Category Archives: Food is Fabulous

Adopt An Egyptian Mother Dot Com

assssssas

I love this woman. Marie Mounib will always be the perfect Egyptian mother to me

I want hamam mahshy. The situation has become desperate; I have even resorted to harassing poor strangers who made the mistake of announcing on Twitter that they’re visiting London soon and made another mistake of asking me ‘Do you want anything from Egypt?’

Yes, I want stuffed pigeon.

Life away from Egypt is tough. Every time I think of home or my family, a vision of deliciously greasy, stuffed and spicy pigeons appear before my eyes. Every time London is raining and miserable (i.e. all the time) and my annoying Egyptian friends and family are flouncing around in the sunshine (i.e. all the time), all I want is to eat greasy, heavenly, homemade Egyptian food, which can only be done best by an Egyptian mother.

[Note to parents: you calling me up repeatedly from the sunny beach to tell me all about it in acute detail while I’m freezing my butt off and can’t feel my hands in Minus Two London is proof of how disturbingly sadistic you people are.]

As any Egyptian living abroad can testify, the two things we miss the most are our mothers and home-cooked Egyptian food; one is synonymous for the other. Yet for some perplexing reason, London doesn’t have a single decent Egyptian restaurant, despite the masses of Egyptians roaming the city’s streets and desperately seeking shawerma.

So I came up with a cunning business plan to exploit my fellow Egyptians’ homesickness. The first plan had been to sell Cleopatra cigarettes in London (just the mention of the name has brought tears to many eyes), the second had been to open a stuffed pigeon restaurant, which seemed brilliant since the city is littered with hungry Egyptians and fat pigeons. Give one to the other.

Apparently it’s not cool to eat pigeons in London, as most British people have reacted to my suggestion with absolute horror: ‘But they’re biiiirds!’ they squeak, as if I suggested eating cute, fluffy kittens.

Newsflash, Brits. You eat horsemeat.

It’s even more annoying that these fat, chubby, lazy pigeons waddle around London completely carefree like they own the street, and I walk behind them drooling and morphing into a lewd Hamdy Batchan singing ‘Eh El Asetoka dah?’

So, since no one likes my idea of killing pigeons and eating them – and the only restaurant to serve stuffed pigeon in London has had to stop because they got caught in customs smuggling in pigeons from Egypt – here’s my new business idea: Adopt An Egyptian Mother Dot Com.

Those of you living in Egypt – including several grown men who still live with Mama – often complain about the mother. She frets that your new haircut will make you less eligible bride/groom material – especially when your distant aunt is coming for a visit (to check you out), she demands grandchildren before you’re half-way through your molokheya, stalks your Facebook account for possible brides/grooms, still color-coordinates your underwear drawer when you’re 32, worries out loud that she will die before she will see her grandchildren because you haven’t expressed adequate interest in the neighbor’s cousin’s daughter/son who lives in Canada and is an architect, plans your wedding like a military superpower plans invading an oil-rich country (ruthlessly), uses your favorite worn out t-shirt as a rag to wipe the floor with,  and twenty years after primary school, still plays the comparison gang in front of your smug looking friends (‘Ahmed looks so nice in his clean shirt and business suit, why can’t you be successful and hardworking like him?’).

So you may want to send your mother off for a little holiday and enjoy some brief peace of mind. Here’s my suggestion: give her to us. In return of sorting out her visa and finding her a place to stay, all she has to do is come to London and churn out daily dinners of molokheya, stuffed pigeon, mombar, koshari and any other delectable Egyptian cuisine. Of course, she should also boss us around and fret about us not eating enough and being too skinny to make the whole Egyptian Mother experience more authentic.

A recent incident proved that my cunning plan may actually work.

A friend of a friend of a friend’s Egyptian mother landed in London with thirteen suitcases (thirteen!!!!), nine of which (NINE!!) were full of frozen, pre-cooked food from Cairo. The customs authorities let her through (good job, UK security!).

One of the nine bags contained stuffed pigeons. I begged my friend to hook me up in return for babysitting her son (I was desperate).

Because Egyptians are incredibly kind-hearted, the mother I’d never met agreed, and five stuffed pigeons were delivered to another Egyptian’s house for me to pick up. I had never met the guy either, and standing awkwardly in his doorway as he handed over the ominous parcel, I realized I was having my first drug-scoring experience, except with frozen pigeon carcasses.

Egyptian man: So what’s in the bag?

Me: (apprehensively) You know, stuff.

Egyptian man: It feels heavy.

Me: (shuffling feet, mumbling) Well, it’s sort of… stuffed pigeons…

Pause.

Man: Say what?

Me: Stuffed peppers?

Man: You said pigeons.

Me: They’re probably not that good.

Man: How many?

Me: Umm… five?

Man: I’VE HAD FIVE STUFFED PIGEONS IN MY HOUSE FOR THE PAST TWO HOURS AND I DIDN’T KNOW? WHY AM I GIVING THEM TO YOU? I WANT ONE!

Me: No. Get your own.

Man: I’m a poor bachelor who hasn’t had a proper home-cooked meal in months. Have mercy on me.

Me: (clutching package) Not happening.

Man:You can’t eat five pigeons on your own. It’s not possible.

Me: Try me.

Man: Look, just give me one and I promise not to tell anyone about it. I’m homesick and I miss my mother.

Me: No. If I give you one, then I have to give my other Egyptians, and then I’ll have none left.

Man: You’re a selfish bastard.

Me: الغربة صعبة يا سعاد

Man: One pigeon and I will give you a flash disk.

Pause

Me: What kind?

Man: Sony?

Me: No.

So I ate the five pigeons. Actually no, I only ate four. I gave the fifth to another Egyptian friend who begged me, and now she basically owes me till infinity. But then I had to lie to my other Egyptian friends that I’d been given two pigeons and was thus unable to share with them. Several friends had tantrums. All were men.

With the pigeon, I wield incredible power among the hungry, desperate Egyptian community. I sense that I can start my own mafia here.

Now if you let me export your mother, she will feed us all and make us happy, in return for a comfortable stay in London. Deal?

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The Eight Symptoms of Being A Foodist

Foodist (plural foodists)

A person who is very interested in food.

A person who is interested in foodism.

A person who discriminates against other people because of the food they eat.

Foodism (plural foodisms)

An exaggerated interest in the preparation, presentation and consumption of food.

My name is Desk Girl and I am a foodist.  It’s not only that I like food a lot (and I mean a lot lot), I also tend to think/talk/dream about it every day. And it can’t be a coincidence that almost all my best friends are fantastic cooks who can spend hours cooing about spices and dissecting recipes off epicurious.com. We are, according to one non-foodist friend, ‘Gourmet Dorks’. I don’t mind being called uncool as long as I’m being fed.

While I’ve always liked my food thanks to a healthy childhood and an even healthier appetite, my evolution from food-snob to full-on foodist happened two years ago when I lived at my friend Nina’s place for a month. I watched her juggle her marriage, her two-year old baby, her job and her social life, while still managing to cook up wonderful, buttery recipes every evening. (You can read her cute food blog here.)

The joy she took in planning and preparing food was so infectious that I soon found myself transitioning from the casual Chuck-Beef-Into-Wok-And-Add-Soya-Sauce Cook into someone that understood the value of basil, balsamic vinegar, shallots and rice that doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

Here are some symptoms of my foodism. If you share any of these symptoms, we need to talk.

  • I eat Anything, Anytime– well almost everything, except for Black Pudding, beetroots and weird animal parts. Oh and fruit with strange names like Teen Shouky (what on earth is that?) I can also eat under pretty much all circumstances: when I’m angry, sleepy, happy, hot, cold, in planes, over camels, under pressure. I’ve only lost my appetite a total of three times in my life; when I was so sick and feverish, I started talking to my bedroom walls (but that’s another story).
  • I have Food Memory:  if you know me well enough, you’d know that I have the memory of a goldfish with Alzheimer’s that used to do a lot of LSD as a kid. I can’t remember what I did two days ago and most people’s names are a blur, but I can easily remember events related to the food I have eaten in the past 27 years of my life: like the soft ice cream cone that I had twenty years ago in London, the fried calamari in Cyprus when I was nine, the Duck a L’Orange in Gouna five years ago, the Layered White Chocolate cake my friend Jasmine made in theater rehearsals in 2001…
  • I’m a bit of a Food Bully: I may seem a little, ahem, judgmental of people who don’t care about food, or simply forget to eat (who forgets to eat?!!).  I try to be a little kinder to those with legit food allergies, but deep inside I secretly think they’re just a bunch of sissies. And don’t even get me started on vegetarians: while I applaud their moral efforts, I secretly believe that one dinner at my Aunt Nabila (meat, kofta, escalope, boftek and mombar) will easily convert them back into carnivores.

Example:

Aunt Nabila: Have some kofta ya habibty, you’ve barely eaten anything.A skinny girl like you, we need to fatten you up.

Vegetarian: (stammers) Uh, no thank you, it’s just that all your foods have meat in them; and I…uh…No thank you.

AN: La’a! Don’t tell me you’re (disapproving snort) on a diet!

V: Well it’s sort of a diet. I just don’t eat meat.

AN: (Stunned silence).

V: (Hurriedly) I’m a vegetarian, so I can only eat vegetables, but no animal meats.

AN: Yaany eh, you don’t like my food walla eh? Dah ana I slaved away for two days to make this Ro’aa espeshally for you and you don’t like it?

V: No no, I’m sure it’s wonderful I just can’t eat it because-

AN: If God didn’t want us to eat animals, he wouldn’t have made their meat so tasty. Why don’t you like my cooking? What did I ever do to you for you to reject my food?

Good Luck to any vegetarian surviving her.

  • I’m a Bit of a Food Slut: I hate to admit it, but like many men I know, the way to my heart is through my stomach. You feed me, I love you. I realized that recently when my skanky colleague skived off work one day, leaving me to cover his 17-hour shift. He walked in the next day with a big smile on his face and an even bigger bag of hot muffins from Costa all for me. I was furious. I looked at the muffins. I forgave him. That easily.
  • I’m a Restaurant’s worst Nightmare: if we’re out for dinner, I’m secretly checking the cutlery for dirt and mentally reviewing each and every meal that passes our table. The unfortunate side to being a food snob is that I rarely like a meal if I believe I can cook it better myself. The flipside t o that is  I’ve realized that good food and expensive food are incompletely unrelated- in fact, the best meals I’ve ever had are often off street carts in some of the most underrated parts of the country. Which is why…
  • My dream Job is to be a Travelling Food Critic: Do I spend all my money on travelling the world? Check. Max out my credit card on restaurant meals and gourmet ingredients? Check. So what could be better than getting paid to travel, eat and critique the world’s most exquisite and exotic food? Seriously!
  • I Buy Your Love with My Food: I like to seduce people into being my friends by slyly throwing dinner parties or “spontaneously” baking truckloads of cookies for them. Ever noticed how you used to hate me at first, and now, for some inexplicable reason, you really really love me? Yeah, it’s because I fed you my chicken.
  • I Could Easily eat for Egypt: While I can out-eat a few male friends of mine (you know who you are), the only reason I’m not the size of Eddie Murphy before-Nutty-Professor-Made-the-Potion-And-Discovered-Spandex is because I work out religiously, thanks to an athletic upbringing and a father who affectionately calls me Gamousa every time I gain weight. You know how they say that inside every fat girl is a thin girl and a lot of chocolate? Well, inside of me is a fat girl that’s been starved.

So if you find that you have more than a few of these symptoms, it’s time you and I join forces and start a foodist cult or something. Or let’s start off small and have a dinner party first. Bring food.

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