To get an American’s opinion on Middle Eastern food I decided to interview my mother. An American married to an Arab, she was first introduced to Middle Eastern food soon after her marriage to my dad. She had some interesting things to share.
Q: Do you enjoy cooking?
A: I don’t mind it, but don’t think I’m naturally good at it.
Q: How were you introduced to Middle Eastern food?
A: When I got married, we had some friends who were also Middle Eastern and I learned a little bit about the food from them. There was also a cookbook published by a student group at the university, so I tried some of those recipes.
Q: How did you learn to cook Middle Eastern food?
A: Later, when my mother-in-law came to visit, I watched her cook and learned a little more about the foods and the way they are prepared. Then, after moving overseas for a time, I learned even more. There were some things that kind of creeped me out about cooking there—like that the chickens were freshly slaughtered and kind of warm when you got them (not refrigerated like they are here).
Q: What do you think is the biggest difference between American type of cooking and Middle Eastern type of cooking?
A: Although in general, I think Middle Eastern food is healthier, the concept of frying vegetables is fascinating; and, since I like fried foods, a definitely acceptable practice! Cauliflower fried and salted is infinitely tastier than steamed!
Q: What is the hardest part of Cooking Middle Eastern food?
A: I’ve never been successful at making the sweets. The baking is very different from what I’m used to as an American.
Q: What is your favorite Middle Eastern meal to eat?
A: Almost any meal that I didn’t have to cook! But I particularly like Mansaf (who doesn’t?) and don’t like Mlukhouia.
Q: What is you favorite Middle Eastern meal to cook?
A: Makhloubeh. With not too much effort, I can almost always make it consistently.
Q: Do you have any suggestions for people learning to cook Middle Eastern food?
A: Don’t just go by a recipe. If possible, learn to cook from someone who knows how to cook it.