Saturday, May 13, 2006

Breakfast, savory or sweet?

I'm working on a longer post about some of the backstory to my numerous Middle Eastern adventures but I spent all morning working at the CSA garden and I need a nap.

A friend asked me friday about breakfast in the Middle East. She has been asked to breakfast by an Iranian friend and was surprised by the breakfast items: bread, cheese, tomatos, cucumbers. "No olives?" I asked her. Breakfast in the Middle East is usually savory not sweet. Oh, there might be jam or preserved fruit on the table but those sorts of sweet items are usually reserved for the children. In fact, I've noticed how Americans who insist on sweet things for breakfast earn indulgent smiles from their hosts. Its another small way that so many Americans appear infantilized, like little children who need their sweets.

There's really nothing better for breakfast than fresh flatbread, torn into small pieces and wrapped around salty cheese or olives or dipped into olive oil and then zatar (a spice blend that varies from region to region and house to house). Cucumber and tomatos balance it out. And of course, hot sweet tea.

I remember how during a vacation with my husband on the Mediterranean coast we won over the waiters at the fancy hotel by always selecting the cucumbers, cheese, olives, yogurt, and flat break from the breakfast buffet instead of the "western" choices (pastries, corn flakes, or eggs). They also looked at us approvingly when we drank lemonade or orange juice with every meal instead of alcohol.

Paying attention to little habits and working to blend in rather than stand out with my choices was always a conscious effort when I was living in the Middle East but over the years such things became second nature and began to reshape my subconscious nature in ways that continue to surprise me.

I do serve my children traditional American items for breakfast and generally eat cearal myself. But if it is offered, I will go for the cheese, olives, and cucumbers every time! And maqdous! Someday, there will have to be an entire post about the joys of eating preserved eggplant stuffed with walnuts for breakfast!

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