Tag Archives: mother

Adopt An Egyptian Mother Dot Com

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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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Filed under Food is Fabulous

On Birthdays And Other Scary Things

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I hate my birthdays. Not in the cute Hollywood I-Will-Not-Be-Defined-By-My-Birthdate-I-Am-At-One-With-Nature-In-My-Flowing-White-Dress-And-Flowers-In-My-Hair-Along-The-Beach kind of way.

No, I’m talking the heaving, hyperventilating, curling into fetus position while mentally dictating my obituary under the bed covers type of hate.

Drama queen? A little, I suppose; yet for as long as I can remember I have always been a nervous wreck around the time of my birthday. Why? Perhaps we could trace it all the way back to when I was three and I had a fit about the pink dress my poor mother was trying to make me wear -yes, even then I had a sense of style and didn’t listen to my mother’s advice.

Mother: Put it on.

3-year-old Me: No.

Mother: Go on, it will look pretty on you.

3-year-old Me: No.

Mother: Your friends are all outside waiting for you and this pretty pink dress will look nice. Don’t you want to go out and play?

Me: (stubbornly) No.

Mother: There’s pink cake too. With sugar icing.

Me: (less confident) No.

Mother: Look, just try the thing on.

Me: It’s ITCHY.

Mother: (exasperatedly) How would you know? you haven’t tried it on!

Me: It LOOKS itchy.

Mother: (Losing it) Look, you either try on the dress now or I’ll put you to bed and your friends can have your cake without you.

Me: (sniffling). Ookay. (Put Dress on) Oooh, it’s prittee!

Mother: (rolling eyes) Oh, don’t you look pretty in that!

But no, that couldn’t be it; I cannot blame a lifelong neurosis on a pink dress and a toddler’s attitude problem.

It’s not that I hate birthday parties; on the contrary, I’ve had many wonderful celebrations full of food, music, games and the people  I love.

It’s never been about the gifts either: as much as I love the shiny, superficial things in life; the experiences are even more valuable, which is why one of my all-time favourite birthdays was when I travelled alone to the Red Sea coast for a long weekend. With just three CDs (Pink Floyd, Dave Mathews and a mixed CD) and the third part of Lord Of The Rings, I spent my days sunbathing and reading, and my nights writing and sleeping. It was simple and relaxed. It was awesome.

But back to my annoying dilemma (I say annoying only because I’ve noticed how my friends get increasingly  wary of me as my birthday approaches, and my parents gently inform me that they will call me in a few days once my wave of pre-birthday neurosis has ended and I’ve stopped yelling at the phone that has imbedded itself into the concrete wall after I threw it)-

Perhaps all this fear, panic and self-indulgent whining have something to do with that time when I was twelve and a strange man came up to me at a Christmas bazaar. Without a word, he took my palm, proceeded to readthe lines on my hand, and then told me that I was going to die at the age of twenty four.

I tried to shake his words off, after all; how would he know? But what if he was right and I only had life till I was 24? That gloomy prospect stayed in my mind until that dreaded birthday finally arrived twelve years later.

Surprisingly enough, I didn’t die; but I did lose my best friend, a death that was quite difficult to bear and unfortunately not the last one to endure. I didn’t die at 23, nor did I die at 25 or even at 27, but that’s how old my friends were when I lost them. It’s always around my birthday when their deaths strike close to home again, when I remember their faces and wonder at the fact that I will never see them grow past those ages; and only they will remain forever young.

I also look back at my own life and question what exactly I’ve made of myself in all these years. I have yet to climb a mountain, yet to write a bestselling novel, yet to make a name of myself that will be remembered long after I’m gone. And when will I be gone? All these are tough questions to face on a day that should involve cake, balloons and glitter; which is probably why I retreat into my three-year-old skin every year and demand a loud party. Bring on the joy, laughter, and the pink icing cake. And my favourite meal of grilled chicken liver, peas and carrots and mashed potatoes; the same I’ve had every birthday since I was five.

This results in an argument with the same mother every year along the same lines:

Mother: I really don’t want to cook chicken liver this year. Can’t we just have a nice dinner at a civilized restaurant instead?

27-Year-Old Me: (Stubbornly) No.

Mother: (Sighing) Look, you’re too old to be this stubborn. Can’t I just take you to Abu El Sid and you order the liver there?

27-Year-Old Me: (Stubbornly) No. It’s my birthday. I want chicken liver. And pink icing cake.

Mother: Does it have to be pink? There’s no pink icing colour available at the supermarket. Can’t I just buy you a cake from Pumpkin?

Me: (lip trembling) Make some. Use rose petals. Or hibiscus flower. Be creative.

Mother: You know you don’t HAVE to have a pink birthday cake every single birthday.

Me: (stubbornly) Yes I do.

Mother: (sighs) I wish I’d had a boy.

Perhaps my fraught nerves stem from a fear of aging, which could probably explain the borderline fanatical obsession with my childhood traditions of pink birthday cakes, chicken liver meals and a big birthday party.

Lately, the aspect of aging has become a lot easier. I’ve begrudgingly come to accept that I will never look twelve again (though I occasionally act it), that cellulite and laugh lines are inevitable (in fact, i’m secretly rather pleased about the laugh lines appearing before the frown lines) and that turning thirty doesn’t necessarily mean the end of life: I have several friends who have survived the big 3-0 and are still cool; so it can’t be that bad.

I’ve also managed to cut back on the fetus-position/howling-at-the-moon-if-I-don’t-get-a-birthday-cake drama.

So, if you catch me scowling on my birthday or failing to smile when you burst into song or wish me a Happy Birthday; please don’t take it personally. I’m probably just fretting over the years of it raining on my birthday and resisting the urge to stamp my foot, have a tantrum and be sent to my room for acting all camp and drama queen-like. But then again, when the lip begins to tremble and the clouds threaten to cover the skies, I am comforted by the memory of that itchy pink dress that turned out to be a lot of fun, just like all of my birthdays and the years that I’ve lived through so far. So far, so good. No?

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Filed under Blame The Parents