an über balkan halloween

i’m somewhat behind the curve here, but i tried uber for the first time last night when i was heading out to join my friends for a party. after two days of over-indulgence, i wasn’t in the mood to drink, but i definitely didn’t want to struggle with finding parking and walking the streets of newtown at 11pm. also, i had some unused credits from when i’d signed up, so i thought i’d give it a go.

it’s pretty damned cool, i gotta tell you. you fire up the app, click on uberx or uberblack which costs more (though why you’d want to pay more just to drive in a mercedes or an audi, i don’t know), you enter your starting point and destination and then you can even get an estimate of what your journey will cost you.

there was a bit of confusion at first, when i got two different texts to tell me my driver was on his way. a minute later there was another one to cancel one of them and about 15 minutes later my ride was at the door. the guy was chatty and friendly and even more so when i told him that this was my first uber ride. 15 minutes later we were at my destination and with my discovery card discount, it cost me a mere R60.

btw, my destination was the huge balkanology halloween party at carfax and the place was packed with people who had gone to great lengths with their halloween outfits. there were lots of painted faces and fake blood, etc and my friends and i who love cosplay and dressing up were pleasantly surprised at everyone’s commitment. 5 years ago, this would have been unheard of. halloween is obviously taking hold in south africa.
one of my favourite outfits of the night, was the woman dressed as the girl from that sia video.

anyway, i must be getting old, because as i walked onto the dance floor, the music was so loud i thought my ears would start bleeding – and it didn’t get better. most people didn’t seem bothered by it. it was fun to hang out with my friends (some of whom are at least 20 yrs younger than me!), but after a while the packed dance-floor and people stumbling around me while i was sober, made me decide to rather head home.

this is where uber turned out to be not so great. as i logged on, i got a message to say that because of heavy demand, the rate was now 1.5 times what it usually was. it also said that the rate was valid for 2 minutes. when i logged on 2 minutes later, the rate had jumped to 2x the usual. i clicked to accept the rate, as i was standing outside in the cold and by now all i wanted to do was get home. i was instructed that the car would be there in 13 minutes. 20 minutes later, i got a message to say that the driver had to cancel and i now had to request another ride. by this time, though, the rate had dropped back down to 1.2 times the usual and once again, i got a notification to expect a car in 13 minutes. another 20 minutes and 2 phone calls to the driver later, i had to walk 2 blocks to find the car where the driver had parked on the side of the road. needless to say, i was not impressed. it seems that the gps is not as accurate as it should be, which meant the driver could not find me – and i wound up having to walk the streets of newtown at 1:30 in the morning in any case.

all in all, i think uber is a great idea. seems like there are still kinks to be ironed out, but studies have shown that in the states, drinking and driving arrests are down since the service started.

pumpkin hour

halloween came early this weekend.

a good friend, simon, is dating a brazilian woman and  friday night they came over and she cooked a traditional brazilian dish called (i think) camaron de abobora. it was one of 2 rare occasions that i was not the one slaving in my own kitchen – highly recommended, i’d say!

the dish involves hollowing out and pre-cooking a large pumpkin. a mix of shrimp/prawns, cilantro, garlic  and some other unknown ingredients goes into the hollow and is then baked for a while in the oven. delicious!

Pumpkin1

after the meal most of the pumpkin was still left over and i was determined not to let it go to waste. we were invited to my friend crystal’s (simon’s ex’s) bon voyage party  saturday before she leaves for india , so i used my vitamix (kinda like the rolls royce of blenders and one of the best things i brought with me from l.a.) to blend most of the pumpkin (rind and all) and made a large pot of pumpkin soup which i blended with some of the fresh cilantro/basil/pine nut/garlic and olive pesto i made a few days ago. 

when i was a kid, my mom used to make pumpkin fritters and i could never get enough of them. i’ve never tried making them before, but i reserved a few cups of pumpkin mash and did a google search for a recipe. here’s what i found. 

pumpkin fritter recipe:

ingredients

directions

  1. Combine pumpkin and egg, stir in flour, cinnamon, baking powder, sugar, salt and juice.
  2. Heat oil in a shallow pan and drop spoonfuls of the mixture into the oil, fry till golden then turn and do other side, drain on paper towels and serve hot sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.
because i had 3 cups of pumpkin i needed to adjust the recipe, and though it required some tweaking, the fritters were a huge hit at the party, disappearing almost immediately  (even though we needed an ark to get there through a huge thunder-storm!). 
when the storm cleared, fritter-fortified, we repaired to the huge bonfire simon had managed to keep going despite the rain. crystal got some lakshmi powder which we took turns sprinkling in the fire while pronouncing our crys-blessings and then we hooped and spun poi and jumped around in the garden like little kids. 
i know i , for one, needed it. and i think everyone else enjoyed the impromptu spinning lesson.