Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Egypt – XIX. My Years at 12A Rue Khantaret Ghamra – Food (4 of 18)


Couscous is a staple of the North African diet. Egyptians learned from North Africans how to prepare it.

It’s difficult to make. We only prepared it for special occasions; and it was a day-long affair. The semolina was steam-cooked, with a piece of muslin covering the pot; it went on for hours. With the couscous, we made a soup with meat, bones, and vegetables. Seating down for a meal of couscous and soup was my concept of heaven.

My mother learned from her mother how to make couscous. Nonna Bida freely passed on her knowledge to her daughters; the only specialty they never mastered was kobeba.

Today, of course, ready couscous is available everywhere. However, if you still want to try the real thing, you need to go to a good North African restaurant.

Lentil Soup

There are, of course, many types of lentil soup. However, the kind of soup my mother made, I never saw it anywhere else again. She started with boiled yellow lentils, squeezed it, and added the required spices. The resulting yellow soup produced was a pure delight. You ate it with bread.


Koshari is simply rice with black lentils and spices. You top it with fried onions, and a special tomato sauce.

Koshari was considered as poor people food, and, therefore, I rarely had a chance to sample it as I was growing up.

Decades later, when I came back to Egypt, I went to a restaurant that served koshari only. When I sat down, I asked for a menu; the server looked at me as if I had taken leave of my senses. “We have the plain and the ‘louxous’,” he informed me. The difference? The louxous had butter on it. I settled for the plain and healthier koshari.


Chackchouka starts with plenty of fried onions and bell pepper (green, red, yellow, orange, or a mix of two or more types). To this mixture is added tomato sauce (I use a can of crushed tomato) together with the required spices. (By definition chackchouka should be hot. However, with an American wife, and two Canadian children, my later years chackchouka included a minute amount of cayenne pepper. But not to worry, it was still delicious). Sometimes, before the sauce has reached the required consistency, you break eggs and add them to the mix ensuring they remain whole (do your best). About 15 minutes later, you can serve this delicious meal to a family of four.

There are many recipes for chackchouka with each cook assuring you that her (or his) recipe is the best.

You can find many recipes on the internet for this tasty and high-protein vegetarian dish.


I saved the best for last. Defina is part of the cuisine of all Middle Eastern and North African countries. The basic recipe (and name) will vary, but at the basis chick peas and meat are used. They are all invariably heavy; but the defina my grandmother prepared was the heaviest of them all! The fact that we all survived is a testimony to human resiliency!

This potent defina included chick peas, potatoes, and (thoroughly cleaned) cow’s intestines which were stuffed with a mixture of rice, meat, a variety of herbs, and spices. Enjoy!

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