Last week I was tagged by Bazu over at Where's the Revolution? to list 5 foods I think everyone should eat before they die. I had a think about it, and meant to post over the weekend, but something came up. (More about that in a minute.) So, without further ado, my list (in random order):
Shiro with fresh injera. I ate this a lot when I was in Ethiopia. Since there are translation problems, I'm not really sure what it was, but I'll try my best to describe it. You take yellow split peas and dry them in the sun, then grind them into a really fine flour. Then, in a pan saute some onions, add water and shiro flour, and spices. Simmer for a long, long time. Serve on injera (a yummy, spongy Ethiopian flatbread). The best shiro I had was on the road to Shashamene, when we stopped in Lake Ziway at a homebrew liquor store/bar/thingie. The old man's wife made us shiro from scratch, and the injera had been made that day, and it was some of the best food I've ever had.
Sticky Rice with Mango. Preferably from a street vendor in Thailand. Fresh mango, peeled and sliced while you wait, served on the side of sticky rice topped with coconut cream. So rich, it melts in your mouth. Khaw cow-neow mamuang kha was the first phrase I learned in Thai: "I would like sticky rice with mango, please".
Vegan Mac and "Cheese" casserole. I use this recipe, with a few alterations. Vanilla soymilk instead of plain, a bit less salt and soy sauce, a few cloves of fresh garlic instead of garlic powder, and bread crumbs for the top. And, while the mac and cheese is good on its own, it becomes amazing when you mix in fresh veggies, tofu, and/or fake meat before baking. During the spring semester of 2005 I made this at least once a week with my friend Nicole. It probably wasn't the healthiest decision we've ever made, but it was a yummy one.
Ripe, squishy, black sapote. It was hard for me to narrow down my favorite tropical fruits, but I think sapote takes the cake. It is also known as chocolate pudding fruit. Big and green, and hard when you buy it; set it on the counter for a few days, and when it gets dark and really squishy it's ready to eat. Cut it open, squeeze some orange juice over the top, and scoop out the dark brown flesh with a spoon. So yummy, and really quite good for you (heaps more vitamin C than an orange!).
Hot homemade bread with soya margarine and vegemite. Jam for people who can't handle the mite. Hot, steamy bread, no matter what type it is, is one of my favorite foods in the world. And vegemite, with its salty goodness, is a bit of a shocker at first, but after a few tries it's really grown on me. Now it's my main source of B12. It's the kind of food that you can't try once... give it 2 or 3 goes before you rule it out (and use a teeeeeny tiny bit).
Okay, I know I'm supposed to tag five more people for this, but I think that every blog that I read regularly and occasionally has done this already. So, mine is an open tag... if there's anyone reading this that hasn't done it, consider yourself tagged. Just let me know in the comments that you're doing it, so I can have a little read.
Now, the reason I didn't get around to posting this weekend: I learned how to scuba dive! On Wednesday, Andy was offered a job teaching an advanced scuba course with the JCU dive club because some chick cancelled. On Thursday he found out she un-cancelled, and they were going to split the 6 students. Well, rather than splitting the students, they decided to split the 5-dive course. Clair would lead the first 2 dives, they would share the middle, and Andy would lead the last 2. That way, the first day of the trip he could do my open water course. So on Friday afternoon I found out that I needed to get gear, pack, and plan meals for 48 hours. And we had to be there at 8 that night. So we ran around to Remote Area Dive and borrowed some gear. We came home and quickly did the knowledge reviews. We packed up some clothes, and I made 5 peanut butter and jam sandwiches. I figured there would be fruit and veggies around that I could eat for most of the meals, and since it was so last minute I wasn't expecting vegan food to be provided, but there was vegan margarine and toast for brekky, salad sammies for lunch, and then I ate my PB & J for dinner.
Aside from the last-minute notice, the diving was nothing short of amazing. We were out on the SS Kalinda, which was a nice enough boat for our purposes. The first dive, on Saturday morning, started off a little chaotic. We were at Wheeler Reef, and the weather pattern was a little weird. The current was running differently than normal, the wind was coming from the opposite direction, and there was a bit of chop. Nothing too bad, though. Then we had trouble finding an air tank that was full and working. We finally found one, but it was the smallest on the boat. I set up my gear, Andy strapped some weights around me, and we jumped into the water. The current was stronger than I thought, so we descended down the anchor line. I got tangled up in the rope before we even got under the water, and Andy had to come get me out. Then when it came time to descend, I couldn't sink. I let all the air out of my BCD (the little vest that keeps all your gear on your body), and I stayed at the top of the water. Andy had to take some of his weights and put them in my pocket, so I finally sank, but I was a little unbalanced. We had a swim around... the colors were gorgeous. Hard corals, soft corals that looked like bright purple cauliflower, green algae, deep purple sea stars, fish that were every color of the rainbow.... there was so much to see, and I was so worried about checking my air and equalizing my ears and not dying that I missed most of it. I followed Andy around, and then we kneeled down on some sand and did the skills. I flooded my mask with water and cleared it, and then took it off (something that I couldn't do the first time we were in the pool... I completely freaked out). I got my buoyancy as good as it can be when one side of you is 3 pounds heavier than the other. I borrowed his air for a bit. We swam around some more, over a bit of coral that was about 2 meters high, and I whacked my knee on the top of it. Ow.
The second dive went a lot more smoothly. We got my weights figured out, and we went a bit deeper--18 meters instead of just 14. We did the rest of the skills, and this time I was able to see a lot more. There was an anemone with a little clown fish poking around in it. There were sea cucumbers all over the sandy bottom. It's a surreal experience, breathing underwater. The sound of your own breathing is so loud in your ears, and you have no way of communicating verbally. You rely on hand signals and hope for the best, really. At lunch we moved to the other side of the reef, which is barely dived because of the currents and wind. We got lucky... it was beautiful. I went in the late afternoon, so the sun was starting to get a bit weaker and the lighting was more surreal than normal. Huge fish were swimming around, and turtles, and rays, and more colors than I thought possible. At some point in between the dives a big pod of dwarf minke whales started surfacing about 200 meters from the boat. Turtles were coming up for air really close by, and fish were jumping all over.
The next morning we were on the Yongala, a 100 meter long ship wreck between 15 and 30 meters under the water. It's been there since 1911, but no one knew where it was until the 1960s. Because of the conditions (it's in the middle of a sandy patch, with land 12 miles away and reefs 20 miles away) it teems with giant fish that live in the sea weed and algea growing on the hull. I didn't go on the first dive of the morning, because Andy was leading a deep dive and I didn't feel up to it. The second dive, though, was wonderful. I buddied up with a divemaster friend of Andy's, and we tacked along with his advanced course. There are a few points where you can see into the hull, and we saw a sea snake, toilets all crusted over with algae, and a turtle that was the size of a dinner table. It had a barnacle on it's shoulder that was probably 3 inches in diameter, and it was just taking a bit of a snooze in the hull. The fish were massive, some people saw a manta ray and a bull shark (not me... I probably would have freaked!). The only thing I didn't like about that dive was coming back up. We had to ascend along a line, and there were so many people around that kept bumping into me and blowing bubbles in my face. I found out I'm an anti-social diver, but I like being under water a lot. My descriptions aren't very good, because I was overwhelmed with everything that I can't really put it into words. The night we got back I couldn't sleep, because I could feel the boat rocking, and the trip was playing back in my head like a movie. So even though I don't sound that impressed, I thought it was great, and I can't wait to do it again.