Over the past week I’ve come to the conclusion that living here in Amman is my dermatologist’s nightmare. With temperatures well into the 70s and even up close to 90 yesterday, we are living outside. My skin is already a lovely tawny color – no sunbathing required – just an open sunroof, internet surfing while sitting on our balcony, lunches outdoors, tennis. The season kicked off last Friday when a large group of us drove to the outskirts of the town of Madaba, about an hour’s drive from Amman, to a ridge overlooking the Dead Sea, just across from Mount Nebo (which is where it’s believed Moses was given a view of the Promised Land). Our friends Omar and Tala often picnic in this area and they led us to the most spectacular spot full of purple thistles, wildflowers, poppies, tall grasses. The air smelt of wild sage as I got out of the car.
Spring in Jordan is a very special time of year as its countryside is lush and green compared to the arid landscape that dominates the rest of the year. On Fridays (a day of prayer and rest) whenever we’ve driven outside the capital, the valleys and hills have been covered with groups of families picnicking. Often they’ll not be terribly adventurous and make their camp just feet from the side of the road, but regardless of the tranquillity of the spot, it seems that Jordanians are as enamoured with their beautiful climate and scenery as I am.
Anyway, each family in our group was tasked with bringing their own food to eat and share. Tala (you’ll be hearing a lot more about her as time goes on, I promise you) practically jumped out of her car and within minutes got the BBQs lit and some chicken wings on the grill. She’s a professional and I couldn’t be more thrilled to have a fellow foodie to share ideas with! The wings are her husband’s mother’s recipe – marinated and cooked before the picnic, just infused with the smoky, crispy, grilled taste on site.
Next came mini burgers, meat from Meat Masters, the chichi Ammani butcher. They were amazing and the we all gobbled them up! A few chicken skewers, some marinated ribs, vegetables skewers and then there was finally room for the marinated flank steaks I’d brought along. Unlike my previous experiences with flank steak on the grill in London, there was a loud sizzle when the meat hit the grate. A quick four minutes on each side and they were done. We had created a little experiment born out of necessity as Meat Masters had only one of their imported beef flank steaks left in stock. I needed two. So under the advice of a meat-obsessed friend, we sought out Senad at Centro Grocery (a brand new lovely, clean upmarket shop). He offered us Jordanian bred flank steak and we thought a side-by-side comparison would be interesting. The verdict? Both were delicious, if I do say so myself, but the flavor of the Centro beef was superior, HOWEVER, the texture of the imported was better. If the Jordanians would hang their beef to age just a little bit, they would improve the texture of their meat and win on both counts! I’m going to try and convince Senad that this could be the way forward.
Half way through my turn at the grill a shepherd and his flock decided to amble near our spot. The kids loved chasing after the sheep and I quickly turned over my tongs so I too could go playing among the smelly cotton wool on legs. The thistles scratched up my legs, but I thought to myself as I looked out over the Dead Sea twinkling in the distance, that this is why we moved to Amman. We are surrounded by good friends, beautiful scenery, and peace. After we all drank our Arabic coffee and packed up the cars, we drove down the road to Mount Nebo itself and gazed upon the Promised Land as the sun set.