I was born in a small, quite unassuming village resting on the bank of the Egyptian Nile delta. The narrow streets, the mud and windless houses connected like an old stalled cargo train. People’s lifestyles hadn’t changed that much since the time of the pharaohs, and local demographers couldn’t find any dramatic census changes for a long time, around a 1,000 with a slim margin of error.
Villagers lived the simple life of a farming community, and their interest in the outside world went only as far as the edge of their corn fields. At dawn, men left with their animals for work and came back at dusk, while their wives stayed home, busy preparing meals and raising kids to work on the farm as soon as they mastered their first steps. Women seemed to consult with the same fashion designer, where their costumes were traditionally made. People went to the same mosque, celebrated the same holidays, and for generations, villagers kept the gene pool very much confined to a singular gene pool!
Life for people was a simple one, rhyming with nature, everyone knowing everyone else. The village had one street, one barber shop, one grocery store, one school, one cemetery, and one mosque and everyone ate one kind of cheese; always feta, and always white. Egyptians look at cheese as a live food, and they don’t as a rule throw their cheese away; when it gets old they just give it another name and eat, from Qareesh, Barameely, Creamy, and when it gets rotten they call it, “Mesh” (Yacky Cheese).
Continue reading My First McVisit … was another American disappointment !!
Who Ate my Cheese!
Who Moved My Cheese? a self improvement book written by Spencer Johnson, coauthor of The One Minute Manager, the book illustrates the vital importance of being able to deal with unexpected change. is often distributed by managers to employees as a motivational tool, but as was reported in a review “the lessons it teaches can benefit literally anyone, young or old, rich or poor, looking for less stress and more success in every aspect of work and life.” Who ate my cheese, is a story about self preservation, it is about Arabs Americans and their cheese. Arab Americans in tough times would seek comfort and refuge in the warmness of their ethnic foods. As their nomad ancestors had done for hundreds of years before them; carrying their food wherever they go would save them from the harsh inhospitable desert terrain. Uh… the frying sizzling of falafel, the richness aroma of shaworma (Gyro), the tanning smoothness of BABA GHANNOU and Hummus, the beauty of artfully display of meza and the heavy sweetness of Baklava all take us back to the comfort and security of our home. But no other Middle Eastern food reflects our ethnicity and identity as feta cheese; we have as many different kind of feta cheese as nationalities; Egyptian, Greek, Lebanese, Moroccan, and Palestinian and we try them all. Continue reading Who Ate My Cheese?
Arab Americans in tough times would seek comfort and refuge in the warmness of their ethnic foods. As their nomad ancestors had done for hundreds of years before them; carrying their food wherever they go would save them from the harsh inhospitable desert terrain. Uh… the frying sizzling of falafel, the richness aroma of shaworma (Gyro), the tanning smoothness of BABA GHANNOU and Hummus, the beauty of artfully display of meza and the heavy sweetness of Baklava all take us back to the comfort and security of our home. But no other Middle Eastern food reflects our ethnicity and identity as feta cheese; we have as many different kind of feta cheese as nationalities; Egyptian, Greek, Lebanese, Moroccan, and Palestinian and we try them all. So if you want to measure the Arab American melting pot index in the US, don’t look at the employment or housing index, you should look at the consumption of feta index and it ratio to the consumption of American cheese. Americans seems to treat cheese as dead food that is wrapped in plastic bags and kept in the refrigerator like corpses. Arabs treat cheese like fresh meat that should be cut before your eyes and kept in the open for everyone to see and smell. Second generation Arab American children; however, lose this reverence right after their first trip to MacDonald’s restaurant and experience the taste of the melted cheese in their happy meal. Early on, feta cheese proudly accepted its prominent culinary status in our house. Every morning at breakfast table I prepare for my daughter the Egyptian breakfast trio, feta cheese, pita bread and black olives. My daughter had enjoyed eating it as much as listening to my Egyptian boy stories. “Tell me a story when you are little boy” she always asked me playfully. Now I have to quietly sneak my feta in her breakfast sandwich under the cover American cheese, which is perfectly fine with me. I understand her feelings. When I was a youngster growing up in an Egyptian village in the 60’s, our school used to get American aid in the form of a big block of wrapped cheese. I was so fascinated when for the first time I experienced cheese that was different in test and color, not to mention its beautiful glossy plastic wraps. Under protest from my resentful parents, I deserted my ethnic feta cheese and in its place I demanded the colorful American cheese which was as flashy as America movies. Rejecting your native feta is like rejecting your identity; here went the villager’s attitude.My wife and I are now very careful about bringing this ethnic culinary warfare to our family breakfast table. To reinforce our daughter’s ethnicity and multicultural heritage; American cheese and feta cheese will peacefully coexist on our breakfast table along with the cereals. However, lately and in the mist of post 9/11 and the war on Iraq headlines, the situation at our household has gotten a little edgy and our homeland security alarm system could reach color red in a hurry. Then one cheese will be ethnically cleansed from our breakfast table, “It smells bad and too sheepish,” my wife has started protesting loudly, declaring this chemical warfare and humiliating my beloved feta would trigger my defense sequence and the American cheese would become the infidel’s cheese. My daughter who never was interested in this type of table manner, would quietly walk away with her cereal, to the basement, better known now in our household as the bunker.Ahmed Tharwat 12/20/04 Multicultural Marketing Consultant