Here’s to the New!

What better holiday to celebrate while living in Pakistan than…Persian New Year’s! (Otherwise known as the first day of spring.) I think Persian culture gets it right: starting the “new” year in icy frozen January doesn’t exactly engender the right feelings of growth and beginning. Spring does though, especially here in sunny Pakistan, where my orange tree is already covered in fragrant blossoms and little baby birds have suddenly appeared all over the hills. Friends of mine here in Islamabad celebrated Persian New Year’s in style last weekend, ordering tons of food from the local Persian restaurant (Iran is right next door, so it’s really not that big of a surprise that there’s a good Persian restaurant in town) and having everyone over to stuff our faces and jump over fire. The goodies on the table all represent blessings and wishes for the new year: coins for prosperity, vinegar for wisdom, eggs for fertility, pomegranates for more fertility, an orange suspended in water to signify the earth suspended in the universe, dried sweet fruits for (I think?) love, rosewater for…something good that I can’t remember, a goldfish for something else that I can’t remember (but how cool that you can get goldfish in Pakistan!) A mirror to see yourself clearly, flowers, sumac (if I knew what that was I would tell you), and I’m sure I missed a few more. Anyway, it’s a lovely tradition and I enjoyed myself thoroughly. The best part was jumping over the fire before dinner. Granted, it was really more like a “tray of candles,” but you really got that fire feeling. It is supposed to burn off all the […] Read More

Make It a Foot Long

The Subway addiction continues. Today I had the WORST craving for another Subway sandwich, so I went to the franchise down the street from the office. (There are seriously like 20 Subway stores in Lahore; they’re like McDonalds in New York City.) Based on my two visits in the last 24 hours, here are the following recommendations I will make should you ever find yourself inclined to visit a Subway in Pakistan:The quality of the veggie toppings is quite high: the tomatoes a deep red, the green peppers positively shining with color, and the red onions sliced fresh and looking vibrant. This may be because the franchises are not importing their produce, but are getting it locally. This seems like a good place to ignore that warning about not eating raw fruits and vegetables in Pakistan. The high quality of the veggies helps make up for the somewhat dubious quality of the meat. I wouldn’t say it’s bad, just that it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen at an American Subway. I ill-advisedly ordered a meatball sub last night. When he cut open the meatballs to put inside the bun and I saw that they were white inside (chicken meatballs??), I quickly ordered a 6-inch veggie sub on the side. Good move. On the other hand, the tandoori chicken is delicious. And there are about 15 different sauces you can put on your sandwich. Although, maybe it is already this way in America now too? I am old enough to remember when you could only get mayonnaise and yellow mustard on your Subway sandwich. And oil and vinegar, of course. That is the special dynamite secret […] Read More

Retail Therapy

Tonight in Lahore I checked out a fashion designer’s latest collection at her house, picked out some great fabric to have stitched into a fancy shalwar kameze, and bought a pair of shoes at Charles & Keith (flat, shiny, greenish-black, for work). The shopping choices are much more plentiful in Lahore than in Islamabad, so I have to take advantage of that when I am here on business. Before going out shopping, I went to Subway to pick up a quick veggie sub and white chocolate macadamia nut cookie, which all tasted pretty close to how Subway tastes in the U.S., and reminded me instantly of road trips, since that is pretty much the only time I go there under normal circumstances. To sum up: the evening was nice and normal, not loud, not dangerous, and involved cookies. More points for Pakistan! (Sorry, Kabul: give it a few years and maybe I could try you again…) […] Read More