May 20, 2012
I always find it strange when Americans tell me they think Middle Eastern food is “exotic.” Perhaps this is because I’ve been eating it since I was 12 years old. Or, more likely, it’s because I lived in a Middle Eastern country for two years and nearly forgot what a decent cheeseburger tastes like (don’t even get me started on bagels and pizza).
But the main reason I don’t understand why Americans are so puzzled by Middle Eastern food is that it has such a similar flavor profile to our pseudo-European cuisine: We have BBQ, they have kebab. We have donuts, they have zalabiyah (fried dough balls soaked in syrup). We have macaroni and cheese, they have macarona fil forn (baked macaroni with béchamel). Granted, French fry sandwiches are pretty odd, and I doubt most Americans would be interested in the ubiquitous Middle Eastern breakfast of fava beans (ful) and pita. (Personally, I find this much preferable to syrupy French toast and greasy bacon.)