Sunday, 7 October 2012
I had already consulted an Azeri friend here, in Doha, about the food options, as I seemed to remember him mentioning he had an amazingly tasty half a sheep he had ordered in for his party. 'Get haruf!' he said. He mentioned it would feed about 20 people or so.
I rung the guy at the restaurant. His English was not brilliant, and the conversation was somewhat painful. How many people does this one haruf plate feed I asked.
-10 people, ma'am.
Hmm...I thought. He says 10 people. Probably just wants me to buy more. But, my Azeri friend said 20. To be safe, I probably need to order two plates. That was me being wise, I thought. However, being an Azeri, I still worried about under-catering, so I also threw in a couple of plates of mixed grill. For about 5 people, I was told. Well, maybe also some salads then? 'Yes, maam. Mix salad!'
I asked what other salads they made that he could recommend. Yes, he replied. Good mix salad! OK, I gave up. Let's have four mix salads then.
At 8pm, the driver arrived. Now, when you say a plate in English you mean a plate. Not a round metal tray which is, according to my measuring tape here, is 67cm in diameter. As the little man stood there, smiling at me, his arms stretched round the huge heavy tray, I gestured into the living room, silently praying that- maybe?- it was the two plates I'd ordered, combined into one humongous tray. But of course, it was not. He went back to the car for the second tray. Sweet Jesus! My friend exclaimed, holding on to her heart. She probably realized we could have saved half of the money if she'd joined parties with someone more sensible.
You see, what this party made me realize, is that I ( naively) thought that Azeris ate a lot at parties, and tended to over-cater for their guests. But....I just never lived in the Middle East before.
Now, I did take the picture for you of this haruf plate. I should have, really, taken it when the haruf was there, in the middle of our dining room, in its full glory. This photo simply does not do it any justice. In this photo you can see the second tray, which was left untouched by the party of 50. I only remembered to take a picture of it after I had spent half an hour using up all my cling film trying to cover it all up.
The mix salad situation was also interesting. What the guy at the restaurant actually meant, was that he would send another enormous platter, possibly about 1 meter long, with about 7 various dips and salads on it. Of course, one of those would be enough. But we had 4.
Oh, well. The party was a total success, so I say so myself. But i have never in my entire life had miscalculated the amount of food this badly. It took the notion of over-catering to a whole different level.
Yesterday morning, I woke up to find half a sheep in my kitchen. I simply could not see any more sheep. The sight of this (literally-half of an) animal on a platter of rice in my morning kitchen ( after a night of drinking and eating non stop till 3am) was enough to almost turn me into a vegetarian.
And i forgot to mention that it was, without any doubt, the most delicious lamb i have ever eaten. It was divine. But, even for 50 enthusiastic, lamb-loving guests, this was way too much. By the end of the day, I felt like standing on the corner of the road throwing chunks of sheep into passing cars. During last two days, I have eaten more sheep than, possibly, in years. We decided to give the lamb out in large bowls to our compound friends. It felt like it was never going to end. I kept digging in and filling a bowl after bowl; and the tray was still full.
My mother, over FaceTime, was expressing her concerns that I kept the meat out of the fridge overnight. You should have put some in your friend's fridge! She said. 'Hold on...' I told her. 'I don't think you comprehend how big this haruf actually is'. And I showed her this photo. Oh, she said. Yes, exactly. Oh.