Andy Carvin's Waste of Bandwidth

December 24, 2005

Grandpa’s Latke Recipe Takes the Nation By Storm

Filed under: Media & Politics — Andy Carvin @ 3:08 pm

Grandpa. The asap article identifies the pic as an AP photo; if some suit in New York wants to sue me for reproducing one of our own family photos without permission, they can take it up with my grandmother first.

One of the nice things about having a brother working at the Associated Press is that it’s possible to manipulate Big Media into force-feeding our family’s cherished traditions into countless households across the nation.
Case in point: My brother Eric has just published a hilarious, yet heartfelt tribute to my late grandfather, Simon Kaplan, that spreads the gospel of his glorious latke recipe. Latkes, of course, are potato pancakes made by Eastern European Jewish families here in the US. (As Eric notes, they’re not a big tradition among Israelis – just those of us in the States who can connect our family trees back to Barbra Streisand, David Berkowitz, Monica Lewinsky and Woody Allen if you go back far enough.)
One of the fondest memories for both of us growing up was helping Grandpa make heaping mountains of latkes on special occasions, particularly around Hanukkah. Though Grandpa died almost exactly 15 years ago, we’ve managed to keep his glorious latke recipe alive, in no small part thanks to the Internet. For around 10 years now I’ve had a copy of his latke recipe on my website, and I’ve shared it on countless online discussion forums. Now, Eric has benevolently (and lovingly) used his almost irrational influence over mainstream media to publish the recipe through AP’s asap news service. (That’s pronounced A-S-A-P; don’t think of calling it “ay-sap” unless you want to get verbally cudgeled by asap staff.)
Some quick snips of what Eric wrote:

Born in Boston in 1912 to Lithuanian Jewish immigrants, Simon Kaplan never became a master chef, but he knew how to take the world’s blandest vegetable and work a Hanukkah miracle.
Starting when I was old enough to eat solid food, I ate Grandpa’s latkes every year — ate as many as I could get my greedy little hands on. Somewhere along the way, I started helping out in the kitchen, savoring the sizzle I created when I pressed down a pancake with my spatula. Tssssssssss. The soundtrack to a growling stomach.
Grandpa was a man who believed in family traditions — not so much the mechanical rites that go along with religious observance, but the little things that make life so enjoyable that they must be repeated. As for so many other things, we loved him for this, and after he died when I was 17 we made sure his latkes would outlive him.
My brother Andy — the unofficial keeper of the recipe, mostly because I keep forgetting to write it down — continued making Grandpa’s recipe during the Hanukkah season. Some years I made them too, inviting friends over for latke parties in my New York apartment at least a couple of times. The tradition lives on, with new people and in different places.

Since Eric’s written the recipe in a very detailed fashion, I’ll refrain from posting his version lest I open myself up to an AP lawsuit. (Grandpa would roll over in his grave, no doubt.) Instead, I’ll include the text of my recipe as I’ve kept it for the last decade. Nonetheless, I encourage you to read Eric’s version for the sheer pleasure of it.

Grandpa Simon Kaplan’s Latkes

  • Twelve medium Idaho potatoes, thoroughly washed

  • two eggs or egg substitute
  • vegetable oil
  • one large onion
  • matzah meal
  • salt and pepper

Begin by peeling the potatoes if you desire. Personally, I don’t bother, but if you want to, it won’t hurt. Then, grate the potatoes with a medium-size grater into a plastic bowl. You’ll notice a lot of liquid in the process – that’s starch, and you’ll want to get rid of it. After grating three or four potatoes, strain out the starch through a fine collander or similar strainer, discarding the starch. Put the drained potatoes in a large plastic bowl. Continue to grate and strain the potatoes until they’re all done.
In your large bowl of potatoes, add two eggs, breaking the yolk with a fork. Grate the large onion into the bowl. Add one tablespoon each of salt and pepper to the mix. Blend with a large spoon or spatula (don’t bother to use a machine to do it – it’s too thick and it’ll taste goyish if you try). You’ll notice the mixture will be somewhat soupy – add about half a cup of matzah meal and blend. Continue to add meal by the teaspoon until mixture is thick, though not necessarily dry.
Coat a large skillet with a small amount of oil and bring to medium/high heat. Test your batter by frying up a tablespoon’s worth until a golden brown on both sides. If you like the taste, continue to make the rest of your latkes, using about a tablespoon per latke. If you don’t like the taste, adjust batter with salt and pepper. If you still don’t like it, go find another recipe, you little complainer, you…. -andy

December 17, 2005

Digital Divide Activist Randal Pinkett Becomes the Apprentice

Filed under: Digital Divide — Andy Carvin @ 8:24 pm

Randal PinkettThursday night, millions of people watched the the live finale of Donald Trump’s reality TV show, The Apprentice. The winner was none other than Randal Pinkett, the former Rhodes scholar, IT entrepreneur and digital divide activist. Randal’s been active in CTCNet for a long time, so I usually get to see him each summer at the CTCNet conference. I can only imagine that the next time he attends he’ll have more groupies than usual because of his newfound (and well-deserved) stardom.
There are few people in life I’ve met whose first impression made me think “natural born leader.” Randal is one of them. I’m so happy to see he’s captured the big prize on The Apprentice, but if you ask me, he didn’t need it. Randal’s passion on issues related to the digital divide and minority entrepreneurship in the IT sector is infectious and inspiring. Even without the notoriety, there’s no doubt we’ll see bigger and brighter things from him. Now we’ll just have to share his leadership with the general public. :-)
Congratulations, Randal – you’ve done us proud…. -andy

December 15, 2005

Nature’s Wikipedia-Britannica Death Match; Adding By-Lines & Trust Rankings Next?

Filed under: Media & Politics — Andy Carvin @ 3:58 pm

The latest round of the Wikipedia accuracy wars turns out to be a tie. According to an investigation by the science journal Nature, Wikipedia fared well when compared head-to-head with Encyclopedia Britannica on science-related entries.
The magazine asked experts in various scientific fields to review 42 topics in both Wikipedia and Britannica. The result: both sources had a similar number of mistakes. On average, Wikipedia entries had four errors or ommissions, while Britannica had three. When you add these up with misleading statements, 162 were found in Wikipedia, while 123 appeared in Britannica.
“People will find it shocking to see how many errors there are in Britannica,” Nature quotes information scientist Michael Twidale. “Print encyclopaedias are often set up as the gold standards of information quality against which the failings of faster or cheaper resources can be compared. These findings remind us that we have an 18-carat standard, not a 24-carat one.”
The most error-prone article? Dmitry Mendeleev. If you go to the Wikipedia entry, there’s a note at the top saying that Nature identified certain problems with it and they’re working to correct the article. But when you access the Britannica version, there’s no mention of any dispute. Perhaps it’s because Britannica’s online entry for Mendeleev is so brief there’s little room for error, and the errors are only in the most recent paper version of the encyclopedia. There’s no way to tell. With Wikipedia, at least, there’s a paper trail you can follow to see who change the entry and how it was changed.
My guess is that the Nature study will do more to harm Britannica’s rep than improve Wikipedia’s. Chances are, there will be another instance similar to the Siegenthaler controversy that led to so much bad media attention for Wikipedia. They’ve change the rules so that anonymous participants can only edit articles rather than create new ones. But to me, that doesn’t go far enough. While I’m concerned about protecting the anonymity of Wikipedians posting on sensitive topics, particularly from countries that oppress free expression, this issue only affects a very small minority of entries. Isn’t it more important for Wikipedia to build confidence among the online public? If that’s the case, the anonymity policy needs to be assessed more radically. I love Wikipedia, but I’d feel a hell of a lot more comfortable with what I read if there were also a transparent paper trail for the Wikipedians editing articles.
Perhaps a solution would be to strongly discourage anonymity. For those entries that have edits posted by an anonymous Wikipedian, place an icon prominently on the page warning us that the entry was edited anonymously, so readers can make an informed judgment. For those that have been edited by people willing to log in with their names, have those names appear on the entry’s page as a by-line, with links to their biographies. I know that all of this information can be found in the entry’s history page, but the average Internet user who doesn’t know the inner workings of Wikipedia won’t realize this. By placing the names of the contributors on the marquee of each entry, the authors are forced to stand up and take credit for it – for better or worse – just like a scientific journal.
Then, perhaps we need to add an eBay-like rating system for Wikipedians. For Wikipedians whose work is judged as accurate, let readers award them a point, or perhaps 1-10 rating system (ie, a perfect 10 for stellar wikipedians with strong credentials who cite primary source materials obsessively, and a 1 for those whose work is clearly incompetent). That way, when you go to a wikipedia entry, you can judge it on the rating of the Wikipedians. You could even do the same for the articles themselves: wouldn’t it be useful to know if 83% of the readers of one particular entry found it lacking in one way or another?
On eBay, I’d rather buy from someone with a high trust ranking; wouldn’t we all want to find the same level in trust among those who are creating the knowledge we’re consuming?
Anyway, it’s just an idea…. -andy

December 14, 2005

The Orhan Pamuk Trial: Turkey’s Free Speech Test

Filed under: Media & Politics — Andy Carvin @ 8:57 pm

The BBC has a story today about the upcoming trial of celebrated Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, who faces three years in jail for “insulting Turkishness.” His alleged crime? Making the following statement in public: “Thirty thousand Kurds and a million Armenians were killed in these lands [ie, Turkey] and nobody but me dares to talk about it.”
Despite the many reforms Turkey has enacted to increase the odds of getting into the EU, free speech continues to face many challenges, particularly on issues related to Turkish involvement in Armenian deaths during World War I. Armenians and countless historians worldwide regard these deaths as a genocide, but refering to them as such can get you thrown in jail. Journalists and authors have protested the trial; most recently, a group of international prize-winning authors including Gabriel García Márquez, Günter Grass, Salman Rushdie, Umberto Eco, Carlos Fuentes, John Updike and Mario Vargas Llosa have issued their support of Pamuk.
EU governments, no doubt, will follow the trial closely, given their negotiations with Turkey surrounding membership in the continental club. No matter how the trial goes, it saddens me to no end to see one of my favorite authors on trial in a country I love dearly for merely stating the truth. If countries such as Germany, South Africa and Rwanda can come to terms with eggregious human rights abuses made in the past, why can’t Turkey?
I personally support Turkey’s bid for EU membership. But foolish show trials such as this seriously cause me to question whether they’re ready for it. Economic reforms are just one criteria for membership; freedom of expression and human rights must be respected and taken seriously as well.
And don’t expect to see many people blogging about the case, except perhaps foreign nationals; Turkish bloggers, conceivably, could get arrested just for covering the trial and the statement in question. So far, I’ve only found one Turkish language blogger talking about it. I wish my Turkish weren’t so rusty…. -andy

December 10, 2005

Back in Boston after a Break from Blogging

Filed under: Personal News — Andy Carvin @ 8:52 pm

For those of you wondering why my posts from Tunisia stopped rather abruptly, it’s because my hands needed a break from typing. I’ve been home in Boston for about 10 days now, but haven’t posted much of anything except a few videos just to take a break from all the writing I did in Tunisia.
After leaving Tataouine, Marouen and I spent a couple of relaxing days in Djerba, where I got to visit the famous El Ghriba Synagogue. Otherwise, I didn’t do too much there, apart from rest and get ready to fly back home. My time since then has been absorbed in preparing the Digital Divide Network to move from EDC to TakingITGlobal.
So in case you were thinking I got thrown in jail in southern Tunisia or something, I didn’t. (Not that I wouldn’t put it past them give the way we got treated by local authorities.)
Anyway, now back to your regularly scheduled programming… -andy

December 2, 2005

The Bardo Museum

Filed under: Video — Andy Carvin @ 2:05 am
bardo museum

Video tour of the Bardo Museum, Tunisia’s extraordinary collection of Roman mosaics hosted in an Ottoman mansion.

December 1, 2005

Police Hassles Leave a Ksour Taste in my Mouth

Filed under: Tunisia — Andy Carvin @ 4:59 pm

View from the ruined Berber village of Duiret

Marouen woke up just after 6:30am to rendezvous with his friend Belghesem to find a driver for the day. They returned to the hotel just after 7am, while I was in the hotel restaurant eating breakfast and watching the weather forecast: rain. The streets outside were partially flooded from heavy storms the previous night; now there was just a freezing drizzle.
Having not brought proper winter clothes with me (I thought winters in Tunisia were like “winters” in India – warm instead of hot), I layered up with three t-shirts, a long-sleeve shirt and my thin windbreaker. It would keep me relatively dry, but hardly comfortable. Belghasem, Marouen and our driver were much better prepared, sporting layers of sweatshirts and thick jackets.
Our plan today was to make a clockwise circuit to the west of Tataouine, focusing on the Berber villages of Duiret and Chenini, as well as Ksar Hadada. If we had time, we might go further west to the desert oasis of Ksar Ghilane, where parts of The English Patient were filmed.
Driving southwest, we soon reached a hillside sporting what appeared to be a ruined ksar with a statue of an enormous eagle, reminiscent of the eagle on Budapest’s Castle Hill. “This is Ksar Ouled Debab,” Marouen said. “We can stop here for a little while if you’d like.”
“Why not?” I said. “We should have plenty of time.”
We drove up the hillside until reaching the summit. In front of me stood a gargantuan statue of a stegosaurus, of all things.
“What’s up with the dinosaur?” I asked.
“It is some kind of museum now, I believe,” Marouen said.
We walked to the entrance and discovered that the ksar had been renovated to its original condition and was now hosting a historical museum, covering everything from the region’s fossils to Berber traditions. Peeking inside, I saw the courtyard was full of additional dinosaur statues. T-Rex was just up and to the left, while triceratops could be found to the right. No sign of the brontosaurus, though.
“It will cost nine dinars if we want to go in,” Marouen said.
“Nine dinars?” I replied incredulously. “Is this really necessary? I’m much more interested in visiting actual villages than replicas of one.”
“Can we stay for coffee, though? Belghasem knows some of the people here.”
Coffee sounded excellent, as the hotel’s coffee was the worst in North Africa. I ordered a café Turc while the others got espresso drinks. The bartender explained that the museum had just opened, and would soon sport a luxury hotel. Though most of the ksour were publicly controlled, this particular ksar was a private venture.
Polishing off our coffees, we scurried through the raindrops back into the taxi. The clouds appeared to thin in the northwest, which was a good sign as we were heading in that general direction. The scenery here was very barren and sparsely populated, with crags and mesas reminiscent of the American West.
In the distance, we spotted a white minaret perched on a mountainside. “Duiret,” Belghasem said.


The Berber village of Duiret

Beyond a small, nondescript village, we could just make out the ksar of the Berber village. Adobe structures clung to the hillside, with sturdier fortifications higher above them. The earth-toned colors blended into the scenery, making it hard to distinguish ksar from rock – only the white mosque was clearly definable. In the valley to the right, several old domed buildings dotted the countryside; I recognized one of them from one of our travel books.
The driver parked the car at the bottom of the hill. My first step out of the car caused me to sink several inches in mud. Unfortunately, I was wearing my dress shoes – the only other footwear I brought on the trip was a pair of sandals that were useless in this weather. No doubt these shoes would have to be replaced back home.
We walked uphill towards the ksar. There were several shops inside some of the lower buildings, but they hadn’t opened for the day yet; we had the entire village to ourselves. I shot some video while Marouen and Belghasem went ahead, climbing inside one of the crumbling vaulted rooms. I caught up with them a few minutes later.
“Feel the temperature,” Marouen said. “It is warm.”
“You’re right,” I replied.” It’s much more comfortable inside than it is outside.”
Further up the hillside, we climbed some stone stairs to another level of ksour. Some of the buildings were for storage, but others had been residential; you could see which ones had once been used as kitchens because of the soot stains on the walls and ceilings. Many of the buildings had red handprints on the entrance, while others had crude sketches of fish.


The Khomsa, or hand of Fatima, and other Berber symbols.

“What are the significance of these pictures?” I asked.
“You have seen the Hand of Fatima symbol in Tunisia?” Marouen asked, describing the downward pointing hand you often see as charms or artwork.
“Yes, of course,” I replied.
“It is the same thing here,” Marouen continued. “The fingers of the hand represent the five pillars of Islam. That’s why it’s called a khomsa – it’s the same as the Arabic word for five.”
“Khamsa,” I said.
“Yes, khamsa. The fish is also a good luck charm. Both symbols are used to ward off the devil from their homes.”
We continued to explore the various courtyards of the village. It was a haunting place, with no one around and the wind howling in the valley. Thankfully the rain had stopped but that didn’t prevent me from feeling chilled to the bone.
After climbing around the ruins for about 90 minutes, we returned to the car and continued onward to Chenini, about 30 minutes north of Duiret. The hills in this region became more common; the road snacked in a large S-shaped path for much of the journey. A few kilometres outside the village, we could see it high on a hillside; its white mosque gave it away quite easily. I could also make out what appeared to be tour buses. I guess our peace and quiet would soon run out.
We pulled into a parking area and left the taxi. Marouen, Belghasem and I walked towards the main road leading up to the old village but were soon stopped by two men standing inside a shop. They started speaking Arabic, talking to us for several minutes. Marouen motioned for me to walk up with him to the village while Belghasem stayed behind.
“They are police,” Marouen said. “They do not want Belghasem to come with us because they worry he is acting as our guide, taking away business from licensed guides.”
“But he’s not our guide.”
“They don’t care,” he said. “They are just making trouble for him.”



Hoping that this trouble didn’t escalate into anything more complicated, we continued walking uphill, where a man directed us to a stone path leading to the main part of the village. Chenini was spread out on the mountain slope, curving along the edge in an L-shaped pattern. This allowed you to see much of the village across the valley and to the left, with the mosque perched in between the two sides.
There were other tourists exploring the village, mostly Japanese, but they were in small groups. A much larger group of European tourists could be seen climbing the far end of the village, following a tour guide holding a closed umbrella.
Chenini had a strange vibe to it. While much of it appeared abandoned like Duiret, it was still a functioning village. Women in bright shawls carried water to donkeys and camels, while dressed in bernouses (cloaks) and qashibiyas (Ben Kanobi-like hooded coats) sat along the wall of a café, discussing the day’s business. They didn’t seem to be particularly thrilled about having tourists traipsing around their village; the men would give us polite nods but not let us take pictures while the women avoided us altogether.
Marouen and I snaked up the hillside, occasionally slipping on damp rocks and mud, as roosters and donkeys called out across the valley. The view from the top of the village was stunning, as you could see the valleys in front of it as well as behind it. No matter how far you looked, you couldn’t see any human settlements in any direction. We were truly in the middle of nowhere.
We followed the upper path just below the mosque to the far side of the village, where a camel and a couple of donkeys hung out in someone’s yard. The camel swayed back and forth while the donkeys barked every few minutes. I nearly slid halfway down the hillside when a wet rock gave way below my left foot; thankfully the only harm caused by the incident was a startled cat darting back into its owner’s house.
Near the bottom of the hill, we found the driver standing in a parking lot, talking with one of the men we’d met earlier. Belghasem was leaning against a wall, looking rather dejected. As soon as we approached they started engaging Marouen in Arabic. It went on for several minutes.
“We have a problem,” Marouen said. “They have taken their IDs and are threatening to take away the driver’s license and throw Belghasem in jail.”
“What the hell for?” I asked.
“Because they are traveling with you and don’t understand why. They think they must be either your paid guides or something else.”
“Like what?”
“Who is to say.”
I asked if I could do anything to help the situation, but Marouen said no. “They don’t want to talk to you,” he explained. “They just want to make trouble for Belghasem.”
“But why him and not me or you?”
“They knew we were in Tataouine because they stopped us in the louage yesterday. But then they lost track of you, and now they find you here in Chenini with two other men.”
“Well of course they’re bound to find me here,” I said, frustrated. “Why on earth would anyone bother to come to Tataouine if they weren’t going to visit the Berber villages and ksour?”
“I know that, but they are suspicious that these men are now traveling with you.”
“Can’t I explain why I am here and that Belghasem isn’t my guide.”
“Like I said, they don’t want to talk with you. They just want to make trouble for Belghasem.”
I felt terrible about the situation, but there was nothing I could do. We stood around for 20 minutes waiting for something to happen; the men continued to argue in Arabic, ignoring my presence. Marouen suggested I go wait in the car since it was warmer there; at first I refused but after a while it seemed we’d be stuck there for a while, so I might as way stay dry and out of the way.
Perhaps another 15 minutes passed before the three of them got back into the car.
“Is everything okay now?”
“I think so,” Marouen said. “They are giving back their IDs and said we could leave.”
“Are they making us go back to Tataouine,”
“No, no…. We can go to Ksar Hadada, no problem.”
“But will anything happen to them?”
“Everything is okay with the driver. But they want Belghasem to come into the police station tomorrow and talk to them.
“About what?”
“About you.”
We drove silently for the next 30 minutes on the road to Ksar Hadada. Marouen and the driver seemed lost in thought, but it was clear that Belghasem was very stressed. What could I do? I tried apologizing to him in French but didn’t have the words to convey how I felt. It probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway.
Soon we arrived in the village of Ksar Hadada; the entrance to the ksar was in the heart of town, across from the mosque and several cafes. A sign outside welcomed visitors to the famous ksar used by Mr. George Lucas “in his tremendously successful film, The Phantom Menace.” From what I knew about Ksar Hadada, it was supposed to be one of the most picturesque ksour, painted white with brown and blue accents. It had been used as a hotel for many years, including the time the Star Wars team shot here in 1997; now it was being renovated into a new hotel.

ksar hadada

Ksar Hadada. This spot used to be one of the most famous parts of the ksar, but now it’s spoiled by a new tool shed, the wall of which you can see along the left of the picture.

We walked inside past an attendant sitting at a desk. I expected to pay an entrance fee but he waved us through. In front of us, a ksar similar to the ones we saw in Ouled Soltane was occupied by a souvenir vendor, with rugs and knick-knacks hanging on the walls and stairs. Down to the right, we could see the white part of the ksar that was used in the movie. I remembered the scenes quite well, particularly when Liam Neeson’s character asks Anakin Skywalker’s mom about his father (or lack thereof).
The Star Wars section of the ksar was being repainted; white cans of acrylic littered the courtyard, along with rollers, scraps of cloth and the occasional bucket. The location seemed familiar, certainly, but I was struck by how I wasn’t experiencing one of those moments of absolute recognition.
“So this is the place?” I said. Belghasem replied in Arabic.
“He said that the hotel is doing renovation work here,” Marouen explained. “And in the process they have changed it.”
“What do you mean?”
“Do you see this?” Marouen continued, pointing to a new tool shed that had just been installed. “This used to be where people took the photo of the ksar, but now it is gone.”
For a moment I didn’t understand, but then it all came together. I looked at the cover of my old Rough Guide book and saw the same location, photographed from where I was standing. But the beautiful image of the ksar’s steps coming down the building was destroyed when the steps were removed and replaced with the tool shed for the hotel. The renovators had wiped out one of the most enduring and evocative images of southern Tunisia all in the name of progress. I was thoroughly disgusted.
The realization that the renovation work had utterly transformed the ksar ruined the experience for me. Even though the ksar itself – what remained of it, at least – was a fascinating place, I couldn’t help but think about what they were sacrificing here. The destruction had happened in the name of tourism – renovating the ksar hotel – but by doing so they’d taken away one of the primary reasons for visiting this very spot. It simply defied logic.
We spent another 30 minutes or so exploring the endless rows of granaries at the ksar, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the foolishness of their renovation work. I started wondering if the same was in store for Ksar Ouled Soltane. Hopefully not, since it’s still a living, breathing village, while other ksour are largely abandoned. Still, there’s got to be a better way of striking a balance between development, responsible tourism and cultural heritage. They certainly weren’t striking it here at Ksar Hadada. Maybe I’d feel differently once the renovation work was completed, but who’s to say if I’ll ever have the chance to come back here.
Leaving the ksar, we stopped at a café across the street, where our driver had just bought a piece of cake and some tea. We stood around at the bar drinking tea and noshing on our own snacks, including a dessert called sweet harissa – a syrupy sponge cake that had nothing in common with the harissa pepper sauce served throughout Tunisia. I asked if they knew why they shared the same name. Everyone shrugged.
Back in the car, we returned to Tataouine. It was only mid-afternoon at this point, but the day had been draining. Belghasem appeared to be in a better mood, but he still wouldn’t really talk to me. I felt terrible. I was still furious with the police in Chenini for putting him through hell just so they could find out about who I was and what I was doing there. Hadn’t it occurred to them that they could have simply asked me?
We spent much of the afternoon at the cybercafe, catching up on emails and writing our blogs. I also went by a shop to buy myself a qashibiya, the hooded brown coats worn by men in southern Tunisia and made most famous by the Jawas in Star Wars. One shop in the tourist area had quoted an absurd 70 dinars for the qashibiya, but a second shop owner asked a more reasonable 20 dinars. He also had a fine collection of bernouses; I tried own a dark brown bernous, its cape stretching down all the way to my feet. Marouen and the shop owner showed me the various ways of wearing it while an elderly man wandered into the shop and looked on approvingly. He and Marouen chatted in Arabic while I worked out my purchase; I decided to get both the qashibiya and the bernous, while Marouen got a blue bernous, in the style of those worn in the village of Ghomrassen.
“The old man asked me if you were Christian or Muslim,” Marouen said as we left the shop.
“What did you tell him?” I asked.
“I thought it was best to change the subject.”
At some point late in the day I realized it was Thanksgiving back home in the US. I figured we wouldn’t have much of a chance of finding a proper turkey here in Tataouine, but I suggested that we at least go a little bit more upmarket for dinner – upmarket being anything more than the usual three-dollars-a-person we’d often spend on a meal here.
Next to our hotel, we found La Gazelle, a restaurant and hotel that seemed a few steps classier than our current accommodations. The restaurant’s decorations were more French than Tunisian, as were the prices.
“Too expensive,” Marouen said dismissively as we looked at the menu.
“More expensive, yes,” I agreed. “But it’s Thanksgiving. Dinner’s on me.”
We skimmed the menu, trying to figure out what would be most appropriate for a Tunisian Thanksgiving. “This is your turkey, is it not?” Marouen said, pointing at something on the menu.
“Dinde escalope?” I said, reading it outloud. “I’m not sure what Dinde is in French. It might be turkey, but it’s been a while since I’ve studied French menus.”
“Yes, I am sure of it,” Marouen continued. “Dinde is your turkey.”
“What does it say in Arabic?” I asked, pointing to the opposite side of the menu.
“Dinde escalope,” he replied.
The Tunisian waiter, speaking in an exaggerated French accent, confirmed for us that dinde was turkey. Images of a proper Thanksgiving turkey swirled in my head as we feasted on a sloppy order of briq (egg pastry) for an appetizer. Of course, I shouldn’t have been surprised when the turkey arrived as a plain, unseasoned piece of breast meat with a garnish of wilted lettuce. Not exactly the Thanksgiving meal I was used to, but at least I’d managed to find perhaps the only restaurant in southern Tunisia serving turkey. Bonne Thanksgiving…. -andy

Tunis Combo: Malouf Musicians

Filed under: Video — Andy Carvin @ 4:01 pm
tunis combo

Video of traditional malouf music performed in Gammarth, Tunisia, a suburb of Tunis.

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