Sometimes I wish I had never grown up. I ruefully look back at my childhood to when I was merely four or five. In my own world where exciting creatures such as care bears and my little pony lived. School was all about playing and Mummy helped me to bathe when I came home. Weekends were spent at the beach eating local street food such as cassava as I ran on the cold sand, my feet sinking. We would then come home to a wonderful hot meal all ready on the table. Fairies were our best friends and our worst enemy- the imaginary ghost under the bed.
Then there were the thunderous teenage years where life started getting a little stressful. The turmoil of school and grades, friendships and broken hearts, gossip and hours on the phones. I still remember every Friday going home to my best friend's house and calling my Mum from there that I wouldn't be coming home. After a while, she knew not to make lunch for me on Fridays. My friend's mom would make us a filling chili con carne poured over a steaming hot jacket potato and decorated with cheese. We would gobble it down without talking as we were so famished. Afternoons were spent on the balcony edge, swinging our legs as we chattered on about boys, fashion and faux pas at school.
Fast forward 15 years (ok do the math and tell me how old I am!) and it's a different world. A world where I worry about health, worry about the environment, worry about natural disasters, worry about putting food on the table but most of all, worry about my family. Mummy always told me that as Maryam grew older, my worries would grow as well. As annoying as it may be, Mummies are always right.
When Maryam was 2 days old, she cried the whole night and I worried every night would be the same. I worried when she hadn't started crawling and I worried even more when she DID start crawling. Then she started walking and the worrying grew. When she started nursery, I worried how she would cope and when she turned two, I worried she would drop her daytime nap. But one worry that has remained constant from the moment she was conceived to date is what food she eats. After all, a big part of her health, wellbeing, moods and habits depends on this. I'm proud to say that Maryam's main meals have always been home made and also made from scratch. Knowing exactly what is going into each spoonful fills me with a sense of security. A sense of fulfillment, a sense of calm.
Recently, I've tried to source organic produce here in Dubai. It's an expensive business in the desert but one hidden gem is the Farmer's Market at Souk al Bahar. This is the accomplishment of Yael, owner of Baker and Spice. It was started in April 2010 and has steadily grown to seven local farmers producing their goods each week.
The produce is fresh, cheap and best of all, completely organic (bar one farmer who sells local produce but not entirely organic). Straight from the farm to the table in one day. I bought eggs, radishes, the juiciest tomatoes ever and strawberries- heavenly strawberries that were tiny but so fragrant and juicy. My bag was leaking with juice by the time I got home!
There was an array for fresh herbs, root vegetables and yoghurt, not to mention a few varieties of honey as well. The smell of freshly baked artisan organic bread and foccacia wafted throught the air as I went from stall to stall, my eyes giddy with excitement. I'd never seen such vivid colors and some unusual vegetables such a the beautiful purple colored peppers and cauliflowers that had a purple hue to them. Into the bag they went.
Although it's not large, its certainly getting there. Baker & Spice's vision is to spread awareness of local farming, fresh produce and going green. Why pay for organic produce which has taken from three to seven days to fly over when you can have crops straight from the farm to your table on the same day.
I made a simple salad with my wares when I came home. It's easy, refreshing and best of all tasty. I love hearing the crunch of the radish in my mouth as it swims in a sea of olive oil and lemon. We had this as a side to some grilled red snapper. Food- one less thing to worry about as I watched Maryam lick the seasoning off of each radish and then pop it whole into her mouth.
The farmer's market runs from September to May every Friday outside Baker and Spice, Souk al Bahar.
Radish and Baby Spinach Salad
1 bunch baby spinach, stems removed
5 radishes, sliced
1 handful lettuce, roughly chopped
4 tbs oilve oil
juice of 1 lemon
1 tbs white vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
Wash all the salad items thoroughly and pat dry with a towel. Cut as directed. In a small jug, mix the olive oil with lemon and vinegar. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Arrange the salad in a large bowl and drizzle the dressing. Serve immediately.