I was in London filming Judge Dredd when I first tasted the refreshing lemony flavor of tabbouleh. I took the part of the villain in Judge Dredd because it was a paying job and because it filmed in London. What’s great about making films is that something wonderful always happens even when the film is not worthy.
Before I went to London, I was on a flight from Singapore to Shanghai. For some reason, I got to talk to the passenger next to me, which was something I almost never did or do. Samuel was his name and he worked for Pfizer in Asia. I remember talking to him about my mother’s interest in flax seed that grew in the Northwestern part of China and if Samuel thought Pfizer would be interested in collaborating with my mother on making the gel capsules. Samuel was not interested in flax seed, but he chatted with me for the rest of the trip. He told me that he had a girlfriend in London. I said that I would be going to London in a couple of weeks and he insisted on giving me his girlfriend’s contact in London. Her name was Hanan Kattan.
I thought to myself, I’d be crazy to call someone whose contact was given to me by a total stranger sitting next to me on the plane.
Two weeks after the encounter with Samuel, I arrived in London. It was late autumn and rainy. I spent a couple of wet days in the the hotel room, with occasional sessions of physical training and costume fitting. Perhaps I was lonely or perhaps I felt adventurous. I took out Hanan’s number and called her. I’ve always been socially awkward and fearful of meeting new people. But I met Hanan on a wet and cold autumn day and we ate tabbouleh and a dozen other dishes in a Lebanese restaurant, and the next day I moved into her family’s swanky apartment in Mayfair London. This whole thing was entirely and utterly out of character for me. I don’t even know why I kept Samuel’s card with Hanan’s number on it. Fate is mysterious. We have been friends for 20 years.
1/2 cup fine bulgur
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cup boiling-hot water
1 cups finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
2 medium tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 seedless cucumber*, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Boil water with salt and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pot. Add bulgur when water is boiling and turn off the fire and let the bulgur sit for 15 minutes. Discard water and let the bulgur cool.
Mix the cut vegetables, lemon juice and olive oil with bulgur and leave in the refrigerator for 1 hour before serving. If you are pressed for time, you can serve the dish right away, but it gets better after sitting in the fridge for an hour.
PS: The saga of the Pumpkin Man, I’m afraid, is never ending. Day 4. I have by now completely perfected my creamy pumpkin soup. I ate the soup with a dash of cinnamon today. I can’t believe it, but so far I still enjoy it.