Tafathalo! Welcome to My Arabic Dinner

This year the Arab American Institute conducted their biyearly poll of American attitudes toward Arabs and Muslims. Favorable attitudes towards Arabs and Muslims are lacking to say the least: 68% of Americans are critical of Arabs and 73% dislike Muslims. Meanwhile, a majority of Americans admit they don’t know enough about Islam, Muslims, and Arab history and people. A narrow-minded bunch are we, which brings me around to my Christmas theme for 2014:

Jesus was an Arab.

He was born in the Middle East, he spoke Aramaic and he probably had dark skin. Look at the desert in the nativity scene. Arabic people can be Jewish because Judaism is a religion, not an ethnicity. Furthermore, every Arab is not Muslim. 

To honor my theme, I hosted a pre-Christmas-eve Arabian dinner. My menu came from the Complete Middle Eastern Cookbook by Tess Mallos (Gulf States section, mostly.) I got the cloth-bound hard-covered edition from my local library. (Frugality is another one of my themes.)

The Arabic cuisine is mainly a combination of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Indian food. It has been affected by the mingling of Arab and non-Arabs over the centuries. European cultures such as the Spanish, Italian, French and Greek had impact on Arab cooking. Turkish cuisine impacts the entire Arab world, while Persian and Indian cuisine influences eastern Arabic countries.

Sharing a meal with others is an old honored tradition in the Arabic World and an expression of hospitality. “Tafathalo” means “Do me the honor”. It is an invitation to come to the table. This is what I served:

Starters
Hummus and Khoubiz (Flat Bread) from Sam’s Bakery in Fall River, Massachusetts
Endives with Oranges and Almonds (Spanish/Arabian influence, generously provided by a guest)

Soup
Shaurabat Adas (Red Lentil Soup)

Salad
Fattoush Salad

Entrees
Samak Quwarmah (Fish Curry)
Mushkoul (Rice with Onion)
Kebat Al Batatis Wal Burkul (Bulghul and Potato Cakes with Lamb and Apricot Filling) – (We thought this needed a yogurt sauce.)

Desserts / Beverages
“Sweet Sesame” (a Sam’s Bakery bread made with honey, sugar, cinnamon, and sesame seeds)
Dates
Candy (re-gifted by the teachers at the table)
Decaf coffee/Black tea
Wine
Arak (Now I know to water it down.)

Your thoughts: Do you eat Middle Eastern food? Do you know enough about Arabic culture?

The Road to Damascus

Damascus Bakery, that is, and Sahadi’s too, two authentic Middle-Eastern food markets on a stretch of Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, that have been in operation for over 50 years. Sahadi’s is all about barrels of grains, boxes of nuts and spices, containers of olives and dried fruit,  hundreds of cheeses, aromatic oils, and so much more. Check out Sahadi’s Fine Foods Catalog and take the time to peruse the many nuts and legumes. At Damascus Bakery, the fresh breads and pastries are to die for. Roll-ups, meh, right? Not after you’ve been to Damascus. This exotic oasis is a healthy 2-mile walk from my place. There, I buy prepared food, dried fruit, nuts, and my beloved Olympus Greek Yogurt. During my visit last week, I took some photos, which don’t do justice to this Fertile Crescent, but still, you get the idea. There’s no reason not to eat healthy food in Brooklyn.