The Great Plate Exchange
Never return an empty plate a Lebanese friend told me last year, returning my plate, which had held homemade cakes, heaped with cherries from the trees at her mountain home.
It is a principle also practised by our Syrian concierge’s wife. My left-over cake plate came back on Tuesday with a fattoush on it (green salad topped with toasted Arabic bread, typical of the region). I thought it would stop there, but on Wednesday she knocked on our door again, with a different dish, this time fatteh (another regional speciality of chickpeas, garlicky yogurt and more fried bread). We returned the plate this morning holding five fat golden coins of aubergine fried in breadcrumbs.
It seems we are engaged in a great plate exchange, which has come at the exactly the right time, when I was feeling uninspired about what to cook and longing for new ideas. It is as though she heard my thoughts all the way from the sixth floor and came to my rescue.