A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Timely Encounter with Kushary

A personal anecdote, if I may, with a bit of fortuitous synchronicity: last night my daughter's school had an "international cuisine night." Parents were urged to share national dishes from their countries of origin, wear native dress, etc., and there was music and dancing from various parts of the world. As we live in a rather multi-ethnic neighborhood in northern Virginia, we expected there to be a good variety, and there was. Though my daughter herself comes from China, none 0f us are good at Chinese cooking, so we toyed with something Middle Eastern, and while I can whip up some good Middle Eastern dishes, it isn't really our cuisine, so we settled on being one of the few families attending to come up with something American, and made my wife's chili. (My own chili is better, in my opinion, but since it causes bleeding gums and requires extensive liquid refreshment afterward, if not resuscitation, we went with the mild stuff.)

It was crowded and chaotic and though the foods were supposed to be labeled, most weren't. I was pleased that among the many flags on the wall, one was Egypt's, since obviously many of us are cheering on Egypt in the first week without Mubarak. When we got to the serving table there was a lot of Middle Eastern, Latin American, and African food, though surprisingly little East Asian since there are many Vietnamese and Korean families in the area, though perhaps not in the school.

Anyway, I filled my plate with lamb couscous and Latin rice, curried lentils and some kind of kifta, and then came to an unlabeled plate.

Hmm. Noodles, macaroni, sauce, lentils, maybe a little rice, and chickpeas on top. Sounds like ... OMG, Kushary!

Now, Kushary is Egyptian street food. Like ful mudammas and ta‘amiyya, (the former is fava beans; the latter is a version of falafel made with fava beans instead of chickpeas), it is a distinctively native Egyptian dish. It can be found elsewhere, but most commonly where there's a big Egyptian expatriate population, such as the Gulf. It is sold in street carts or small, specialized kushary restaurants.

Of course, I took some. To be honest, kushary was never my favorite Egyptian specialty, but it is so typically Egyptian that I couldn't not eat it as we approach the first week since the fall of Mubarak. A nice little bit of synchronicity.

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