Monday, August 11, 2008

Always Read the Fine Print

While in Israel Saba and Savta visited a region known for its baklava. This gave me some slight pause because I have been literally all over that country myself and was never aware of any particular area known for baklava. In fact, the region of Israel that I always thought was known for baklava was Greece. Baklava and baklavic-ish desserts are fairly popular all over the Middle East, but not excessively. Honestly I see baklava here in South Florida at our gazillion greek diners way more than I saw it over there. In Israel I think I ate halvah (a flaky sesame candy) more than anything else. And ice cream. A few times I had halvah ice cream and didn't want to come back home to America afterwards.

Still my grandparents insisted that there is a region known for its baklava and that they went there. While in Baklava-land they remembered that my other grandmother, my mother's mother, Memere Marie, who lives all the way up in Millpond a thousand miles away from Florida and many thousands of miles from Israel, liked baklava. They decided that now that they had gotten rid of the pepperjack that they needed another messy, heavy and cumbersome food item to lug all the way back home. They proceeded to purchase a syrup-dense, what must be 30 pound slab of baklava the size of a travertine floor tile. It was wrapped in plastic and packed in a maroon and white cardboard box and none of its wrappings prevented the baklava from leaking sticky-ickiness everywhere.

By the time the baklava arrived here (because I am to send it up to Millpond for them) it had teeny ants crawling all over it. This is because my grandparents are old and can't see and this is fine because Memere Marie is old and can't see either and has a husband who eats cat food anyway. When you're 80 a couple itty bitty ants are of no consequence.

Saba and Savta were very excited to have delivered this massive baklava all the way from Israel, ants and all, so that Memere Marie could have it. It really was incredibly kind and thoughtful of them. Memere Marie would get just as excited over it as they did over pepperjack. Her culinary repertoire is as bad as Saba and Savta's, just in a different way. An example of this, which goes into the Nasty-Assed Recipe Hall of Fame, is that she tried adding canned bean sprouts to green bean casserole. Presumably she did this because green bean casserole was not stringy and slimy enough as is and needed some extra stringy sliminess which could only be achieved through the addition of tasteless canned bean sprouts.

The problem with the baklava was that Saba and Savta did not read the fine print, which, incidentally, was in English. When they left Husband commented that the baklava looked suspiciously commercial and I agreed. It really didn't look like something some ancient Middle Eastern woman had painted with layer upon layer of clarified butter. The phyllo didn't appear to be rolled and folded by hand and we began to have a really hard time imagining that anyone had cracked the walnuts by hand or sprinkled rose water into a cauldron of bubbling sugar water. The baklava looked like something made in a factory and pawned off on innocent tourists like my grandparents.

"It has printing on the box, " Husband noticed, "You'd think if this was made in some rustic, countryside bakery that they wouldn't have such commercial looking packaging, right?"

We inspected the ingredients list and oh...the horror. There was corn syrup.

"That's odd because corn syrup is mostly used in American processed food, isn't it?" I asked.

I was under the impression that corn syrup, that evil ingredient, was used primarily in factory made American garbage food and that it is rarely used outside of our country. Husband thought so too. No little bakery in the country would use industrial grade corn syrup in baklava. Something was terribly wrong here. Husband flipped the sticky, ant-crawling box of baklava over.

There it was, in very fine print.

"Made in Cincinnatti"

We both groaned.

"You have got to be kidding me," I said, "My grandparents really thought this was something special, some unique to Israel treat and the damned thing was made in a factory in Ohio and then shipped thousands of miles to Israel only to be flown thousands of miles back to America where it will be shipped a thousand more miles to Millpond. This baklava is a locavore's worst nightmare!"

Husband and I considered very seriously throwing it in the trash. It was poor quality, tourist drek. It was leaking sugar everywhere and had ants on it. It was heavy as hell and would be expensive to ship. Ugghhh. But none of my grandparents would know any better, not Saba or Savta nor Memere Marie. Saba and Savta had thought of their daughter-in-law's mother while they were on vacation and that was really nice. Memere Marie would probably cry and she would never know the difference between some shit made in a factory in Ohio and real baklava. She lives in Millpond after all. There aren't any greeks for several states and there certainly is no baklava in the Piggly Wiggly. The right thing to do is to send her the stupid baklava, because it's about kindness and thoughtfulness not about corn syrup, ants or what has to be one hell of a carbon footprint for some crappy pastry.


JoeinVegas said...

Cincinnatti? But, that is a foreign country, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Ohhhh can't you just google mail order Baklava and have one sent to her?
Everytime you talk about your Grandparents I picture the little old couple from dirty dancing. lol

Anonymous said...

What about the ants?

Wide Lawns said...

I don't think the ants will make the journey very well. If they do no one will notice them and they'll go off and begin a new life in Millpond. There weren't like hundreds. Maybe about 25. And very tiny.

Anonymous said...

The only right thing to do in this situation is just send the damn thing off to Millpond. You're right; it is about what they intended. A few tiny ants never hurt anyone, anyway. They're now honey-covered, right? A delicacy!


JDogg said...

This was like one summer trip to Maine where we went looking for proverbial Maine Blueberries. I guess we went in the wrong places as all we could find were New Jersey blueberries...sorely disappointed in that.

Emily said...

Wow's that's far more disturbing than the pepperjack.

Would you link to your post about corn syrup and eating like an asshole? I remember it making me laugh hysterically, and your mention of corn syrup jogged my memory.

Kelly Hudgins said...

You did exactly the right thing. Exactly.

I never told my sister that the "Austrian Crystal Liquer Glasses"(sic) she brought home from Austria were available at KMart.

booda baby said...

I loved this!

I went to extraordinarily stupid lengths to bring home baklava from Istanbul, because of course, it's impossible to find baklava in boutiquey Santa Barbara. What an idiot.

We returned only to find that no one (well, out of the ones I brought it home for) was eating sugars that week. That's okay, thought I. It'll keep.

It did not. And the honey. Honey grew legs and crawled through ALL of my carry-on.

Was your ice cream real ice cream or was it goat's milk kind of chewy ice cream?

Anonymous said...

Very funny. Personally, I think baklava is the most overrated product under the sun. It's so greasy and sweet...yuk. I hope your grandma doesn't get sick from the ants, however. Don't they carry disease?

Anonymous said...

Ha ha! Your family is hilarious! (Mine is too, but in different ways.)

Anonymous said...

Not to worry, Cincinnatti must be in the middle east somewhere, since Ohio only has the city of Cincinnati. (oh, we are sooooo picky about how our nasty-baklava-baking town is spelled!)

Wide Lawns said...

Anonymous your city is hard to spell.

Booda - the ice cream was real. Like what we have here. I don't like that goats milk kind. Ughh. Tastes like goats smell.

I don't think these ants are big enough to carry disease. Roaches maybe, but not microscopic sugar ants. I've probably accidentally eaten a thousand of them. They're everywhere here.

Anonymous said...

I think you should send it with all the ants visible. Maybe they'll pitch it and it will save them from eating all that corn syrup!

Green said...

Honestly, I'd chuck that shit and just send some regular baklava you pick up at Publix out to Millpond.

Anonymous said...

Bit of a late comment, but I had to interject. You are mistaken in believing that bakhlawa is not popular throughout the Middle East, and is somehow specific to Palestine. In Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and well beyond, Arabs take pride in their bakhlawa.
And we also make many other dishes you might consider "Greek," such as tabbouli, baba gannouj, an msa'ah (musakka).
Just thought you migth be interested to know.

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