Sunday, March 16, 2008

Pity the Fuul

Over a decade of journalism gives you bad habits. I've picked up a truckload.

For instance, we journalists are obsessed with the pithy phrase - the all-encompassing 2-3 word expression that we think crystallizes what we want to say. Like "the new normal", "terror links", "the Arab street", "the Arab world".

Here's a tall claim: there's no such thing as "the Arab world." This monolith doesn't exist. Why? Because everybody in the Middle East looks down upon everybody else.

The Kuwaitis don't like the Jordanians, who hate the Syrians, who dislike the Lebanese, who might not like Egyptians, etc. etc.

Almost nobody likes the Palestinians. And the Saudis? Well, they're god's gift to the world, and pretty much don't like anyone.

All of which begets humour like this:

A Saudi and an Egyptian are at the airport, waiting for their flights.
"You Egyptians," says the wealthy, white-robed Saudi, "are no better than animals."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, let me explain - what did you eat for breakfast?"
"Fuul," is the immediate answer.
"And for lunch?"
"Well... fuul."
"Hmm... er.... um... fuul?"
The Saudi leans back.
"So tell me, then, what separates you from the animals?"
"Ah, that's easy!" exclaims the Egyptian. "It's the Red Sea."

Fuul is the middle eastern poor man's food - mashed fava beans with olive oil and spices, eaten with bread. It's cheap (a fuul sandwich is about 10 cents), delicious, and sits in your stomach for the whole day.

Everybody has their own recipe - the Lebanese make it with garlic, lemon and parsley, the Egyptians add tomatoes and spice it up, the Syrians throw in some chick peas, some other folk add eggs or onions or tahini.

But the wonderful thing about fuul is that everybody enjoys everybody else's recipe. Maybe this is what will unite the... Arab world?


Fhar said...

Yes, the encroachment of news-speak into every corner of public discourse—it drives me nuts, although maybe not as much as corporate- or military-speak (becoming increasingly indistinguishable). Who decided it was OK to use "task" as a verb? I'm pretty sure it evolved from a human resources department somewhere. And how about arriving "in country"? Since when did the definite article become declasse (although Brits occasionally display this habit).
And yeah, the "Arab street", evoking hordes of wild-eyed, bushy-haired Ay-rabs burning effigies. And on the subject of the "Arab world", have you ever looked closely at list of country-specific links at the bottom of Google News? They are all counties, except "Arabic" (which in the Arabic version is "Arab world"). How is it that Ireland and the UK have their own links, but the entire mythical "Arab world" gets just one?

Nabila said...

Fuul gives you gas.

Yasir Khan said...

Plenty of that in the "Arab world".

Craig Duff said...

In ancient Egypt, food was placed in tombs for the afterlife. And it turns out the easiest thing for looters to steal was the fava beans because, as we all know, fuul and its mummy are easily parted.

Adina said...

This post has made me hungry. My breakfast was not very fuuling.

Serda said...

This is quite late in terms of a comment but If you haven't, check out Anthony Bourdains No Reservations - travel to Egypt - he attempts to eat Fuul.... by "attempts" I am actually referring to a hoover-type consumption!! :)

Nightghost said...

LOL, liked the joke. Like your blog too. Thanks for the stories