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 – XVII. My Years at 12A Rue Khantaret Ghamra – Food (2 of 18)


Mediterranean food is known for its variety. And as we discovered many years later, it’s a very healthy diet.

Fruits and vegetables were for us basic victuals. Freshness was taken for granted for we bought, cooked, and consumed our food on the same day.

Food is more than sustenance. It is aromas, tastes, colors, and textures; it is essential when we reunite for the purpose of enjoying ourselves.

It is a magic world and its enchantment lies in its variety.

Since we’re talking of variety, I will provide you with some examples of typical Egyptian dishes.

Please note that what will follow are not complete recipes. If you’re tempted to try one (or more) of these dishes, go to a search engine, and enter the name, chances are you will be provided with a recipe(s).

Foul medames

Foul is Egypt’s national dish. It is traditionally consumed for breakfast, but it can be eaten at any time of the day. It’s cooked using dried fava beans; and these beans can be small, medium, or large, all of which can be used.

You cook it by soaking the dried foul overnight, and slowly simmering it on the following day. But this is a simplified methodology.

To do foul medames right takes time, most of it soaking and simmering. “Professionals” such as restaurants and street vendors have their own technique; and it is, of course, a jealously guarded secret. Besides the cooking methodology that I alluded to, the type of beans used – but not necessarily  the size – will play a role.

While families (including ours) cooked on occasion their own foul, it was mostly a matter of “why bother,” when you can get it expertly cooked at a small cost.

You’ve just purchased the best foul money can buy. Now taste it. It’s completely bland! That’s because it was cooked without any spices! It’s now up to you to spice it your way. How you go about it is limited by your imagination (and taste). As a minimum, you will add oil, lemon (or lime) juice, and salt.

If it’s a sit-down dinner at a restaurant, the restaurant will – in most cases – add its own spices.

For many years, we had a street vendor who, every morning, stationed himself on our street and loudly announced his presence. People came down – often in their pyjamas – with their containers and collected their foul.

He had a wheelbarrow type of cart that he pushed. In it there were three large, round, narrow-necked vessels; two contained foul, and one contained belilah (I’ll talk about that food item next). Unless you objected, he added some belilah juice on the foul. It made his foul even tastier. Of course, many of his customers purchased belilah as well.

After you’ve added your spices, you consumed your foul with Baladi bread.  A royal meal indeed. And it’s cheap, healthy, and nutritious.

Today, I am quite content with a good quality canned foul medames. I add to it the following: oil, lime juice, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, onion powder, turmeric, cumin, coriander, and dried parsley flakes. I put the whole thing in the microwave for two minutes, take it out, mash the beans, and in it goes  in the microwave for another two minutes. It’s a heavenly meal; I can live on that, except that at my age, it’s also a heavy meal. As well, foul, being a member of the bean family, has, ahem, unwelcome side effects!

The above methodology is a shortcut. Normally, I should take it out of the can, place it in a pan, add my spices, put it on a low heat for about 15 minutes, and continually stir it in the pan. What I do is heresy! So please don’t tell anyone!

Some additional points. Many people will add fresh garlic to their foul. Fresh onion and parsley should be used, not powder or dried flakes. Also, a hard boiled egg can be mashed in the foul, making it a delicious and high-protein meal. (I don’t like it with an egg,  garlic, or any fresh ingredients. My technique therefore reflect my personal taste).

Finally, foul medames is no longer an exclusive Egyptian dish. It’s eaten throughout the middle-east. I suspect that many Westerners in Europe and North America have tried and learned to love these humble beans.

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