When you visit a restaurant, what do you look for? The things that have me coming back are simple. Welcoming service and an attentive staff, palate-pleasing food and no conspicuous hygienic horrors – these are the only things I require. Pleasant lighting is a much loved added bonus.
There is no need for a glassy-eyed fake lion roaring routinely behind my uncomfortable chair or tribal African war drums greeting me at the door. There is no need for a single menu that boasts dishes from many countries on many continents; or tacky paintings that serve no purpose of fat chefs on the wall. Maybe the problem in Egypt today is that there is no need, not enough demand, for the small number of simple things I desire.
With every new restaurant that opens, we are exposed to a new gimmick. Almost believing that the frills will set them apart from their competition, many restaurant owners go out of their way to find their restaurant a long term personality and frequently end up acting like lost teenagers yet to find themselves in this big world. From restaurants meant to be bars and bars meant to be restaurants to digital self-service menus on iPads or the like and coffee chains serving up copycat wacky-named menu items, Cairo has become a cacophony of overpriced restaurant stunts.
I don’t want to read a name on a menu that I can’t pronounce unless it’s authentic. I don’t want to be seated in a diner-style place with an oozing lava cake on every other table and public announcement birthdays that are celebrated with a pack of male waiters warbling loudly as I look down at a clustered mess of mashed potatoes.
Last week, a friend of mine was complaining to me when exchanging news over the phone. This friend told the tale of friends who are on eternal diets or on the road to a near death. The in-betweens are disappearing as is our middle class. The people who cared enough to starve themselves of anything remotely hearty were generally more uptight and couldn’t keep still. The others who were always looking for the next indulgence were slow moving and fell asleep on their friends’ couches after tucking into a double burger meal. Could it be that my generation was adopting awful habits while simultaneously holding a grudge against and openly criticizing the habits of their own parents?
I only ask that people become slightly more aware of what they’re ingesting or not, and to be a little more selective about the restaurants they visit. Don’t like the service and they’re asking you to order food with stupid names? Don’t go there again. Don’t like the coffee house of foreign import? Scout out a local place trying to better themselves through their creative and structured menu. Maybe that way we can slowly rid ourselves of the awfulness inflicted on us by confused restaurant owners.
The recipe below is as gimmicky as it gets and is one that is made to eat right away. Surprisingly, it continues to be among the most popular posts on my blog. Is it because it takes a short while to make? Is it because of the ease of the microwave oven? I can’t tell but will have you know that I personally made it for the kids when I had no time to bake. Although this helps soothe urgent chocolate cravings, please don’t substitute it for the real thing very often.
3 tablespoons of all purpose flour
2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder
2.5-3 tablespoons of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 small egg, whisked
1/4 teaspoon of baking powder
3 tablespoons of melted butter
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2.5 tablespoons of milk
Icing sugar for dusting
Find a large mug that is microwave friendly. Add the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder and cinnamon to the clean mug. Weave a fork through the mixture to combine. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg with the vanilla and pour into the mug. Add the milk and melted butter and mix vigorously with a spoon for about a minute and a half until all is combined and silky. Place it in the microwave oven for 2.5 to 3 minutes. It may need a few seconds extra, depending on the power of your microwave oven. Try not to overcook it. It should look a little fudgy and moist, almost as if it hasn’t baked through. Leave it to rest for a minute before serving to allow it to cool. Feel free to substitute the cinnamon for anything else or eliminate it completely.