If you travelled to Iraq with me … I had a kabob named Bandit

Once you see this hilarious road sign, you won’t be hungry again

Sometimes it’s just moments that someone finds precious. When we went to Iraq’s arid west – where fields are full of qat – we found a sign in a sticky black resin plant that said “Kebab, ka.”

There was a tinge of tobacco in the brown clay huts.

When I popped open a bread from the tiny home bakery, I could smell them. It was like something you’d find in a bakery in your town – whole-wheat bread with a sauce made from rice flour and yogurt. The only catch was the place was scattered with five huge, round, fried kebabs and a cup of hot tea. Just popping that in your mouth would make you forget all your troubles for the afternoon.

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I had to ask a couple in a taxi if I could have some. They thought for a minute, then said: “Put it in your pocket.”

Those who travel through Iraq – no matter how terrible it is here and all over the region – always ask for kabobs: dried fruit, lamb, fish, greens, and the singular, superb kebab. They never learn. I recommend getting them by car, on long roads. Bring kalash, a dish made from whole sesame seeds and a spoonful of yoghurt. It is, unquestionably, the meal of kings.

• Meet the writer as he publishes his memoir I Had a Dog Named Bandit, published by HarperPress, and as part of the Cat’s Eye series, by Quentin Blake, in 1 March 2019. Cat’s Eye contributors may be published in this space.

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