Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

Egypt has always had a place on my life (or bucket) list. Long ago I took a really good Egyptian art history class that went well beyond the Pyramids at Giza. The recent stories about looters hitting some of the other sites I studied have been very disturbing. I’ve been riveted to the news from Egypt, not just because of its art treasures, but because this could be the start of positive change for Egypt and other Arab countries, or not.

I realized that I don’t know much about Egyptian food. I’ve always assumed it’s similar to Lebanese food, which I like a lot, especially since I used to live next door to a Lebanese market and cafe. As always Wikipedia is a place to start learning. It turns out it is very similar to other eastern Mediterranean cuisines. Here are a few tempting recipes new to me:

  • Kushari, a mix of lentils, rice and macaroni topped with spicy tomato sauce and caramelized onions, a favorite street food and home recipe
  • Tiger nut sweets, an ancient dessert of apple, dates, walnuts, almonds, honey and cinnamon
  • Ful medames, stewed fava beans, Egypt’s national dish, eaten alone, with toppings, or stuffed in a pita

The increasing food prices in Egypt helped fuel already existing discontent with Mubarak’s military regime. Even the regime’s tactic of subsidizing the price of bread and other staples for the poorest Egyptians wasn’t enough to get their support and prevent the unrest. Cereal prices are now at an all-time high in Egypt, the world’s biggest importer of wheat, where citizens spend about 40 percent of their monthly income on food. Now with sparse food shipments and shuttered groceries and banks, prices are rising even higher and Egyptians are having a hard time stocking their pantries.

egyptian food recipe egypt

bread delivery before the days of protest ~ photo by Sebastian Niedlich

Over here in the land of plenty, for some, the USDA released the 2010 Dietary Guidelines last week (hmm, a little late). Besides giving food journalists a lot to talk about, the Guidelines shape federal food assistance programs. The new Guidelines advocate switching to a plant-based diet, consuming less meat and sodium and avoiding solid fats and added sugars — nothing surprising there. The Baltimore Sun provides a historical perspective with their graphic series of USDA guidelines since 1894. [No longer a good link, but here’s another take on the history of USDA guidelines.] And for an international perspective, Good magazine brings us the “pyramids, plates and pagodas” of other nations’ dietary guidelines.

If you want to be on the cutting edge of food websites, check out Foodily, “a social network and recipe search engine for foodies“. Its search engine features recipes from Food Network, Epicurious and All Recipes. That doesn’t tempt me. Ideally, I’d like to blog about recipes I find on other personal food blogs, however I seem to end up featuring lots of Serious Eats or food magazine recipes instead. Since I already have enough social networks, I’m in wait and see mode on this one.

It was just a matter of time. The molecular gastronomists and modern mixologists have discovered cereal milk. This brings back memories of drinking the sweet flavored milk left over in the bowl after eating “sugar cereal” – the kind of cereal we usually couldn’t eat as little kids except when on vacation. Good times.

egyptian food recipes egypt

photo by Jennifer Donley

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One thought on “The Sunday Table: February 6, 2011

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