Tuesday, February 01, 2005

the self catering option

Our contract is divided into ten-week cycles. During the last cycle I stayed in a “Holiday Village”, by the sea, at a place called Janzur. Some wit amongst the teachers named it Camp X-Ray. The food was poor, but worse, it was repetitive. The waiter would say at every meal, “You like chicken, beef, fish?” as if he was offering the finest fare in the world, twice a day. And with your scrawny chicken leg, leathery “steak”, or tasteless fish, you’d always get a scoop of glutinous rice and vegetables stewed into anonymity. And this was twice a day. Every day. For ten weeks.

So I’d limit my visits to the camp’s dining room to lunch, and bought a hotplate and saucepan. In the evenings I’d have spaghetti with garlic and rosemary; or flat bread lightly scorched on the hotplate with tuna and garlic mayonnaise. Sheer heaven. I love improvisational cooking.

The thing is, you get all kinds in the markets here, incredibly cheap: garlic, of course, fennel, parsley, basil, every kind of spice and vegetable. All locally grown. But none of it found its way into the dining room at Camp X-Ray.

This hotel is a little better: the food’s a bit more varied, though often cold. You can’t have it all.