I am a food lover.
As a Southern Italian, I can tell that my roots infused in me a love for food and abundance and knowledge of how to properly cultivate this ”practice.” Not only going out to fancy restaurants, but mostly just cooking at home. Savoring a home-made meal, that your own hands created is a delightful luxury to me.
Today, I am living away from my homeland in the Middle East, and I can guarantee that Arabic food is no joke itself. Arabic food is warm and cozy; it’s nourishing and passionate; it’s strong and dominant, with a wide variety of spices and aromas that carry the untold secrets of the human civilization. Arabic cuisine awakens your senses.
This love story started almost two years ago in Lebanon, where I was taking an intensive Arabic course. I was coming out of an intense period of stress and I was severely underweight. Once I got to Lebanon, I started to eat everything, until I discovered again the pleasure of eating a real meal which requires some time to make and eat.
You’ve probably heard about hummus, the evergreen chickpea-based recipe to eat anytime and the ultimate glorious feature of the Middle East gastronomy. Along with it, you can find a wide range of vegetarian dishes healthy for your tummy such as fatteh, a super-food bowl which includes chickpeas dipped in a sauce of plain yogurt and garlic, roasted pita bread and fried almonds to garnish. Then there’s mutabbal, an eggplant dip or a fava bean pâté, which is named here foul. These are just some of the most famous starters or ‘mezzeh‘, a must-have during a Middle Eastern breakfast. It might be sounds strange to everyone that I am not lamenting how much I miss the Italian spaghetti or pizza, right?.
But I do miss Italian food. Luckily I love Arabic food enough not to try to escape from my current country and its restricted range of pizzas.
I know that it’s possible to cook Italian, if I choose to, but I’m immersing myself in my new culture, and that includes my diet. I also believe that precision is indispensable for a simple recipe to succeed, soI refuse to buy the mozzarella cheese that is a very mediocre processed cheese to put on my ”parmigiana.”
In life and as well in cooking, you can’t always compromise. That explains why my curiosity toward the traditions of the country where I am settled now, as well as my good appetite, brought me to learn some Arabic recipes and eventually to adopt a pretty typical Jordanian diet. Day by day, I am learning the small cooking tips that turn a regular dinner into a tale from The Arabian Nights. This also means that while I am preferring a local diet and choosing the ingredients that the country originally produced I am helping the environment and being budget-friendly too.
In this way, I’ve arrived at what sustainable eating means for me.
I’ve been strictly vegetarian for 6 years and when some health issues recently came up for me, I convinced myself to try eating some animal proteins for a while. Jordan and its neighboring countries are not into to the latest trend of clean-eating and all the marketing campaigns typically associated with it – such as the queue of STAY FIT! EAT GREEN! PLANT-BASED! Not to mention the fact that where I live now, tofu and other meat alternatives are hard to find. While I’m still redefining my idea of healthy eating, at the present moment I’m also opting for the fruits and the vegetables that grow always in abundance in Jordan. Maybe, when I’m back in the Western world, I will replace my dairy yogurt with an almond milk yogurt, but who knows?
Not knowing the future, at the present moment I honor my choices (not only with food) and I just try to make them as mindful as possible.
What is sustainable eating for you ?. I would love to read your comments below!