[Versión en español]
Eating well in Amman can cost you a lot, or it can cost you a little. There are falafel shops everywhere, and even in the humblest of them, they take falafel seriously. No day-old oil, no stiff pita, no lily-livered veggies – everything’s got snap. There’s obvious pride in the humble, healthy-ish falafel as a mainstay of daily life. Even if it costs less than a buck.
I also had a delicious selection of what we generically refer to as “Mediterranean food” – the healthy exotics we find in Lebanese Taverna in DC, or from the kitchens of brave Moosewood Cookbook vegetarians: moutabel, baba ghanoush, labneh, and lots of fresh delicious pita for scooping; kibbeh with meat, fetteh with chicken, and free-flowing hummus.
It was while I was eating one of those meals that it hit me: this was my first time in the Land of Milk and Honey. Where Nathalie is from, the main character in my books. Understanding how she would have eaten can only help me understand her. It also makes me wonder what I was thinking, to write novels about someone so different from me. *shrug emoji*, #whaddayagonnado.
Of course, you can also Eat Big in Amman if you want. I stayed in a fancy hotel with various restaurants and, apart from feeling critically underdressed, had a very nice time eating there. The salads were especially inspired: rocket and apple one night, and, another night, kale and spinach with a wedge of soft cheese, pomegranate, pistachio and a sprinkling of sumac:
Goes without saying I had no idea what kale tasted like, yet still ingested it. Perfect.
One thing that surprised me was the quantity of all the American fast food chains – Hardee’s, McD’s, Popeye’s, KFC, among others. And the number of each was astounding! We would go to a meeting fifteen minutes from the office and see three Popeye’s (Popeye’ses?) during the ride. On the whole, the offerings to people with money were very international. There are as many big glitzy malls as Popeye’s, spread about the neighborhoods I saw. Also Ikea, Virgin Megastore, and a liberal sprinkling of Starbuckses.
Last but not least was a wild dessert experience involving bottles of squirt-able ice cream-like substance, toppings, and the machine below, which pumped out what had to be thirty-one flavors of toxins – but froze the milky stuff into ice cream quick-as-you-please!
But all in all, the 60-cent falafel was the star of the week. I’ll be looking forward to going back to Amman this year!