When I was growing up the first question we asked a new friend was “What are you?” Those who said something like “Irish” or “Italian” had it easy. When I said “Syrian” I got the blank look, sometimes suspicious. Once I figured out the location of Syria, I tried the geographical explanation. That didn’t help. No one knew or cared about geography.
My family were foreigners to the West by-God! Virginians and what we ate was also foreign. Now we say “exotic.” I’m still amazed when my friends haul out pita, olives, and hummus for snacks. Now everybody even knows the various spellings for tabbouli. I once asked my mother why she never made falafel. She raised her brows and said “That’s street food!” My mother was a purist, in more ways than that.
I see that the new restaurants are hawking imjaddrah, either alone or as a base for meat or veggies. In my day imjaddrah was what we had to eat on Friday, the day of abstinence, if mother didn’t want to fry fish. And other than perch, there was no fish worth frying in West Virginia. I still remember the day I saw that large jar with baba Ghanoug swimming in olive oil. I was afraid of it!
What are you? Tell me something about you.
Then in my first blog, I’ll tell you about my worst bad decision – Greeks have been known to bear… In my next blog, Extempore Speech, I’ll tell you how shooting off my mouth led me to writing.
I have a BA in English from Wheeling Jesuit University, an MA in English and Drama from John Carroll University, and graduate courses from Ohio University.
I taught English at John Carroll University, West Virginia University, and Ohio University. My longest tenure was at Ohio Dominican University where I was Director of the Academic Center and a Lecturer in Humanities.