When discussing picky eaters, there’s no person on Earth (I exaggerate not) who is more picky than I am. Like the five-year-old who won’t eat his vegetables, I turn my nose up at practically every food that exists. My main hatred concerns fruits and vegetables; if it’s green and healthy, I won’t go near it with a ten-foot pole. But non-Earthy foods also get the ax, especially if their textures are what I would deem “gross and unappealing,” such as pudding, fish, soup, and eggs. To be frank, I believe that I have a severe food phobia, but since I;ve never admitted this to any doctor I have never been able to solve the problem.
Living in Egypt, one might think, would be a nightmare for someone with such food issues as me. My family constantly asks me: “But what do you eat? Do they have ‘normal’ (as in normal food that I would eat) over there?” The answer is a resounding “yes, they do:” peruse a menu at an Egyptian café and there’s going to be at least one thing—normally a sandwich—that I will eat. The more fancy cafes are wholly American in style, and let’s not forget, there’s always Burger King or McDonalds to suit my fancy. Likewise, the supermarkets wouldn’t be out of place in the USA either.
Lest one think that I have gotten off scot-free with trying new foods here, I must say that I have tried traditional Egyptian dishes before, and mostly at my husband’s parents’ home. His twin sister “Re” is a great cook by both Egyptian and more Western standards. I’ve tried roz be laban, the traditional milk-and-rice pudding (blechhh) which is the dessert du jour; I’ve tried mashi wara enaab, otherwise known as dolma or grape leaves stuffed with meat and rice (my God, I wanted to vomit); I’ve tried Re’s curry-flavored chicken (okay, not an Egyptian dish, but how delicious!) I’ve eaten white rice that has some strange brown (vegetable? Seed? Spice?) in it which would have been fine without the strange brown thing; I’ve eaten my fair share of pasta (they do not put tomato sauce on it) and breaded lamb or chicken, otherwise known as chicken panee, which are popular dishes.
Recently, however, I have tried two Egyptian dishes which stand out in my mind specifically because they were good. The first was the Egyptian version of lasagna, a.k.a. macaroni bechemel (seen at left): instead of using that white cheese(Fettuchini? You can tell I’m no cook) and tomato sauce, they just layer cheese, actual shaped pasta, spices and ground beef. It was easier to eat (not so messy) than American lasagna, and pretty good. However, the food award goes to none other than “hawashwy,” which I tried last night.
Hawashwy is basically a pita-bread sandwich. You take a pita bread, open it, and stuff it with several different ingredients: ground hamburger meat, onions, carrots (!), salt and pepper and then bake it. I took one bite of it and fell in love! (Anything with bread in it usually wins me over; I am a carb-a-holic). It is so good that I ate every single bit of it (something I never do at my in-laws house) and then ate another half of hawashwy. “Re” was very impressed, and now I know what I need to do with my copious amount of spare time: learn how to cook hawashwy!