A popular way to shop for sundry items here are at small local stores, which are located in every neighborhood. Some residents just call the store and place their orders. In a few minutes a bicycle riding employee will deliver the items to their home. Another way is to drive right up to the store and honk. An attendant will come out, take your order them deliver the items in a few minutes. They are similar to 7-11, but with car hops. Tipping the workers is optional, but many do so.
I frequently go to these shops, mainly when I am out of something specific and I don’t want to drag myself though a major grocery outlet. On a few occasions (such as when I am by myself in sweltering 120 degrees heat) even I have honked, though not without guilt. The workers are very polite, especially towards women. But I mainly go with my eldest son in tow, who goes out and gets what I need. To sweeten the deal, I often give him a few extra riyals to purchase whatever he wants. To cover all bases, I usually tell him what I need in English, Urdu and Arabic (if I know it), so that I am not surprised at what he brings back. Though not fluently, the workers know all three languages.
A few weeks ago I stopped by my local produce store to get some garlic & mint (Urdu- lehsun & podina, Arabic- thum & nana). Since I try to convince my children to eat as healthily as possible, I also told H to get any fruit he wants. A few minutes later out he comes with the items I asked for along with an entire crate of plums. Apparently they only sell specific items by the crate. Many people here not only have larger families, they also have an entire staff of maids, nannies, drivers etc, and therefore purchasing in larger quantities makes sense.
For the next few days I pushed the plums. Every day I would put a few in lunch boxes, and every day everyone would angelically claim to have eaten them. After a few days I had enough. The plums, which were very ripe to begin with, were beginning to look unappetizingly soft. Yet I was left with almost 1/2 of a crate of soggy plums that were inedible in their current state. I was now in a quandary to what to do with them. They were too mushy to make a tart (or a cobbler, grunt, fool, brown betty…). And being the frugal person I am, throwing them away was also out of the question. After deliberating for a while, I decided to make chutney out of them. Needless to say, I had never made plum chutney before. If it turned out into an inedible mess, then along with the plums I would have to throw out many other ingredients. This thought did briefly cross my mind, but in my rabid determination to be prudent, I did not allow myself to go there.
This jewel colored chutney explodes in the mouth with its complexity of flavors, being sweet, tart and spicy all at once. If properly stored, this will keep in the refrigerator for a few weeks.
12-15 very ripe small plums
2 cups sugar
½ cup good quality vinegar, such as apple cider
3/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
Wash plums thoroughly. Place all ingredients in a medium sized non reactive sauce pan, such as stainless steel. Cover and bring to a simmer over very low heat. Stir occasionally. The plums will break open and release their juices. The chutney is done when it starts to thicken and look like jam. This will take about 1 hour. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Remove the pits. Store in the refrigerator in an air-tight container. Makes approximately 2 cups.
Note: With the exception of plums, all remaining ingredients can be adjusted according to taste.