can't afford on credit, crippling yourself with bank loans and credit cards, etc)?
The UAE seems to have some kind of obsession with 'racial purity'. The truth is that there is no such thing as a 'pure race', and especially not in the UAE. If there was, it would die out pretty quickly because you must have genetic diversity to keep your gene pool strong. UAE nationals can trace their roots back to Iran, Iraq, anywhere on the Arabian peninsula, India, Zanzibar, Sudan, wherever. I doubt that you could find one person who could say that they had three generations of forbears who lived in this part of the world. And even if you could, it's such a tiny group of folk that it would be most unwise to restrict your nationality based on that.
And that's nothing to be ashamed about. If you look at the history of Western countries, you will see wave after wave of invaders, intermarriage, more invaders, etc. This kind of stuff enriches civilizations, deepens the gene pool and is generally a good thing.
I guess what I'm trying to say here is 'don't blame the foreigners'. We are here for various purposes, mostly to work and try to make money. We get a fairly rotten deal these days with stagnant salaries, rampant inflation and a worsening quality of life. It is not in the nature of Westerners to sit back and accept these things without making some kind of comment. To get back to the original starting point of this post: 7Days will continue to say what it wants to say. If that upsets journos working for the more restricted Arabic-language press then don't blame 7Days, blame whoever it is that puts restrictions on what you can write about.
At the end of the day, the UAE is joining every international club going. It has to allow freedom of speech. It is inching its way towards democracy. It is the key link between the Arab world and the West.
The getting-worse-by-the-day Emirates Toady reports on the case of a British gentleman in court for allegedly flashing his middle finger at a local. I couldn't believe this story. Apparently this is the fifth 'middle-finger crime' incident to hit the courts in Dubai this year. People have been jailed and one was even deported for doing something that most people would not give a second thought to.
The Toady explains, for the benefit of us decency-challenged readers: 'Showingthe middle finger - a Western gesture of insult and rejection - is considered tantamount to slander in the UAE.' Actually I did not know that. How can it be slander? Slander is a groundless or downright wrong verbal accusation made against someone. If what you said can be proved to be true, then no offence has been committed. In the case of middle-finger-waving, what are they presuming the finger-waver is saying? Something bad, no doubt. But what if it was justified by the actions of the other person? Sadly, the Emirates Toady report is lacking in detail: it states that the accused was asked whether he had any witnesses to support his claim that he was not waving his finger, but merely gesturing at his head to indicate to the other party that thinking about what he was doing would be a good idea. There is no mention of whether the 18-year-old local in his car with tinted windows had any witnesses.
Grrr...what a waste of time and money.
Also in today's Toady, Managing Editor Eudore R Chand makes a bid to take over where KT's Galadari left off. He's written a leader in which he claims that road tolls will make all our lives better. He seriously seems to think that the dhs 4 toll on part of Sheikh Zayed Road and the Garhoud Bridge will actually make a big difference to driving on these roads. Maybe it will, but it will be at the expense of total and utter gridlock on alternative routes like Al Wasl and Beach Roads, Emirates Road and the Maktoum Bridge and Shindagah Tunnel. For those who cannot or will not pay the toll, life will become even more of a nightmare than it already is.
Oops, that wasn't very positive was it? I hope the RTA will think again about this plan: Dubai needs serious alternative public transport infrastructure up and running before using tolls to drive people off the roads.
However, I know you're all on tenterhooks to know how does my garden grow. Well, the spuds are massive and the peas are hurtling skywards. I have some coriander shoots that are very slowly not doing much.
Fresh this morning I noticed six teeny onion shoots and two carrots. The carrots are such a dark green that you can barely spot them against the soil.
And what of the Basil Babies? Well, I think they are cress. Having shot up at an alarming rate, they haven't showed any signs of growing any more, and they certainly don't look like basil. Ah well.
The Government Of Dubai is launching an intensive campaign aimed at transforming Dubai from one the world's most dangerous places for road users to one of the safest within five years. Huzzah!
It can't be done, of course, not in five years, but there's nothing wrong with a bit of ambition. Why can't it be done? Well, it's all down to driver education, respect for the law (and other road users) and effective enforcement. And getting drivers to realise that they are in charge of a potentially highly-lethal weapon.
Deporting truck drivers doesn't help - they just get replaced by new truck drivers who have even less clue about the local driving 'culture' than the previous incumbents. But yes, I'd love to see proper driver education - and I'm gonna piss some of you off now by saying: on a par with Western standards. Drivers from most Western countries are able to get a UAE driving licence simply by passing an eye test and paying money. People with licences from other countries have to pass a test. If there was to be a more advanced driving test brought in (and I've seen things in the press that suggest it is in the offing), then those with licences acquired before the new test is brought in will have to undergo extra training and sit the new test. And we need to see an end to the use of wasta in acquiring licences and in dealing with accidents.
The UK ran some brilliant TV campaigns on road safety about 20-30 years ago. One showed a hammer smashing into a peach - guess who won. Another showed what happened to crash test dummies if they were not wearing seat belts.
Gulf News did a survey on seat belt use and attitudes a few weeks ago. One commenter said he never wore a seat belt while travelling in the back seat, because 'the front seat will protect me'. Sorry pal, the front seat has a steel frame and, in a crash at even modest speed, it will smash you to bits. So, seat belts for all, and proper child seats for toddlers. And no exceptions.
Respect other road users. I remember a phrase from the UK Highway Code 'never do anything that would cause another driver to slow down or change direction'. If all drivers here just thought about that every time they made a manouevre, especially entering roads from a side street or changing lanes on a highway, we would see an immediate reduction in the number of accidents.
So that's road safety sorted out.
On to road tolls. Most of the local papers carried a leaked story from the Roads & Transport Authority (RTA) last week. We are to expect an announcement from the RTA concerning the introduction of road tolls from next July on dozens of major roads throughout the Emirate of Dubai. Notwithstanding the fact that I am leaving next July, this is madness. In the absence of a realistic public transport alternative, and the continuing illegality of car-pooling (because it takes revenue away from the taxis), this amounts to nothing more than another tax on motorists. It will have minimal impact on car use. It may force a number of Echo and the Sunnymen to leave, but guess what, they'll be replaced by more of same. It may force people to consider using a minibus service (there are dozens of these that run from Sharjah/Bur Dubai/Karama to TECOM/Jebel Ali). But that's about it.
Maybe the leak was a strategic move by the RTA to see what kind of response it got. If so, and if the RTA are reading this, my response is, don't even think about tolls until you have provided serious, viable alternatives to using cars. That means 2010 really. By then the first phase of the Metro will be operational, you will have figured out how to run a bus service (and this must include bus lanes and dedicated bus roads with the magic bollards featured in my previous post) on time, we'll have some ferries and hovercraft running up and down the coast, and, most importantly, you will have fixed the climate so that people can actually walk to the access points for these facilities without dying of heat stoke. Quite an easy job really. Go for it.
There's been some half-hearted talk of bus lanes in Dubai of late, but of course you then have the problem of how to stop unauthorised vehicles from using these lanes. Manchester in the UK has the answer - retractable bollards.
I know this is old news, but our wise and tolerant movie censors have decided that Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan will not be showing in cinemas in the UAE. I am so pleased they made that decision on my behalf, because I am too stupid to make it for myself.
And what's with Kazakhstan anyway? Before this movie happened I had heard the name, but couldn't place it accurately on a map, didn't know that it is bigger than Western Europe, had no clue that the capital was called Almaty, and was quite unaware that some of it is very pretty and they want tourists to go there. I think Sacha Baron Cohen has done them a great favour in the 'there ain't no such thing as bad publicity' department.
Maybe the movie was banned so we could cuddle up to Kazakhstan and get some cheap oil and gas from them? Just a thought.
Meanwhile, if the Chinese DVD Lady is reading this, please swing by, my dirhams are waiting.