Saturday, September 24, 2011

Relationships and Chocolate Pudding Pie

“Christina, you just have to understand that your American way of being friendly is often misinterpreted as romantic here. You need to stop it.” This was the verbal blow given to me by a guy that works at one of the other restaurants near our bakery. We had been discussing among other things relationships and how things work in the Middle East/Qatar. He said that I flirted with way too many people here. He defined my flirting as the smiles I easily gave to anyone and saying hello or chatting with them. I said that I was simply just being friendly, that I liked to smile at people and that I talk to just about anyone if they’re not being jerks. He then let go with the above line. I was a bit hurt. Why should I change who I am and how I am just because they can’t understand that I’m just trying to be friendly?

I posted about this on Facebook. I got lots of comments about not changing who I am or how I am along with some advice on bridging the culture gap. One friend (Hi Cathy!) even suggested that I contact the US Embassy to see if they could offer any advice on how to work out this challenge. I’ve not done that yet, instead choosing to be more selective in whom I flash my “eyes-smiling” smile at. So far, this tactic seems to be working. I still smile at just about everyone, but not everyone gets the “eyes-smiling” smile (does that make sense!?) opting instead for the “closed mouth” grin. So, you could say, I’ve tried to change who how I am a bit…not a bad thing, and sometimes the “eyes-smiling” smile creeps out and shows itself anyway.

In that same vein, I’ve also met some really great customers. Of course, I often hear giggles from my staff when I sit and talk with American customers (why are they mostly men!?). The customers are normally quite engaging and share a common humor and understanding that fills a hole in me. I don’t think I prepared well enough for the fact that some things (humor) just wouldn’t translate here. Only my American friends/customers seem to understand sarcasm or silly “That’s What She Said” jokes. My staff of course sees the laughter and joking as flirting (::Sigh::) when really, I’m just having fun with some customers.

That’s not to say I’ve not met some really great locals with wonderful, humorous sides as well though. We have a few customers that are starting to become friends and even though I had to literally explain the concept of sarcasm to avoid a major confusion recently, we’re having fun learning each other’s cultures. The night that I was invited out after work and I only had a tank top on under my uniform jacket, I was more uncomfortable than they were even though we went to a place filled with mostly men in thobes. I thought for sure they thought I was a Western Hussie….I was told to just relax that it was ok and more common than I realized. We found common ground in music from the 80’s and 90’s, playing music on the laptop and singing along to power ballads by Mariah Carey, Toni Braxton and Bryan Adams. Introducing each other to new music and laughing the whole time when something just wasn’t translating. Of course, being on their “home turf,” I’ve been introduced to new foods, new hobbies (shisha anyone!? *cough* *hack*), and interesting ways of approaching things. (By the way, I was told that here when people ask where I’m from that I should respond, “America” not “United States”…they’ll understand faster. You don’t get tips like that from the travel books and websites!)

As much as I’m realizing that I need to adapt to this culture, I’m also firmly reminded that a lot of things are universal. People are people no matter where you are in this world. The people here all desire love, joy, peace, understanding and community with others….just like we do in America, just as I imagine they do in Europe, South America and Asia. This human need is so strong that people look for it in a smile, in a friendly “hello,” or an inadvertent touch. Sure, at times it will be misinterpreted, but at other times it may just help someone get through the day. I suppose in the end it is balance and just knowing how to respond if someone misunderstands.

Relationships seem to be a big theme right now in my life. Not only have I had the above experiences, but a few friends back in America have been sharing their relationship experiences as well. Rita is being super brave and blogging about her journey of going on 35 dates in 35 days in light of finding herself single upon turning 35 recently(Her blog Rita’s Quest is great…read it!). Her experiences have been so transformational and eye-opening to read, sometimes even helping me to see some things about myself that I could probably work on in regards to relationships. Still another friend recently has been emailing me about her experiences with a dating coach and the changes she’s making to hopefully find her a partner to share life with as she is in her mid/late 30’s as well. Still another woman that I know posted on her Facebook about “what’s left?!” when one of her friends told her to stop dating her typical type of man, but you could read the relational frustration in her post. All of these women, along with the experiences above have given me pause.

I find myself asking, “Am I such an odd duck that I’m really ok with being single right now (meaning my late 30’s)?!” Sure I still long for relationship, I crave that emotional intimacy with someone like I had at the beginning of my (former) marriage, but I think I can honestly say that, for now, I’m really ok with being single. To the woman that asked “what’s left?!” on her Facebook, I responded “Happiness being single!” and I honestly meant it! I know that had things played out differently in my life, and I sat here married with kids that I would likely be just as happy, but I also am grateful that I’ve been able to lead the life I have BECAUSE I’m single. In no way am I saying that my friend’s journeys and changes they are making to find a husband are not great, because I think they are wonderful! I applaud them both for getting out there and going after what they want in life and finding someone to share that with. I guess for me, right now, that’s not what I want. I’m so glad that we can all be so unique and yet, honestly, so much the same. It’s also good to know that if I happen to meet a wonderful man in the coming days and decide to be happy with someone that none of you will hold this last paragraph against me…right!?

By the way, I spoke a lot of romantic relationships in this post, but I realize that relationships go way beyond that…even to friendships. The recipe I’m sharing with you in this post is one that made for my friends in DC last Thanksgiving. By request of the host of Thanksgiving dinner (Hi Cody!), I took a chocolate pie for dessert (along with a pumpkin, but don’t get greedy for recipes!). This pie was so delicious! It was intensely chocolatey and I just so happened to perfect the crust for once in my life (Ugh! Who else struggles with pie crust!?). As you can see from the photo, I barely snapped a shot before it was completely gone and devoured by my friends. Great pie, great friends, great memories…great relationships that continue beyond physical space and time. Maybe in honor of my friends, if I can find the ingredients here, I’ll make this pie again soon. In the meantime, do yourself a favor and make it for you and the people with whom you are in a relationship, romantic or otherwise. I miss you friends!
Not really a glamour shot, but this is one mighty tasty pie!

Recipe: Chocolate Pudding Pie
Source: Gourmet

Yield: Makes 8 servings
Active Time: 30 min
Total Time: 5 hr (includes chilling)

For pastry dough:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 to 4 tablespoons ice water

For filling:
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups whole milk
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (not more than 60% cacao), finely chopped
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup chilled heavy cream

Equipment: pie weights or dried beans
Garnish: bittersweet chocolate shavings (optional)

Make dough:
Blend together flour, butter, shortening, and salt in a bowl with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) just until mixture resembles coarse meal with some roughly pea-size butter lumps. Drizzle 2 tablespoons ice water evenly over mixture and gently stir with a fork (or pulse) until incorporated.

Squeeze a small handful of dough: If dough doesn't hold together, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring until incorporated. (Do not overwork dough or pastry will be tough.)

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 4 portions. With heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat. Gather all of dough together, with a pastry scraper if you have one, and form into a 5-inch disk. Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 1 hour.

Make pie shell:
Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into an 11-inch round, then fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim edge, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang, then fold overhang under and crimp edge decoratively. Prick bottom and side of shell all over with a fork, then chill shell 30 minutes.

While shell chills, preheat oven to 375°F with a baking sheet on middle rack.

Line shell with foil and fill with pie weights. Bake on baking sheet until pastry is set and edge is pale golden, about 25 minutes. Carefully remove weights and foil, then bake shell on baking sheet until pale golden all over, 15 to 20 minutes more. Cool shell.

Make filling:
Whisk together cornstarch, 1/3 cup sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a 2-quart heavy saucepan, then gradually whisk in milk. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly, then boil, whisking, 2 minutes (mixture will thicken). Remove from heat and whisk in chocolate and vanilla until smooth.

Pour filling into cooled shell and chill, its surface covered with wax paper (if you want to prevent a skin from forming), until cold, at least 2 hours.

Just before serving, beat cream with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar until it just holds soft peaks. Spoon onto pie.

Gourmet Cooks' notes:
Pastry dough can be chilled up to 2 days. Pie (without whipped cream) can be chilled up to 1 day.

With Love,

1 comment:

  1. Glad to read that you're not changing who you are! Hope to hear from you soon! Sending love & hugs...