Friday, January 29, 2010

Mohammad's Birthday!

So, in my young professional’s club meeting, we are trying to plan a one day ski trip. And realizing that it costs more to go for a weekend than a weekday, they get the idea to go on a national holiday day, because then it would be in the week and everyone would have off work. And this country is in the top 10 of countries with the most national holidays. So they are trying to think of what National Holiday is next.

That is when I (THE FOREIGNER) chime in. “ Mohammad’s Birthday! That’s soon right?” To which the guy sitting across from me and the most devote Muslim in the club says “Mohammad who?” I am like “Mohammad.” We go back and forth a couple of times, before someone corrects me with “The Prophet’s Birthday!” Okay, so I got the title of the Holiday wrong, and he was trying to figure out which one of our million friends named Mohammad had a birthday coming up, BUT I think I deserve credit for knowing the next national holiday as a foreigner. In any case, I provided the whole club with a good solid 2 minutes of nonstop laughter over “Mohammad’s Birthday!” And that is what language and cultural learning is all about…being humbled and learning to laugh at yourself while others are laughing at you for messing up.

Just FYI, The Prophet’s Birthday is February 26th. I was the only one who had a planner out and they wanted me to look it up in my calendar, but I had to explain that my calendar was from America and would not list The Prophet’s Birthday! Lol

Monday, January 25, 2010


I just finished my Advanced Arabic final presentation! I was supposed to talk about something authentically Arab. Lots of the students spoke on politics, but I am not into politics, so I chose to speak on hummus! Everyone loved it, they all laughed at the right times and enjoyed snacking on the hummus. (yah, that might have been a bribe for my teacher, but oh well, I think it worked)

I thought I would share my English version of the presentation with you. I was really intrigued by hummus for a week! I was surprised about how interesting it is!

Hummus: God’s gift to the region

“Currently there is a war between Israel and Lebanon. In October 2008, the Association of Lebanese Industrialists petitioned to the Lebanese ministry of Economy to request protected status from the European Commission for hummus as a uniquely Lebanese food, similar to the Protected Geographical Status rights held over regional food items by various European Union countries. Fadi Abboud (president of the Lebanese Industrialists Association), stated that "Israelis have usurped several Lebanese and oriental products Israel has stolen our land, and now our civilization and our food!” As a response, food critic Janna Gur wrote: "The success of certain brands of Israeli hummus abroad may have been what brought about Abboud's anger", leading him to claim that Israel has been "stealing" their country's national dishes, like hummus, falafel, tabbouleh and baba ghanouj. Shooky Galili (an Israeli journalist specialising in food who writes a blog dedicated to hummus), claimed in reply that “Hummus doesn’t belong to the country that invented it, but the people who love it”.

In October 2009, Lebanon made the world’s largest hummus. They made 2 tons (900 kilos) of hummus to prove that hummus was Lebanese. But then this last month, January 2010 Israel took the world record from Lebanon by making 4 tons of hummus (1853 kilos). Lebanon will not let Israel wins, so they already have plans in place to take back the world record title.

This is one of the nicest/tastiest wars in the region. If all the wars in the Middle East were like this, there would be peace everywhere.

There are many different kinds of hummus and several differences between Palestinian, Lebanese, and Israeli hummus. In Lebanon, hummus with Tahini (sesame paste) is the norm, while other traditional kind adds ground beef and pine nuts. Palestinian hummus has mint in it, and paprika, parsley, and cumin. They also substitute yogurt for the Tahini that Lebanese hummus has. Israelis like hummus hot (unlike Lebanese or Palestinians who eat it cold.) Israel also adds olive oil, cumin and Tahini in their humus. Also in Israel, there are places that sell only hummus, called Humsoit.

Hummus is cheap, nutritious, and tasty. It is good for your health. It is high in iron, vitamin C, protein, and fiber. But be careful, because hummus can give you gas! There is only one thing that can unite all Muslims, Jews, Christians, Israelis, Arabs, Phoenicians, and Palestinians, and that is a love of hummus!
Hummus is one of the oldest known prepared foods, eaten in the Middle East for centuries. In 400 BC Plato and Socrates wrote about the benefits of hummus in their diets. The chickpea was used in Palestine before 4000 BC, and was one of the earliest crops cultivated in Mesopotamia (which in Arabic is translated as the land between 2 rivers---that thought was cool!) And according to Wikipedia, Cicero, the Roman orator was named for an ancestor who had a wart on his nose shaped like a chickpea.

So, how do we make hummus? If you are me, I use a can of hummus ready to serve with Tahine and add garlic, a little lemon juice and olive oil. And then I would eat it with Arabic pita bread.

But this hummus (whip out the famous restaurant hummus) is homemade. They even make homemade Tahine. They add garlic, lemon juice, olive oil. And this is the traditional bowl that hummus is served in. When it is finished, spread it in this bowl, and top it off with a few whole chickpeas and a little oil. (The bowl is small and rust colored with large smudged triangles of a tanish/orange on this sides pointing to the center of the bowl.)

Hummus is to be eaten as an appetizer with Arabic flatbread (pita) or you can add it to a schwarma or falafel sandwich, or eat it with grilled chicken or fish.
Finally, I closed my presentation with this video. It is in English but about hummus and Arab life, so my teacher let me show 30 seconds of it, before my time ran out. Enjoy the hummus rap:

If you wanna try:
- Mix/blend 10 oz. chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans in America) with 2 large cloves of garlic, salt, 8-12 tablespoons tahini (pureed sesame) 10 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Serve in a large flat bowl
- Sprinkle paprika over the hummus
- Add more lemon, salt or garlic for taste
- For softer/richer add oil

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

December Pics

Picture Time! December was really great! It was packed full of traveling, my brother visiting and celebrating Christmas. Earlier this week, I celebrated my one year anniversary of living in the middle east! Yay!

There is so much to update you on, I hope you got a email from me about all the great things in December. If not leave a comment below, and I will send an email with more details.

For now, though enjoy some pics: