Ahmed Jassem Al-Hussein continues to write about his visit to the south of the Euphrates after a migration that lasted more than ten years, only to discover that the “porridge” dish is still unshakable in the face of major changes caused by successive wars in northern and eastern Syria.
If “Sheep and Cattle” had lawyers to file a case against me, because the number of sacrifices made to celebrate me was a flock of sheep.
None of the guests could be convinced that I wanted to eat a plate of vegetables and when I asked one of the guests to replace the “sacrifice”, he replied harshly: “You want to ruin our reputation, we invite you to a plate “Vegetables, man! Has the Netherlands changed you so much? Have I forgotten you for the ten years you lived there and the forty years you lived among us?”
The race to these repetitive prayers shows the inability of individuals to emerge from the dominance of society and its customs, and from a mixture of generosity, appreciation, and pride, and it hurts me personally that a number of those who pray suffer from anxiety. and they were compelled to borrow the price of the sacrifice from their neighbors, but this does not bother them, for the Happiness which they gain through the rituals of prayer and answer, is far greater than the anguish which dwells in their head; To repay the debt.
I was reluctant to accept one of the invitations because I was aware of the charity’s condition and its exhausting circumstances, so my mother warned me: Do not refuse, my son, even dogs rejoice at the sacrifice! She continued: “O my son! Dogs will eventually burn bones. And how much will you eat? a quarter of a kilo? At most half a kilogram? “What is left will be eaten by other men, the elderly, women and children, who cannot easily eat meat in these circumstances.” And she continued: “You will receive a great reward and a heartfelt prayer, my son, from your consent to answer these calls, because in normal cases, if you” cut off the heads of those men “who insist on calling you , they will not slaughter their sheep, which is the most precious thing they have, for the sake of their families.
I almost protested what my mother said: Is there no less violent phrase than “if you cut off their heads”! As in Arabic, the phrase is softer than that?
When I saw the features of her face, the rest of her features, and her eyes, I could not help myself; I held her, as if to say, “Yama, keep my shadow as close as you can!”
Insisting that my mother accompany me in all my invitations, I paid no attention to my eyes of honor, contrary to a social custom that separates the world of women from men in food to make them into the next group of waste. traditions of patriarchal society, I know that as a guest will be entrusted with the first payment, I insisted that you be with me as a kind of commodity and desire to stay with me as long as possible, as I felt that many visitors were stealing from me time with my mother, to talk to me about things that did not interest me.
People in the Euphrates region are inclined to raise sheep to fulfill the duty of guest and to support the family, and to satisfy a sense of ownership, pride, devotion to clan customs, and sometimes a sense of security!
The “porridge” diet has remained stable over time. The main plate east of the Euphrates has not changed, it has not been changed by regimes or militias, it is the last thing left from the memories of those clans from their Bedouin roots, before they began to be settled about a century and a half ago. Accompanied by salads, sometimes nuts. These clans adhered to it as a form of community life and its cooks were forgotten, as men performed this task before being transferred to hidden women. The quality or lack of “porridge” is usually attributed not to the cook, but to the type of carcass, whether it is female or male, how old it is, how thick it is, and whether it is “fatty.” Porridge was a self-sufficient food, the luxury of the name was enough: bread, meat, gravy and fat, but the days changed, and it included rice, onions, poppies and spices.
This was the only main meal in the Euphrates region in the nineteenth century, before the era of agriculture and settlements, what a spiritual peace: a kitchen with a main course. Euphrates cuisine developed later with the introduction of vegetables and the Euphrates began to try to look for new dishes, taking advantage of the vegetables produced, the sheep and their milk. However, with it, at a time when cooking became a global issue. during the official banquets, the porridge remained neat and the change of one’s determination from another was not mentioned by the quality of the cooking, but by the number of sacrifices, as is the case with Forat.
At every invitation there was someone who gave himself the role of minced meat and laid it in front of me, for my sake, I wish I had not given up the “keto” diet to fight the “fifty belly” caused by laziness and Dutch nature and climate. He who crushes the flesh and places it before me knows which parts of the corpse are best, to please his guest with it.
I was full early, but I was not the first to come out of the table, out of respect for the caller, and watch the hands of the men rushing, as if on a certain task, and just one of them. got up until everyone got up with him. Observe the principles of group eating: eat from what you have nearby and darken in the porridge pit and do not walk horizontally in order to press the meat in front of you, it is your task to harmonize between horizontal and vertical, in order to save meat for other table partners. In our early youth we were taught that if you darken the hole and then dig under a piece of meat, you will go down into your hole, without appearing to the audience that you have it in mind.
I was in a hurry to eat; I leave some meat in the bones, and bury parts of it under the rice, no one has seen before, for I know that there are children and women waiting for the rest of the smell of meat, and they will prepare the ball and try with the bones for suck their marrow and eat, maybe a man was in love with him and he was not hard on the joints, so it is a joy to find in the heart of the rice a sudden piece of meat.
The porridge requires a lot of preparation and preparation, starting with the slaughter and the skin, until it is done in circular copper pots made in Aleppo, but eaten for ten minutes. Unlike Dutch cooking, which is cooked for half an hour, and often boiled vegetables and boiled potatoes are the mainstay of the Dutch main course, while the session goes on for hours around the dining table in the term amsterdam tafelen, that a Dutch friend . had notified me before, I told her that letter It takes about ten hours to cook grapes in Aleppo’s kitchen, which she commented by saying: This is pure Syrian madness!
One of my cousins’s youngsters was putting laurel soap in a small container and its scent started sticking to my nose and fingers, as if it had come from a long time ago. The young man brings the big “basin” with a container of water to my place with a towel that he puts on his shoulder.
This scene brought me back to beautiful childhood memories, as I played this role for many years in front of my father’s guests, who caressed his son as he grew up and my intention at the time was for the guest to ask me: Who am I? me? Or what am I studying? What is important is that he bothers me with some interest; He compensates me for not eating with men.
My questions remained open about my experience and I did not dare to be honest with everyone about them: how does this society sacrifice the needs of the people of the house in the interest of social needs and how does the guest indulge in front of the people of the house? What value system is it? And who would believe this scene where individuality above all!
As soon as I see a pot of tea, served quickly after the porridge, my mother’s face comes to me, which if it is eight in the morning and she has not drunk the tea, her head hurts. Everything from home can be lost except tea and sugar.
Women warn their husbands that they should buy more, as there are about two kilograms of sugar left in the kitchen, in the hope that it will end on Friday, e.g. so tea was deprived, or we had to borrow enough tea and sugar from the neighbors for a number of cans, as the loss of the house broke all the rules of formal relations with the neighbors.
Today these opportunities were canceled, as Friday lost the privacy of closing the shops and when we found no tea paper, my mother said: “I saw the package that cut my shoelace and if you can the paper Sully, a cup with Jay.”
The folk poems that my mother cries when she drinks tea are suitable for messages to a lover and not for a cup of tea like: “Brother, brother, he is my freshness and he is my cover, do not neglect. syri. ” But if someone offered her milk after lunch, she would reply, “I do not drink Shanina Abus Rab al-Jay.” My mother would not understand what a contemporary poet said: “Geidan is coming in the afternoon / Coal from above / Mo Chai / It is summer and people are drunk.”
Different types of tea passed through the eastern Euphrates region, where my father bought it in boxes, rough, original Ceylon tea, we were racing to reserve a seat next to it when he starts to open the thin, rolled wooden box. in tin from the inside, and the wood of the box is often reserved in advance by a neighbor To close a window, make a small box, or arrange something in the house. Although no surprises await us, after we opened the box, it closed and opened in front of us, carrying a special joy to a stage when we take it out of everything that does not happen every day, into a life without electricity. TV or the internet, joy was much easier to achieve than today, when joy is temporary and temporary. Joy at that time was near and simple, and when life became complex and flowing, joy became a bird after which we run without realizing it.
Later we were disappointed when we learned that the source of the tea is the same, and the brands are nothing but fillers for it, and a purely commercial business.In fact, the factory may be one, but each brand requires several characteristics. and flavors from the same plant, perhaps, in color, flavor or size: “Ahmed tea Mahmood tea, Doji Ghazal, cherry tea and Lipton tea. And when tea became an issue related to social networks, we were surprised by the idea that tea should not be boiled with water, but water should be boiled, then tea is added and left to ferment. For our people, the issue has not changed, if tea and sugar are not boiled enough, to lose and mix the features, then tea has no taste.
I dare not be honest with my mother that Holland made me drink sugar-free tea and that the Dutchman can use a Lipton tea envelope for more than a cup, so I drink tea with him and look at each other as if we have a secret to keep, as if to say: Do you remember the day I treated tea breakfasts on a journey that began half a century ago, the day you took me out of the bay for tea and cottage cheese, as the best that our village environment a day would allow.
My mother would not believe that I was addicted to coffee, if I told her about it and that I drink about a liter of coffee a day, I live in one of the countries that loves coffee more, I got used to it because over the years I have worked with the Dutch, and coffee for the Dutch is tea for my mother, they drink it with breakfast, lunch and breakfast and in the middle of the day, as for the six o’clock meal, coffee is missing. from the Dutch table, to bring in its place alcohol, which is equal to milk and water Ayran or Pepsi and Cola in many Arab societies.
When my mother found me immersed in my anomalies, she looked at me and read what was going on in my head, as if she did not know the time machine and its rotation, and said, “Ahmed, my son, sugar is. A mystic who “he loved the tea and spent himself with it in the coals of the merchandise, and together they brought out the heavy cup of tea that we drink every morning, do not compare it with any other drink, for it is the same texture and nothing. I like it!”.