Congratulations, tea and politics: Memories of Iraqi food in a hundred years

It is customary when we speak of Iraqi food and cuisine, to go directly to the Sumerian, Babylonian, and later Abbasid al-Baghdadi cuisine, which was known for its variety and richness, as narrated by Nights of a Thousand and One Nights, and with his recipes written by a number of men. Yet despite this historical wealth, the participant in this hadith, or the reader in this regard, feels the lack of adequate interest on the part of local Iraqi scholars in the culture of Iraqi food in the last hundred years of the life of the modern Iraqi nation (it is mentioned that there are books in English for Iraqi scholars), as rarely What we find is a book that deals with the history of food and its changes in this period, especially in the last four decades, in which the Iraqi taste experienced many events, starting with the displacements it experienced under siege, through the war, and later, the birth of dozens of modern restaurants and the entry of new flavors into the country. Iraqi biographical books, memoirs, and novels in this regard constitute an alternative arena full of dozens of details about Iraqi food and its people in the twentieth century, but the presence of food in these biographies does not mean that its images are not influenced by style. . of each person in his autobiographical novel; There are those who found the Garden of Eden in Iraq, so you see that this perception is quickly reflected in the image of Iraqi cuisine, which appears rich and full of movement, recipes and fun, while you see that there is another biography that seems to remember Iraq, it can not escape the obsession of tyranny it experienced and therefore it would seem Food in these bios is also concerned and carries other stories of misery and state control over taste, recipes and ingredients. Therefore, it can be said that food in the Iraqi biography is not a material component, or just keeps the smell of the past and its people, but rather, its memory becomes a reconfiguration of the past, so food becomes a carrier and a participant in re-reading the memory and life of Iraq in the twentieth century, especially at the level of politics, sectarianism and war in this country.

Baghdad and the food of the Garden of Eden

The first of the recently published memoirs that contained stories about Iraqi food and people are the memoirs of Iraqi Jew Violet Shammas, who lived in Baghdad until the 1940s (the events of Farhud 1941 against the city’s Jews). It was beautiful. The nostalgia that Deacon felt after her emigration to Europe had to be reflected in the way she recorded the past, so that Baghdad before World War I and until the 1940s appeared in the eyes of Violet, the most beautiful city in world, not in its time. but over the centuries.City of life and the Jews have a role no less influential and prestigious than the role of the Muslims. And when she decided to write her memoirs, the food paths seemed to be one of her entrances to the past, and because it was a beautiful time, Iraqi cuisine here would look rich and varied, starting with kibe and fish veins made by cooking rice, fish and herbs, and beet kibe, which combines sour and sweet kibe, and okra kibe with mint flavor. And lemon, and it’s Tibetan Jewish, chicken stuffed with rice and grilled with Tibetan eggs left unpeeled until “if the food is cooked and we peel it off, we find that the color of the eggs has turned brown.” And there was the Mahashi, which consisted of vegetables, minced meat, rice, parsley, mint, and trowers or straw. neighborhood and city history.It also describes the types of food served during the spring holidays; They placed on their tables various kinds of dried fruits like figs, dates, plums, apricots and raisins, as if saying goodbye and preparing to get fresh fruit.One of the funny stories she mentions is also related to some kind of dessert, like chocolate, as it confirms that the Iraqis did not know it before World War I, but with the British entering Baghdad after the withdrawal of the Ottomans, while their soldiers were distributing chocolates and chewing gum.And after a while the English would also get into the subject of mechanizing most of the mills, but the common people refused to grind them for a while long.

An Iraqi man cooks rice during a religious event

Despite what she recalled about Iraqi food at the time, Violet was unable to draw a picture of the food of the poor, probably because it was feelings of nostalgia that pushed her to create a beautiful view of the past, and also because he was from a wealthy family (Faisal I lived in their house when he came to Iraq) and therefore no We only know the food of the rich (based on meat, chickpeas and chicken) except for a passing photograph for which I spoke, and perhaps reflects a little on the food of the poor or to transfer popular food, as you recall that on the Al-Rasheed street “Amba (sandwich) rolls” (pickled mango) were sold and that old women were sitting on the street corners with a large pot full of boiled beans next to them, so they mixed it with dry bread, is a man who boils lamb bones and pots in a large pot and invites passers-by to taste the bread soaked in its juice.
Unlike this picture until the forties, the Iraqi food and drink scene will change slightly in the fifties and sixties, and we will approach, through the memories of some Iraqis, the food of the political elites and the state will emerge. (a political body) as a small participation in determining the quantities and recipes of some foods and even some drinks (tea and ways to drink it) and this is something we did not see in Violet’s biography (or because the Jews had a good relations. with the British), as there was no state on the map of Iraqi taste before the 1950s (although there are those who linked the British and the automatic bread industry to the formation of the totalitarian state In Syria e.g.), while the state of Iraq in the 1950s would appear most prominent before returning to the chief chef during the siege period.
And the biography of Iraqi anthropologist Balqis Sharara, “Thus Days Passed,” traces the beginning of this state show, and because Sharara is primarily interested in the history of chefs, food formed a cornerstone in her memory of Iraq. and the house of her father-in-law (Iraqi politician Kamel Chadirji), as she recalls that during World War II the Iraqi government (under the British) first issued a living book, which sets out the monthly consumption of each. family of rice, tea, sugar and flour, and what you show here is that this issue led at a certain period to the change in the habits of the Iraqis in eating tea, as it was drunk with sugar in large quantities they were forced to a time to reduce its amount. As for tea, she also recalls that in the 1950s, the family of her fiancé, Rifaat al-Jardji, drank milk tea, a custom not uncommon among Iraqis, except for the elite who traveled to spend the summer in . Europe, so we see here that the elite sometimes differs from the public through its drinks, but in terms of food, it will retain its traditional cuisine. For example, we do not find her, for example, in her recipes for dining sessions. in the house of her political husband’s family, on Western food, but more on eggplants and eggplant dressings, and we do not know if this applies to the royal palace cooking.The important thing is that the liberal national elites at the time she seems close in its disposition to traditional urban food, while the son of this family (Yarsari al-Hawa) would later decide on marriage not to bring cooking oven.All Iraqi leftists, or what were their eating habits during the sixties.

Chef of the Republic…

Either way, what we learn from Belqis’s memory of food is the beginning of the state’s existence in Iraqi cuisine, and that does not mean that it did not exist in the past, but has become more present, and that will reinforced in the 1980s and 1990s, as the Iraqi novelist Khudair Falih al-Zaidi tells us. the state seems to be the main chef in Iraqi cuisine and Iraqi food appears as it undergoes changes in light of the war and its developments. The first of these developments will occur with the arrival of the Egyptians during the eighties; They will bring plates of beans and falafel and change the way Iraqis drink tea, using large cups instead of small ones (Istikan), as they added Sahlab. However, the most important development that will take place, we will see with the rich image that Al-Zaidi will capture in 1991 when the authority decided to establish the system of rations and distribute its dictionary with approved coupons. This ration consisted of from twelve different food items. , with legumes, large and small milk, rice, ghee, tea, sugar, cigarettes and tomato paste. Toothpaste and razor and in Ramadan from one chicken for each individual card. In addition, quota agents created, in most cases, a street-view room to distribute the ration. Over many years, these agents became influential and monitored all registered entities.

Iraq during the siege

In his autobiography on Iraqi food, he adopts a scientific discourse, as he sees that these food rations led to the birth of another Iraqi person on the one hand. The Iraqi woman tended to be a dwarf, her skin turned yellow and her belly appeared. Excessive consumption of carbohydrates and lack of protein in men led to the creation of rounded stomachs and wide backs, and even became new self-attributes. Thus, we see here that Iraqi food in recent decades has not always been an optional issue, rather it results from the choice of state and it is a choice, even if the conditions of the siege have imposed it, but the state found in is an opportunity for imposed more by its comprehensive recipes and to unify Iraqi taste (diversity of tastes seems synonymous with opposition to the regime) and this is what we see in the way it distributes food rations. While the cook of the Republic (state supply institutions) fed the Iraqis on the first, second and third day of each month, meat juice, meat juice and beans, and on the other three days, the juice of crushed chickpeas or red lentils, etc. for the rest of the month. And because in restoring the past is sometimes an attempt to change the present, Al-Zaidi hints that Iraqis remained captive to the Republican model in their food and diet patterns (eating large amounts of tuna for example / rice), and therefore they were incapable of overcoming this past, and here the break with the food patterns we inherited appears as an entrance that does not. Zayd here is that he expanded the field of memory of Iraqi food and was able to study the impact of the Republican period on the reconfiguration of Iraqi cuisine.

Syrian writer

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