Today, I went to Souk Mubarakiya in Kuwait City to buy some Christmas gifts for my family. Last time I was there, I found some beautiful hand-crafted leather-bound notebooks, and I wanted to buy some for my dad and brothers.
Souk Mubarakiya is huge and, to someone who’s unfamiliar with the place (like me), it’s easy to get lost/disoriented. At first, I just wandered around aimlessly, a little frustrated cloud growing overt head because nothing was looking familiar and I felt like I was looking for a needle in a haystack. Then I remembered that the stall I was looking for was fairly close to the Mutton Market in the souk. Last time I came to the souk, it was with one other new teacher at my school and the school’s driver. He had mischievously suggested that we pay a visit to the mutton market. In hindsight, he’d probably expected that this pair of western girls would be totally grossed out and insist that we didn’t want to go. And that was exactly the other girl’s reaction. But me, my parents bought a butcher shop when I was four years old and I grew up around it, so I have quite the fondness for and interest in butchers worldwide. I said I was interested, so he was then obliged to take me to the mutton market. Thank goodness he had tried that prank because it was the only way I was able to orient myself when I came back to the souk alone today.
When you get near the mutton market in Souk Mubarakiya, there are butcher-themed murals. Turn towards them and then you are in a wide “alley” crammed with butcher stalls. Today, probably because I was a single, unaccompanied white girl, I caused quite the sensation in the mutton market. Soon all of the younger butchers wanted me to pose for photos with them while the older butchers sat and looked on, expressions of amusement or weariness on their faces.
My family sold our butcher shop ten years ago, so it’s been years since I’ve properly been in a butcher shop. Just like Proust’s Madeleine brought him back to a long forgotten memory, as soon as I stepped inside the first butcher stall to pose for a picture with one of the butchers and the slightly sweet scent of a raw side of beef wafted into my nostrils (technically it was mutton, but my family dealt mostly with beef and the scent is mostly the same), I was brought clear back to my childhood, to time spent doing hard work with my brothers and my father, which wouldn’t have been very much fun for a young girl except I loved spending time with my brothers. And I’m actually proud to be (or have been) a butcher’s daughter. Working in that meat packing plant is the only reason I’ve never become a full-blown vegetarian. A lot of people think animals that get slaughtered are treated cruelly or they think that all kinds of disgusting things happen to their meat, but I know that if you find a quality butcher, neither if those things are true and you can be assured that your meat is ethical and sanitary.
Technically, this post isn’t about anything I ate, but since this is a blog about food, and since butchers sell food, I figured I’d share this story with all y’all.