The Table of My Ancestors: Week 12 (Egypt)

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To read the post that started it all, click here!

As I close out my month of exploring my Egyptian heritage, I feel like I’ve grown in my appreciation for the culture and the history, particularly, of this fascinating country. But in all honesty, the food aspect has been just…okay. The last dish I’d had planned is considered the national meal of Egypt, and it’s called koshari. It’s rice and lentils mixed with elbow macaroni and chickpeas, then topped with a homemade tomato & vinegar sauce and crispy onions. It sounded pretty strange, I have to say. Just a big ol’ bowl of starchy carbohydrates covered in sauce. In fact, I debated not making it at all. But, as I posted in my Instagram stories, it is important for me to remain authentic through all this, so I pulled up the recipe and began.

Everyone eyed the dish with suspicion when we sat down to eat, including me. But I’m happy to report it wasn’t nearly as strange as I thought it would be. Sure, the starches all kind of blend together in your mouth, so you have no idea if you’re eating rice or a piece of pasta. But it was a warm comfort food, and I can see its appeal. The tomato sauce was unique and added a nice zing of sharpness to the carbs, and the crispy onions were, well, delicious. I don’t think I’ll make it again, but I do think I’ve learned a few things through cooking this dish.

Egyptian koshari

The first is a reminder to keep being open to being surprised. And that applies to all of life, not just this project. So often, if I think I know how something is going to go, I make up my mind and make judgments about it ahead of time. But here’s the thing: sometimes I’m wrong. (Shocker, I know!) We’re all wrong sometimes. And what’s important, I think, is not that we never get it wrong but that we learn from it, instead. We get back up and try again, try a new way.

The other thing came from a brief conversation with a lovely friend of mine named Fiona. She reminded me that authenticity, the very thing I’ve wanted to hold tightly to, also means variation. Every town or family has their own “authentic” recipes or ways of doing things, and each would swear that theirs is the quote-unquote right way. Authenticity certainly is a big buzz word in today’s society, but like Fiona, I think I may need to release some of my expectations of that word. This is, after all, my journey through the countries of my heritage. It’s deeply subjective, and it isn’t going to look like anyone else’s.

Recognizing that brings a deeper sense of freedom, I think, as I start the second half of this project.

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