Another essay from our scholarship winner, Isaiah DuPree, an International Relations Major and Arabic Minor at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Isaiah studied with AMIDEAST in Morocco during the 2013-2014 academic year. In this essay, he reflects on a special meal with his host family.
Last week was host family appreciation week. During this week we can give tokens of our appreciation to our host parents or play an American game with our host families. We can do anything that both demonstrates our gratitude for what they do, as well as creates a basis of intercultural dialogue. After bringing them cantaloupe and dates from the souq, I decided it was time to take it to the next level. I would bring a piece of my kitchen, to theirs.
When I first asked if I could cook dinner, Hajja (what I call my host mom) gave me a hesitant look, which I took as an opportunity to explain to her that I know how to cook and am often required to when I am at home in the states. After Hajja laughed at my eagerness and agreed to let me use the stove, I was on my way to buy my ingredients…
Once 8 pm rolled around, I was ready to start. Hajja actually offered to help, and although initially I wanted to do it myself, I figured it would be a great way to bond with my host mom. While we soaked the chicken pieces in milk and eggs then breaded them, Hajja and I talked about our families and our dreams. I asked her about how Hajj (her husband) was when he was younger, she asked me about my older sister and twin brother. We both want to travel and never stop. In preparing food with her instead of waiting for the food she prepared, I feel like I got to know her more.
As we devoured the fried chicken laughing at some ridiculous movie with Julia Roberts, I began to understand the importance of a family meal regardless of the culture. At home, my mother makes it a point to sit together at the table and eat as a family. In my house in Morocco, the same emphasis of togetherness exists. In preparing the food and eating it together, I could tell Hajja appreciated my understanding of this, and in returned opened up that much more. Who knew something as simple as fried chicken could make all the difference.
All photos by Isaiah DuPree.