While we were in Manchester the other day, we asked a random stranger in our dorm if we had visited the Museums.
“Do you visit the museums in your own country?” he asked, “Like, do you ever go there? So why should I go to a museum here?”
Totally flawed logic, but it did but a thought in mind. Personally, I haven’t visited even a tiny fraction of museums back in Mumbai. The only one I do remember is the Prince of Wales Museum, and that too because it was one of the most boring and tiring hot summer days of my child-life. When we’re abroad though, its a different story isn’t it?
Which brings me to my visit of the Birmingham museum. Of course I got the expected reaction – “Birmingham Museum? For what?!” I guess it was a bit odd and a little random, but I have to say that there was a lot to see in there and I really did enjoy myself.
But first, here’s a snapshot(s) of my short stroll through the Bull Ring market.
Museums are a great way to get artistic inspiration and to see how trends keep recycling themselves. I remember going past the Jewllery section and thinking, “hey! I have something like that!” or “Wait, I’m going to get this made for myself when I get back home.”
There were some beautiful paintings and sculptures from the 17th, 18th and early 19th century that gave me a lot of story ideas, or just left me gaping at the artistry, skill and finesse of the work.
But most of all, I was really struck by this particular painting about an 18th century kitchen. It was supposed to depict the Biblical belief that God made all the natural bounty on Earth available for man to consume (not a bad though, eh?) and so the painter included every time of food there was, from fish to vegetables to poultry to meat to grains to what have you.
It made me wish I was there to see the ladies cook that in person. Of course, I wouldn’t be able to keep my hands off it once all the dishes had been prepared!
As you can imagine, the museum visit left me very hungry. Thankfully there was a nice little Greek restaurant called ‘Athens’ (no surprises there!) down the road from it.
For starters I had this wonderful thing called Dolamades (plural for Dolma) which is basically a stuffing of vegetables, or in this case meat, rice and vegetables wrapped in a grape leaf and steamed. Because its steamed, the stuffing remains really soft and the leaf that has now acquired a silky texture cuts easily and has this slight sour taste that makes it a delectable bite. It was served with a sweetish tomato sauce that complemented the sourness of the leaf and the slight saltiness of the stuffing.
Along with this, we ordered a ‘meze’ of olives, salad leaves, cucumbers, tomatoes, haloumi cheese, hummus, tzatziki and some other very yummy sauces and dips that I don’t know the names of! Along with this, we were served flat bread, warmed with olive oil. Yum!
For the main course (here’s evidence of my bottomless stomach) we had succulent chicken kebab accompanied by potatoes, really sweet boiled carrots, lemon and rice,
AND Lamb Kleftiko, meaning ” in style of the klephts ” . Now there is a really interesting story behind the name of this dish and the way it is made. Apparently, these guys were anti-Ottoman insurgents (when Greece was under Ottoman rule), somewhat like rugged guerilla fighters, living in the mountains, and because they didn’t have any of their own lamb, they used to steal it and cook it in a pit for hours so the smoke wouldn’t be let out. These days its made slightly differently, but the result is the same. The herbs, spices and lime marinate to the very bone of the lamb and the meat is rendered fluffy, soft, and with juices intact (*talk about food porn*)
When I had gorged on all that, I sealed it with one of the most amazing desserts of all time – Baklava,which is of Turkish origin . Its made of very fine layers of pastry dough that get crispier as you get to the top. Inside these layers are crushed walnuts, and the whole thing is dipped in sugar syrup (kill me NOW!). At this particular restaurant, it was served with whipped cream on the side. Although I was told this is not traditional,there weren’t any complains from me!
This brings me to the final thought of the day. What if there were a museum of fine food? Imagine a place where they could actually tell you stories of how dishes originated and demonstrate for you! I would totally live there.