Learning curves

Last summer slugs decimated the strawberry harvest from my garden. This year I was prepared. Or so I thought. I had a bag of diatomaceous earth stand by, and an old salt shaker to spread it around the plants. But there were no slugs. Instead, chipmunks discovered the strawberry patch and took a bite out of every single ripe strawberry. Continue reading

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Iraqi cuisine: Almost four thousand years and counting

A cookbook that holds a special place in my collection is Delights from the Garden of Eden: A Cookbook and a History of the Iraqi Cuisine by Nawal Nasrallah. I have the first edition from 2003, a hefty, 650-page book that was self-published and printed in black and white (it was later released as a hardcover with color photos). It’s a book that I turn to when I need to get grounded again about food and cooking. Everything these days is so overheated, short-lived and hyper, and the social media attention keeps moving from one food trend and snippet and Instagram photo to the next within split seconds. Reading a page, or even just a paragraph, about Mesopotamian civilization that goes back to 6,000 BC, to the dawn of recorded human history, helps me to cool it and put things back in perspective. Continue reading

Taking stock, twenty years after immigration

On January 5, 1998, I landed in New York City with an immigration visa that I won in the Green Card Lottery. The previous summer, I had received a letter in the mail notifying me that I was one of 55,000 lucky people whose number was drawn in the Green Card Lottery from more than eight million participants. Winning, however, was only the first, easy step. What followed was a thorough and costly screening process to make sure that I was who I claimed to be, without a criminal record, in good health and able to support myself for a few months in the United States without working. I have often wondered how Green Card winners less fortunate than me made it through that process. Continue reading