Last night was one of these days where one pops into some friends’ place with the kids for a short chat and it transpires into an amazing moment that brings joy to a heart whenever it is remembered.
My two children were having a blast of a time with our dear friends’ boy and the parents were just sitting down around the table munching on yummy cold pizzas talking about nothing in particular. At one point, I realized that I was talking too much and remembered a funny incident that I had experienced during my university years in Beirut, Lebanon.
My parents had sent me abroad to study and join a university which, for generations, my family attended and graduated from. I had a few relatives with me at university and made loads of friends from different parts of the region.
One day a relative of mine, whom I had never met but heard much about, called me. She was one of the families whose parents were forced to leave Palestine and were dispersed around the region. Some went to Egypt, others to Lebanon or Iraq, many others to Jordan and a few to Canada and the US of A. I heard of my Al-Farouki family but I never once met them. My mother told me that they had some relatives there but that, due to the Civil War in Lebanon, they had lost touch and were unsure of how to get back in contact with them.
Anyway to cut a long story short, one of these relatives visited the extended family in Amman and met my mother who then told her that I was studying at the university in Beirut. She immediately made contact with me when she went back home and I was invited, along with two of my cousins, to her home for an Iftar during the month of Ramadan.
As I am sure many of you know, during Ramadan, one fasts (no food or water) from sunrise to sunset to feel with the poor and to work on controlling and improving oneself.
And I am also sure you can imagine how university students long to have a home cooked meal from time to time and especially when they are starving. I was one of those starving students who were homesick and longing to have a taste of their mother’s cooking. I was SO looking forward to it.
I must also mention that my mother and grandmother are fantastic cooks but never once cooked anything with an animal’s extra insides such as brains, intestines, stomach and the like… Never having been introduced to such ‘delicacies’ meant that I was not expecting someone else in the family to delve into cooking such dishes.
After warm appreciations for inviting us for iftar, we sat down at the beautifully set table ready to say the short prayers of gratitude to ourselves before breaking our fast. I looked at the table and spotted a dish which by the looks of it was one of my favorite Palestinian dishes ever. It is called fateh and my mother and tata made it with eggplants, minced meat cooked in pomegranate molasses, toasted bread on the bottom, garlic yogurt with fried pine nuts and a sprinkle of chopped parsley on top. I was so excited to see that dish in front of me… I wanted so much to taste dishes from home especially when my usual fast-breaking-meal was a packet of instant soup, salad and a chicken shawerma (Good food to break my fast with but it was nothing compared to a home cooked meal of course).
As our hospitable host was placing the fateh on my plate, I said, “Eggplant Fateh Yum, thank you so much!” and she responded, “No, it is Tongue Fateh!”
Alas!.... It was already on my plate and there was nothing I could say or do. I had never eaten tongues before! What was I to do? I stared at the plate and pretended to be excited about eating it.
When my mother’s voice filtered through the many voices that were trying to figure a way out of this... “Eat what is being placed in front of you and be thankful that you have food on your plate!”
So I succumbed to my fortune and mother’s voice and ate the dish… I had two tongues to cut and eat and I must admit that it was not as bad as I thought it would be.
BUT… it certainly had a strange effect on me. I went back to my dorms and I kept blabbering and talking non stop… The words continued to roll off my tongue for hours ...until I went to bed… After all I had an extra two tongues that day!