“Cuisine at the Crossroads”

Benjamin Delikat, a junior at Fordham University, is currently participating in both session 1 and 2 of AMIDEAST’s Intensive Arabic Program in Amman, Jordan. Originally posted on Benjamin’s blog on June 27, 2012, he discusses some of his favorite aspects of food culture in Jordan. Enjoy!

Mealtime here is something I look forward to every day.  You never quite know what’s coming so its always a surprise, but so far I haven’t tasted a dish I didn’t like.

 

Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner are the three main meals of the day.  Like Spain and several other European countries Lunch is the largest and most elaborate, usually eaten between 1pm-4pm with the family coming home from work to share some time together.  I am in class until 2pm and usually hit the gym right afterwards unless I’m doing homework, so except for weekends I typically miss eating lunch with my host family.  All of the food has been excellent (many thanks to my host family, the Zreiqats, and their skillful command of the kitchen), and some highlights from the last two weeks include lamb with rice and yogurt, cabbage, zucchini, and eggplant stuffed with rice, meat, and chick peas, asian-style pasta with vegetables, and grilled chicken with basmati rice.

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While reaching across the table to grab a cucumber or dip your pita is completely acceptable, its polite to do so with the right hand rather than the left.

Breakfast has typically been multiple smaller snack-like dishes, taken all together to make a meal.  This morning was a plate each of pita bread, cheddar, the best homemade apricot jam, small sesame cookies, a sliced canned mortadella very similar to bologna, sliced cucumber, sliced tomato, hummus, a salty soft white cheese, and one of my personal favorites, lebaneh (slightly thicker than unsweetened greek yogurt and topped with olive oil and red pepper flakes, into which you can dip pita or sliced vegetables).  Each on its own might not be too impressive, but combined they make quite the meal. Dinner works in much the same way as breakfast, and is usually eaten sometime between 8pm-10pm.

 

Without fail, every meal is washed down with hot tea and/or Turkish coffee (regardless of how hot it is outside or inside the house – a couple times I’ve left the table sweating), and I’m fairly certain that our host family thinks my roommate and I are insane to take our coffee and tea unsweetened, as its not unusual for family members to put 2 or 3 tablespoons of sugar in a 6oz cup of beverage.  Many evenings our family simply likes to sit outside the house or in the living room and pass the hours talking and sipping tea.  The cool evenings make the perfect atmosphere for this kind of relaxed pastime, and are certainly a well-earned reward for waiting through the heat of the day.

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Hummus isn’t a side dish, it’s a way of life.

In contrast to the typical fare in the US everything is fresh, from the vegetables bought at the market downtown to the bread bought daily at the bakery around the corner from the house.  Jordan seems like the perfect balance of cuisine at the crossroads of Mediterranean, Asian, and Middle Eastern styles of cooking.  I realize that culinary posts may get a bit repetitive, so I’ll do my best to make them count here on out and include pictures when I absolutely have to post about food.

 

Saha! (To your Health!)

 

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Filed under Arabic, Food, Host Family, Jordan

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