Wishing a blessed Ramadan to all my Muslim friends and readers.
Yesterday we had to go to the northeastern part of the city, near Anjou to pick up a package, and on the way back we decided to stop at Sami's, a well-known Montreal wholesaler of fruits and vegetables. Sami's is an Arab company, with one large warehouse-like store at the Jean-Talon and another major warehouse in the Chabanel district near Marche Central. But when we walked into this east-end store, we couldn't believe our eyes. The photographs don't begin to convey the vastness of the warehouse, or just how much produce was on display in these towering piles. We had almost no money, and Sami's only does cash transactions, so we pooled all our coins and finally found a cash machine so that we could take advantage of the stop. Extra-virgin olive oil for 4.99...vine-ripe tomatoes for 99 cents a pound...yellow peppers for 1.35...
Sami's also carries all the roots and herbs needed in the cooking of the African and Latin American communities, as well as Middle Eastern ones. I love seeing the stacks of fresh mint, piles of parsley and dill, thyme tied into great bunches. Yesterday, though, I was stopped by this display of leaves and their name in Arabic: "malukhiyah" - these are the Egyptian mallow leaves that are the basis for special dishes loved by Egyptians, Syrians, and Lebanese, and it is this leaf that my father-in-law was always asking for, but I never found. We brought him a frozen package once, but he, of course, dismissed it as inauthentic. If he were alive now, I'd bring him fresh green almonds and malukhiyah, try to follow his directions for cooking the herb with chicken, and endure the insults when he tasted it. Instead, all I could do was to picked up a sheaf of leaves, crushed one and hold it to my nose, and then gently put it back onto the pile like an offering.
Yesterday I began writing about him again; it's time to pick up the pieces of that story and fill in the blank areas: he'd be 100 years and two months right now. I see him clearly in my imagination, eating malukhiyah and gazing out at the Mediterranean, lost in contented thought.
(Does anyone here know how to cook malukhiyah, or have memories of eating it? I'd love to hear from you if you do.)