Jane Arraf—once CNN’s Baghdad bureau chief and now an Iraq correspondent for NBC—has written a beautifully composed dispatch for Gourmet titled “What’s Cooking in Baghdad.”
She begins her essay by outlining how takeout—to say nothing of dining in—has become a thing of the past for reporters.
Like most news organizations, we’re based outside the Green Zone, and it’s even become too dangerous to send Iraqi drivers after dark to pick up food. So for dinner, when we’re not putting together stories for the Nightly News, we take turns cooking. Kiko makes silken green curries and ethereal cakes.
Arraf also elegantly captures some of the unique challenges of sourcing in one of the world’s toastier zones: “When it’s hotter than 130 degrees, it’s difficult to find lettuce.”
Not that eating in Iraq doesn’t have its poetic side.
There are also wonderful pomegranates and mulberries in season. Oh, and in the spring for a few weeks, during the rains, the markets are full of desert truffles, country cousin to European truffles. Iraqis fry them, sometimes with eggs.
Arraf writes beautifully, and if you’re interested in Iraq—but beaten into depression by the steady drumbeat of military and political stories—the culinary angle really opens some new windows.