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 – CXLIX. Stories My Grandmother Told Me (1 of 10)

Kan ya makan.

Il était une fois.

Once upon a time.

My grandmother didn’t start with the conventional kan ya makan other people used when they told me a story. She plunged straight into the narrative. In time, she run out of tales to tell us (my cousins, my brother, and myself). The old fables were therefore repeated ad infinitum. Every repetition brought some variations to the tale. And, as children, we never tired of her yarns.

Not all stories here are fictitious, some are true – well, to a point. Most Egyptian narratives are to be taken with a grain of salt!

Not all stories here came from nonna Bida. The rest were narrated to me by other parties

Needless to say, what will follow is not the complete Egyptian folklore! I don’t know (or remember) all the tales surrounding this fabled people.

An arranged marriage

Victoria was 16 when she overheard her parents talking.

Father: “Es’i ya Zahra (her mother’s name; I don’t know the first name of her father, but his family name was Chochan) el bent kebret.” “Hustle Zahra, the girl is grown-up.”

Mother: “Do you think I have been sitting on my hands? There’s somebody on the horizon; and he is quite a catch. He is a tailor, he makes a good living, he is older, and therefore wiser than our Bida. And…”

Father: “And what? Out with it.”

Mother: “He is European, Polish, a true Aschkenazi Jew who speaks Yiddish! He speaks Arabic with a heavy accent. Of course, this will not change. You need to learn Arabic as a child, otherwise, it’s hopeless.”

Father: “Yes, yes. I don’t care how he speaks Arabic; you said he is European?”

Mother: “Yes. His name is Mikhaël (Michael).”

The rest of the conversation hinged around the fact that Mikhaël was European. The way Mr. Chochan carried out you would have thought that he was a direct descendant from the House of David!

Victoria did marry Michael and they had a good life together.

At the beginning, there was a small problem. He expected Bida to cook the Ashkenazy way (a cuisine that was reputed for its blandness). But, first of all my nonna has been taught Egyptian cooking; second, she would have never considered eating any “Yiddishe” dish, let alone cook it! The problem resolved itself, for when Michael tasted the lively and colorful Egyptian food, he went nuts! Not overnight, mind you. But, let’s just say it was a quickly acquired taste. As a concession, though, Victoria, cooked some of his dishes, chief among them was Gefilte De Fish. Some of his dishes, included sugar! Adding sugar to any Egyptian cooking was pure heresy. But, here again, she compromised for the sake of her man.

Zahra lived long enough to see all of Bida’s children. Her demise was sudden. One day she had diarrhea, a few days later she was gone. (It was probably Enteritis, a killer if not properly treated. But, of course, at the turn of the 20th century, it was not diagnosed properly, let alone treated. Another possibility was that it was Dysentery, another dangerous intestinal disease).

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