Friday, July 24, 2009

The Swiss Girls

Did I ever tell the story about the Swiss Girls who we met at the Dead Sea in Israel? I don't think that I did, because I don't think that I told many stories at all about Israel. Our stolen luggage really soured the trip more than I wanted it to, and that tends to be what I focus on when recalling our time there. But we have some great stories, and this is one of them.

The Swiss Girls

Okay, so here's the story:

Richard and I went to the Dead Sea after a long hike in Ein Gedi. We were on our way back to the hostel in Masada and saw two girls sitting in the bus shelter at the side of the road. Richard slowed the car down (he admitted afterward that it was because he was trying to figure out why they were sitting in a bus shelter in the middle of the desert) and they walked over to us. Realizing that we had just unintentionally offered to give them a lift, we asked where they were going and they told us that they were headed to the same hostel as us. So we picked them up and drove them to the hostel, and when we got there and the kitchen was closed we invited them to come into a nearby town with us to get some dinner.

Rebekka spoke better English than Miriam, so she did most of the talking. They were visiting her cousin who lives in Jerusalem and decided to go on a day trip on the bus, which was how they ended up at the Dead Sea. They were going to Jerusalem on the same day as us, so we offered to give them a lift. We told them about our stolen luggage and they said that they'd wake us up for our 4am hike up Masada because they had an alarm clock and we didn't.

So we hiked up Masada the next day with the Swiss Girls and then later that day we drove to Jerusalem with the Swiss Girls. Richard impressed them with his knowledge of German (which he learned from Baba Luba, who speaks Yiddish), and they taught us some funny words in Swiss German. The Pope was in Jerusalem that day and traffic was terrible. We finally pulled into the first parking lot we found and parked there. Miriam got so excited when she got out of the car: We were parked in front of the Swiss Embassy! She went over and talked to them and they promised to keep an eye on our car for us.

We parted ways with the girls shortly after that. They took a bus to Rebekka's cousin's place. Before they left they tried to give us money, which we refused because it didn't cost us anything to help them out and we enjoyed their company too much to feel that they were a burden in any way. Miriam told us "You saved us! We're going to send you SO MUCH Swiss chocolate!"

Today, Richard called me at work to say that he got a big package in the mail. When he opened it there was SO MUCH Swiss chocolate inside!

Chocolate from the Swiss Girls we met in Israel
Tons of chocolate! Plus a bag of coffee. :)

"Made in Switzerland" was circled just in case we were curious.
On every single bar, they circled "Made in Switzerland". Haha.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A foodie interlude.

In Toronto every year at around this time all of the foodies go crazy over these sweet Pakistani mangoes. Last year we went looking for them in Little India but couldn't find any.

This year, I went searching for mangoes alone. To be honest, Little India scares me a little bit. And this year Little India was even less appealing than I remember it. The garbage strike probably has a lot to do with that. Some areas of the city are worse than others and the few blocks of Gerrard street that Little India occupies are some of the worst that I've seen so far. We're about 5 weeks in now, which means that no garbage has been collected from the public waste bins in that long. Just imagine! The regular streetcar stop had been moved one lamp pole west because the bin beside the normal stop was stuffed full and had fallen open and was overflowing onto the street. The smell is not pleasant.

Still, I toughed it out because R seemed really keen to try these special little mangoes. I finally found a store selling them in 3kg boxes (apparently they're so popular that there's no point in selling them individually) and picked through them to find what I thought was the best one. I took it into the store to pay and the owner of the store took me back outside and looked through all of the boxes with me again. It was pretty obvious to me that he wanted to make sure that I got a good first impression of these things. He told me that once I've had these mangoes I'll never want to eat the ones from Mexico again. Guaranteed! He found me a better box and I paid him my $16. Yes, $16 for 8 mangoes. Twice what I'd pay for the Mexican ones. I left the store thinking: These had better be good.

Honey Mangoes from Pakistan

I immediately loved the packaging. I adore the very 1970s Indian looking box with bold colours (I want to keep it to use it for storage!), and each of the mangoes has a sticker with ribbons coming out of it. Really cute.

So... How did they taste, you ask? Well, they didn't smell any different than regular mangoes so I didn't have very high expectations. I cut one open and it looked like a regular mango on the inside, but it was a little juicier. I put it in a bowl and brought it to R, but he let me have the first taste.

I was completely blown away! I've never tasted a fruit that was so naturally sweet. It was completely amazing. We've been making mango lassis with them every night since then, but with these mangoes you don't need to add any sugar at all.

The guy in Little India was right. I never want to eat another Mexican mango again.