The countdown has begun. In fact it began when we were in the midst of the Eid Al Fitr holidays. And now as we approach the Eid Al Adha vacation (the fact that this break is six days long, qualifies it to be called a vacation, I think), the anticipation is sending me into a tizzy. No, it is not just the holidays but the thought that I will surely be on the receiving end of a big bowl of Umm Ali from my Egyptian neighbours that is causing this excitement.

Hot from the oven, its speckled golden crust glistening invitingly, this Umm Ali should come with a statutory warning as it is more than just an enticing sweet trap. I am convinced it has the extraordinary magical powers to turn mere weak-willed mortals like me into an undignified glutton... and it does, every year.

The silky sweet cream, a hint of perfectly slivered nuts and the slight char on the coconut chips and the bread bits popping out of the pudding, it should be labelled a gastronomical iniquity of the highest order on other days of the year. But when my elderly neighbour delivers it each year during the Eid holidays with a broad smile and best wishes, all I have is humbling gratitude in my heart for his generosity and a renewed faith in the supernatural powers of food – in creating a lifetime of unbreakable bonds and unforgettable delicious memories.

As some of us are unable to celebrate the festival with our extended families and loved ones due to travel restrictions, here’s hoping we are able to create a batch of fresh memories with friends and neighbours around us.

Eid Mubarak and happy holidays...

Reach me at mshekar@gulfnews.com.

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