Sunday, September 14, 2008

He don't eat no meat?!....I make lamb...

It's always kind of a shock to people when they first learn about it. "You're an Arab...and a vegetarian?" they ask, as though the two are mutually exclusive. They can't be entirely blamed, of course, meat being so integral to Middle Eastern cuisine, but so too are the salads and dips that comprise the smorgasbord that is mezze. Then of course there's foul, ta'meya/falafel, kushari, etc., all of which are both delicious and vegetarian. And even though the rising cost of meat means that most of Egypt's poorest can not afford to eat meat on any sort of regular basis, the notion that someone would voluntarily abstain from eating meat tends to be the source of great amusement, confusion and bewilderment. "Don't you still feel hungry after you eat?" relatives often ask me. "Shrimp aren't really animals, have one!" say others. One of my favourites is "But (food item x) only has a little bit of meat" as though my objections to meat were based on quantity and not substance. And the list goes on.

The meat-intensive cuisine of the Mediterranean was made most famous by the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding, where an aunt famously exclaimed upon learning that the main character's fiance was a vegetarian: "He don't eat no meat?!'s okay, I make lamb..." Well, today I had my own personal re-enactment of that scene in a restaurant while trying to order my meal. It went a little something like this:

Me: "I'll start with the vegetable soup..."
Waiter: "I'm sorry sir, we're out of the vegetable soup"
Me: "Do you have any soups that don't have meat?"
Waiter: "Yes, we have a chicken soup"
Me: "No, I don't want meat"
Waiter: "It doesn't have meat.....just chicken..."
Me: "I'll have the garden salad"
Waiter: "Would you like chicken on it?"
Me: (blank stare)

Now, okay, granted the Arabic word for "meat" is colloquially used to connote red meat, but I still think it's pretty amusing.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Ramadan Kareem

رمضان كريم