Looking for (oven) love in Baghdad

Though it’s felt like forever already, I am finally arriving on the sixth month mark since I began working in Baghdad. I’ve learned many lessons so far, one of which is that Baghdad is a terrible environment to look for love…of any sorts. I’ve met and heard (gossiped) about too many women that come to work here, ambitious, independent, career-driven women, and end up falling into an endless cycle of trying to find a contractor/soldier/security guard that is a husband in the making, worried that it’s now or never. It’s a little sad, and can certainly get over the top, but I can relate.

Of course, not quite the same way, because I have Farrell here. But lately, I’ve just had a different sort of loneliness.

a deeper yearning, a longing for something more.

I want an oven.

It’s almost shameful that I’ve let my feelings for this run away as they have. It’s all I think about sometimes, simply consuming every waking moment. I’m obsessed.

Before you judge, try to see it from my perspective. I’m deprived. When I punch out after a 12 hour shift at work, traverse the compound to my cold, aluminum shipping container, I imagine how fulfilling it would be to spend some quality time with an oven of my very own. Bonding over a midnight batch of warm chocolate-chip cookies. Morning scones. Flirty cupcakes. Test the relationship with something difficult, like fickle macarons, to find the oven’s hot spots and see if it can live up to my standards.

It’s tough. Sometimes I think, “Good riddance! Who wants to be enslaved over a hot stove all day?” I happily saunter to the cafeteria, only to face an endless cycle of disappointment. An oven-free life is not all that it’s cracked up to be. Most people won’t admit it, but all we really want is to have that special appliance in our lives, to support us when we need it most and provide us with a deeper satisfaction.

I knew this would be the case when I signed up to come work out here. I knew that metal shipping containers don’t even come with a hot plate or microwave. And I thought I could handle it. I’ve handled it before, right?

I remember my freshman year at college, living in the biggest and oldest dorm on campus, for those who hadn’t proved themselves worthy of a pristine-white cooking range. A whole year rushed past me, ovenless and content, without even batting an eye. No worries about dishes or cooking mishaps. I wasn’t even upset when the rumor of a communal kitchen in the basement turned out to be false. I was young and carefree.

Now? I’m older, and my needs have changed. I know what I want in a culinary relationship, and I am not willing to settle for less.

What rattles me the most is not always my lack of oven. There are those here who are fortunate enough to have been hired by different organizations, and they live in (relative) luxury: a kitchen of their own. Micro by most standards, yes, but they do, in fact, include ovens.

What hurts is that I know they don’t appreciate their ovens as I would. They don’t deserve an oven as much as I do.

This longing has even affected my social life. I evaluate the people I meet based on selfish requirements: Do they have access to an oven, and can they bequeeth that access to me? My clock is ticking by too fast to deal with people who aren’t on the same page with me concerning ovens. And my poor little food blog, in such a crucial stage of its development! Ivory Pomegranate shouldn’t have to suffer like this!

But then? Eventually, reality sets in. Baghdad is not the ideal environment for realizing my dream relationship with an oven. What if I did gain access to one? The limitations would likely be even more torturous. Do they even sell butter here? Where can I find flour? Eggs? Sure, people tell stories of those who have made it work. Did you know Joanie? She made the best pies, all in that little kitchen of hers. Her quiches? Divine!”

But I don’t even know if I would have that kind of strength to make it work. Would it even be worth it to get involved with something that would only turn out to be a short fling in the end? In two months I’ll move back to DC. Back to my quaint, faithful little apartment. Back to the loyal oven that I already know so well, with the hot spot in the back right corner. The endearing, finicky broiler. Ingredients both exotic and ordinary will be at my fingertips, and I will cook to my soul’s content.

Only two short months. Compared to the six that have already passed, it doesn’t seem like such a burden to bear after all. I understand there is an oven out for me, somewhere…

…but it is not among the duck-and-cover shelters.