Since I just finished juicing a 30 kilo watermelon, and in honor of Melon Day, I thought I'd break my hiatus for some summertime commentary on Caucasians' second favorite fruit: the watermelon. (Pomegranates are number one by a significant margin, but we won't see those for a few more weeks. Pomegranates in Baku are like squash in Portland: the only people buying them in the bazaar in summer are people who have no friends).
On the open commodities exchange, melons have dropped to 300 Manat a kilo, or about eight cents (I recall prices in Uzbekistan a few summers ago dropping to about two cents a kilo). You can't swing a dead cat in this town without smacking a green and yellow striped pyramid, taller than your head.
I've recently learned that buying a melon is fraught with peril. Not only do unscrupulous growers inject them with water to make them heavier, they also inject them with nitrites. While this is certainly plausible, whether it is indeed true is unverifiable. Furthermore, whether nitrites in your watermelon really matter to people who are already living on the world's most vibrant toxic waste dump is subject to debate.
And anyway, consider the source of this information: people who warn you, with dead seriousness, not to drink water and eat watermelon at the same time. The belief that the combination can kill you is widely held, even among people who appear sane in most other regards. These are the same people who blame their frequent urinary tract infections and kidney problems on getting cold, rather than the water that flows out of their taps.
So why did I juice the melon? For drinks at Saturday night's party, of course. We haven't yet named watermelon juice, mint and vodka, but nominations are floating around. Maybe we'll add a dash of olive oil to the chemicals and call it a Caspian.
The Absheron: Named, obviously, for the beak-shaped peninsula jutting into the Caspian Sea that we call home. Simply pomegrante juice and vodka.
The Narimanov: Named after Nariman Narimanov, a Bolshevik leader known as "Lenin of the East," who, for reasons that are not entirely clear to me, is still politically acceptable enough to be memorialized with one of Baku's biggest and most prominent statues and a potent cocktail. If I had a digital camera*, I'd post a photo fo the statue. Anyway, a Narimanov is cheap Azeri champagne, mixed with vodka and pomegranate juice.
The Baku: A Manhattan made with, you guessed it, pomegranate juice. After looking high and low, I found Angostura bitters in Paris over the weekend so this drink will be certainly be the centerpiece of Saturday night's party.
And people say it can be hard to entertain yourself in Baku. I think I'll work on some recipes with figs. They are plentiful right now too.
*The digital camera issue should be resolved this weekend.