Experience In A Really Big Kitchen!

Last week the students were in Jordan. When they returned, the chefs surprised them with a an American July 4th dinner which included hot dogs, hamburgers, french fries, salads and all the fixings. 
Spring/Summer 2017 Semester

Ahmed, the head chef,  wanted to know how to make baked beans that Americans love so much so I met with him the day before to see what supplies he had on hand. With limited ingredients, I knew I was going to have to improvise but was up for the challenge.  Keeping in mind the language barrier, I wasn't sure what Ahmed would understand. 

We found two bins full of dried beans: white and brown and I explained I would use just the white beans but they needed to be cooked.  In broken English and a big smile, Ahmed said, "OK, come tomorrow at 11:30."  
I knew it was going to be fun working in a really BIG kitchen and I was looking forward to it as soon as I finished the last tour of the morning.  I was excited and ready to start working so I donned my apron and ran up two flights of stairs to cook in a professional kitchen setting. This would be fun!

When I walked into the kitchen, I saw two kettles full of beans:  brown in one pot and white in another soaking in water. "Why two?" I thought.  "Perhaps he didn't understand?"  I had expected to find them already cooked but was reassured they would only take one hour on the burner and I should come back. Dang! I was on my lunch break but sure enough when I returned, the beans were about 75% cooked so I went to work.  

I needed brown sugar and the chef had that! I needed Worcestershire sauce but Ahmed didn't understand so Ashraf stepped in to help me communicate.  However, try explaining something to chefs who speak little English about an ingredient they have never heard of. I gave up and rushed back to our apartment to bring my bottle of Worcestershire sauce, hoping there would be enough for the amount of beans I needed to prepare.
I asked for ketchup and Ashraf said they had only little packets and before I knew it, he was  tearing them open. 

"Stop,  I have a big bottle in my kitchen," and before I knew it, I was running back down two flights of stairs to retrieve the ketchup in our apartment. 

With no Worcestershire sauce available, my brain started working overtime. In the past, I have used molasses and vinegar in baked beans so I asked Ashraf if they had any.  Try to explain what molasses is.  Before I knew it, Ashraf was bringing out corn oil, waffle syrup and anything liquid.  Then I realized I could use barbecue sauce because I have seen that served before in the Oasis. OK, I hit the jackpot but needed just one more ingredient: mustard.  Once again, Ashraf brought a container full of little packets to start tearing open and I knew I needed to go back ONE MORE TIME and those dreaded flights of stairs to retrieve what I needed.  As you read this entry, can you envision the comedy?

Ashraf and Khaded offering moral support.
With my mustard, ketchup and Worcestershire sauce in hand, I was ready to work and start improvising and getting those beans ready to bake.  

I used the barbecue sauce for the base, added brown sugar, vinegar, mustard and, of course, the very important ingredient, Worcestershire sauce. Yum, the beans tasted pretty good despite the larger sized bean.

Ahmed came to see how I was doing and nodded in approval. "Yey," I thought, "I can do this, and it is great working in a really bigkitchen! If I'm lucky, maybe they'll let back another time?" (Wishful thinking, I'm pretty sure.)

Ashraf helped put the beans into three roasting pans which would be baked at a low heat for 2 hours. Listed below is the recipe I use at home.  It's a "no-brainer" recipe and delicious! (Of course, we did not use bacon.)
You need:2 large cans pork and beans1 lb. lean bacon2 medium onions2 large green or red peppers1 cup brown sugar1 cup ketchup2 teas. Worcestershire sauce
Cut bacon into pieces and onion and peppers into chunks. Mix all ingredients together and bake at 320 for 3 hours. Uncover the last 30 minutes to brown. This recipe fills two, 9 x 13 baking dishes and is easy to half the recipe.  This is perfect for picnics, potlucks and barbecues. 

Now that the beans were ready to bake, I left to get back to the office for the afternoon tours. The chefs make a great effort to please the students and work diligently to help us celebrate American holidays.  Ahmed's mother was in surgery that day but he chose to stay and head up the big dinner that night.  All of the chefs are such dear men and we appreciate them greatly.  I left the kitchen area and saw they were getting the salad and dessert bars decorated in preparation for the 6 PM dinner.

Talk about being creative.  When you don't have red and blue balloons, you use beach balls!

Bless their hearts, sometimes we never understand what the chefs are thinking and why they do what they do. The tables were covered with rose petals, pretzels, marshmallows and chocolate  filled cereal. Very interesting!

The salad bar had some interesting salads also.  One that I personally enjoy is the parsley salad.

We were served chicken skewers, hamburgers, and hot dogs.

Our chefs work hard and are proud of their efforts and we couldn't ask for more hard-working men. 

Yey, there are my beans!

Youhanna tending the meat entrees. 

The students were thrilled with our "American" dinner.

Empty plates must means full tummies.  (Eran and Tawfic)
Right then,  the music came on and Lee Greenwood was singing, "Proud to be an American."
"Proud To Be An American"

If tomorrow all the things were gone I'd worked for all my life,
And I had to start again with just my children and my wife.
I'd thank my lucky stars to be living here today,
'Cause the flag still stands for freedom and they can't take that away.

And I'm proud to be an American where at least I know I'm free.
And I won't forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.
And I'd gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today.
'Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land God bless the U.S.A.

From the lakes of Minnesota, to the hills of Tennessee,
Across the plains of Texas, from sea to shining sea,

From Detroit down to Houston and New York to LA,
Well, there's pride in every American heart,
And it's time we stand and say:

I'm proud to be an American where at least I know I'm free.
And I won't forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.
And I'd gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today.
'Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land! God bless the U.S.A.

And I'm proud to be an American where at least I know I'm free.
And I won't forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.
And I'd gladly stand up... next to you and defend her still today.
'Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land God bless the U.S.A.

The students began singing along . . . . .

Nathan got into action when it came to the words, "And I'd gladly stand
 up next to you and defend her still today. 'Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land God bless the U.S.A."

Dessert was a beautiful cake shaped like an American flag but red jello, what's that all about? (For anyone who thinks I might be complaining, I don't mean to sound that way . . . I am just a little confused.)  

You can't have cake without ice cream!

Dr. Huff, assistant director, and students were devouring their meal which was "yum in the tum" and around here everyone screams for ice cream!
THANK YOU to our wonderful chefs who work so hard to make living here such an incredible experience. We love each and every one of them.  They work so hard to fill our tummies with wonderful food and create such lasting memories of our times in the Oasis.  
"America was not built on fear.  America was built on courage, on imagination and unbeatable determination to do the job at hand. " Harry Truman