With dinner just a short hour away, I thought I’d describe some of the culinary delights of the this excavation. Breakfast here has descended into farce since the arrival of extra team members from another site, none of whom know where anything is or how to fine more if something has run out. If one takes an early seat, there is an entertaining procession of tired people arriving, trying to pour themselves coffee from the empty pot and then looking mournfully at everyone else in the hope that someone will make them more. This is good entertainment while I finish my coffee. I generally have bread covered in ‘feta’ cheese, which is in fact about 70% palm oil.
On site I mainly eat the dead people. This is especially true today when I was removing a pair of semi mummified legs and their coffin soaked in body fluids. The disturbance of the coffin sticks causes clouds of thick, dark brown dust to erupt into the air, which is impossible to avoid inhaling even with a scarf round nose and mouth. There then follows a process of intense coughing and swallowing over the next hour or so, today meaning that by the time second breakfast came around I was feeling pretty full.
Second breakfast is my favourite meal of the day; it is eaten on site in a small reed hut. The main reason I like it is that it tastes less like Egypt than the other meals, as it consists mostly of crisps and instant noodles, the monosodium glutamate in which makes me feel a bit funny. Of course, there is no escaping the ubiquitous cold, hard-boiled eggs, which tend to make up the bulk of calorie consumption in Middle Eastern archaeology. I used to dream of an end to the endless eggs, but now my imagination has been worn down to the point where I can only dream of hot hard boiled eggs, or hard boiled eggs made into entertaining food models. I can no longer conceive of a world where I don’t have to eat them.
Lunch is usually deep-fried or last night’s dinner with added tinned tomatoes. Today’s lunch is an excellent example of a general problem with Middle Eastern excavation cuisine, which is an unhealthy obsession with carbohydrates. This afternoon’s offering was pasta, spaghetti with rice, chips and bread. I spend the afternoon feeling very heavy. In general, however, the food here is pretty good and has vastly improved over the years I’ve been coming. Only 85% of dishes now involve tinned tomatoes and it is almost always possible to tell the dessert course from the soup. There are still some things which just can’t be replaced, and I have a large Sainsbury’s chorizo hidden in the fridge for the dark days ahead. And a great deal of alcohol.
I must leave this here as dinner is about to be called (or at least I profoundly hope it is as one of my new colleagues from the other site is playing Celine Dion on the flute and this seems the only (non-violent) way to stop her), I must go and see what delights await this evening…