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 – XXXI. My Years at 12A Rue Khantaret Ghamra – Food (16 of 18)

Fixed prices

Baladi Bread

We lived near a bakery that baked baladi bread. Baladi means native, and this particular bread was found only in Egypt, and possibly only in Cairo. I know they didn’t have it in Alexandria; there we consumed a small very tasty pitta bread (quite unlike what we have here in North America).

Baladi bread was dome-shaped with a meaty base. Fresh baladi bread was a pure delight, it was also very rich. Tests were made which indicated that this bread was one of the richest in the world. At a certain point (long after we had left), it was no longer economical to make, and they stopped manufacturing it. Today, you can see a sample of baladi bread at the Museum of Agriculture!

Around noon, a man came from the bakery with this bread. He carried it on a flat wooden panel, covered it with a blanket, and placed the whole thing on his head. Thus, by the time I came from school, I could enjoy it with my meal.

The price was fixed when the bread was fresh. Day-old bread, however, could be bought from the bakery at a reduced price.


This was another staple that was sold at a fixed price.

Every morning, the milkman came on our street with a cow and 2 goats. He rang a bell to inform us of his presence; but we were not expected to go to him; he came to us with a big container, poured his milk in a measuring cup, and sold us what we requested.

In our house we consumed cow’s milk. Since it has just come from the cow, it was first of all very rich, and second, it was obviously not pasteurized. My mother therefore boiled it, a process which yielded a thick cream which I wouldn’t touch, but which Robert mixed with jam and ate with gusto.

Flora, and other milk consumers, had a beef with the milkman. It seems that he was adding water to his milk; indeed, he was seen many times doing so; yet, he swore on the head of his precious children that not a drop of water was added to his milk. “From where would I bring the water, there are no taps on the street,” he would argue.

Time went by; we were now living in Israel. There, we were no longer getting our milk directly from the cow! It came in sealed bottles, and it was pasteurized. It seems that some fat and other ingredients were taken out of the milk to manufacture other dairy products. The (diluted) milk that reached our table now came from a factory.

Of course, we spilled more tears over the good old days of Egypt; and milk was added to a long list of losses from an era that was gone forever.

In time we got used to the strange concept of milk coming from a dairy company (Tnuva) rather than the cow itself. But more shocks were in store for us.

We were now living in Canada. Egyptians who had preceded us apprised us of the fact that the milk “here” was a far cry from what we drank in Egypt. And so, the lamentations started all over again.

By the same token, advances in medical science revealed a connection between fatty food and heart diseases. Terms like cholesterol and triglycerides became current currency.

And so, voluntarily, we bought 2%, 1%, or even skim milk.

In an ironic twist of fate, we found ourselves consuming a greatly watered down milk. Our punishment for berating our milkman for the small quantity of water he added to his rich cow’s milk!


Price varied depending upon size and supplier.

On a regular basis, Khadra, came to our door to supply us with fresh eggs. We quickly nicknamed here the “egg lady.” Long before she reached our building, we could hear her cry: “El be’ed taza, taza ya be’ed.” (My eggs are fresh, fresh are my eggs). Even when she had reached our door, and made a sale, she continued with her refrain, “el be’ed …!”

I don’t remember my mother ever bargaining with Khadra. Presumably there was a set price agreed upon by both parties.

The egg lady carried her eggs in a small basket which she placed on her head. A risky maneuver, but apparently accidents were rare.


The yogurt man was nocturnal! Actually it made perfect sense, for after super people welcomed one of his small china bowl of yogurt.

His yogurt was thick, tart, creamy, and bursting with “yogurti” flavor. Unlike our yogurt in Canada, there was nothing added to it (such as strawberry, apricots, etc.). It stood on its own merit. You could (and I did) add sugar to it. But purists (my grandmother was one of them) were against such insulting treatment. Yogurt was after all a noble food; tampering with it went against the laws of nature!

You would not, however, “offend” real yogurt lovers if you used it to make a salad. The most well-known was the yogurt and cucumber salad (with the addition of salt, dried mint and garlic). It’s a very refreshing and tasty appetizer (you probably can find one, or more, recipes on the internet under the name of “Yogurt Salad.”)

After we consumed our yogurt, we washed the china bowls and set them aside. On a regular basis, the yogurt man came to collect his “empties.”

The yogurt vendor had a fixed price. After all, he came at night, at a time when people were tired, and not in the mood to haggle.

Some people made their own yogurt. But in my family, we rarely made it at home. It would have added to the workload of my mother.

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