MARWA NASR ELKEREDY, English Teacher, Oxford Academy, Cairo, Egypt
2013-2014 Foreign Language Teaching Assistant, Emporia State University, Kansas, U.S.A.
Eat, Drink and Socialize
Food has always been considered a major source of nutrition and survival; eating is an indispensable daily routine. It is also worth mentioning that food has another greater role to play, which is helping people to socialize. It is not surprising that food bridges vast gaps between people, no matter who they are and where they are from. On a dining table people can get along faster and get to know one another easily. Speaking of food as a tool for socializing, as a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant at Emporia State University in Emporia, I made good use of common Egyptian food at the International Food Festival, tea party and at classroom picnics.
In the fall semester, when it was time to introduce some of the food vocabulary, my students learned about Falafel, which is very traditional at breakfast in Egypt; Egyptians also call it Ta’amia. For your information, Ta’amia is usually eaten with beans, which is known as Foul in Egypt. They are both accompanied by pickles and sometimes eggplants. After introducing food vocabulary, surprisingly, one of my Saudi students got excited and he brought some to class the next day. It was so interesting for the students and me to taste it and then have a chat about its recipe during the lesson.
Ta’amia was not the only food that attracted the attention of American students and other international students. Koshary was another favorite. When I first introduced Koshary in a classroom picnic, I only invited my students and their friends, however, others began to show up and gather at the table as they smelled the Koshary. “Can I taste it? It smells amazing! Are you selling it?” a passing lady exclaimed and asked. Explaining that it was free, others gathered happily, making it a real banquet. What an amazing feeling for a novice cook like me to find people rushing to eat her food! I was thankful to my Koshary and proud of it.
Serving Koshary for the second time at the International Food Festival was also a successful experience. I was so glad this time to introduce Koshary to a large diverse audience. Yes, it was not my main job to cook; I was there rather to teach, but part of sharing the Egyptian culture was involving others in the daily routines of Egyptians and introducing them to traditional Egyptian meals. It was magnificent to see my professor queuing to taste Koshary and Egyptian salad. I was so delighted when he later started the class with a positive commentary on how tasty the salad was. He even asked me about its ingredients and dressing; how lovely it was to break the ice with a little chat about food and share a compliment of a tasty recipe, especially if it is an Egyptian one.
From food to beverage at the Tea Party, a big tea pot of black tea with green peppermint and a poster with funny expressions -that are only said in an Egyptian context- were on the table attracting everyone’s attention. Though different kinds of tea and drinks were served from different countries, many people stopped to taste the tea with peppermint on the Egyptian table and take a funny picture with the poster. It was a great surprise to find other colleagues at the office gathering to taste the tea and take pictures after a chit chat spreading around on the whole event and the funny poster that was waiting for more pictures to be taken. That was it: a little tea pot, a few cups, some leaves of peppermint and a poster gathered people around a table, removed barriers between them and enabled them to socialize and chat. How magical! It is food and beverage that gathers diverse people, helps them to communicate and build relationships and friendships, such a big grace!