My book club met to discuss an Egyptian book, so I decided to make an Egyptian dish, ful medames.
Ful medames is a meal of cooked fava beans dating back to Ancient Egypt then exported to other parts of the Arab world, such as Djibouti, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
It seemed the perfect accompaniment to our lively discussion of banned book, War in the Land of Egypt by Yusuf Al Qa’id to commemorate Arab American Heritage Month.
The book was difficult to read at times due to it’s too close to home subject matter, but unanimously loved by everyone. Right away it was noted that, despite it being written about the eve of the 1973 October war, it was very timely due to our current politically nepotism. It showcases a case of the privileges bestowed upon those with money and power. From Amazon review:
This book tells the story of Masri (the only character with a name), a young Egyptian peasant who is sent into the Egyptian army on the eve of the 1973 Yom Kippur war in place of a rich man’s son. Al-Qa’id tells his tale from several different perspectives: that of the village headman (the Umda) whose son Masri will replace; the broker who finds Masri; the hapless young man’s father; his friend; his commanding officer; and finally, the investigator sent to look into the switch. The one character we do not hear from is Masri.
It soon becomes apparent why this book was banned in Egypt, as Al-Qa’id uses the events surrounding the war to indict the bureaucratic corruption and social inequality rife in his country. Each character represents a different facet of Egyptian society with Masri himself, by virtue of his name (which, in Arabic, translates as “Egyptian”), standing for Everyman. Political this novel doubtless is, but it is also a masterfully crafted piece of fiction and a genuine page-turner as well. –Alix Wilber
The ful medames was also a hit and everyone helped themselves to seconds, which to an Arab is the highest compliment. I had never made ful before but had eaten it hundreds of times growing up. It was my father’s favorite meal and simple one he mastered When my mother was at school studying for her PhD, he would make it for us. All. The. Time. I got so sick of it that I never ate it again once I left home for college.
But because it’s such a staple known Egyptian food, it would have been wrong to serve anything else with such an adumbrate political book.
Boiled eggs (optional)
Feta cheese (optional)
Add the fava beans, cumin and garlic in a pot with a cup of water and let it boil. You can buy the beans whole or cheat and buy them canned (in which case, just use the water from the can).
Lower the temperature to simmer and let sit for two hours, stirring occasionally. The beans are cooked until very soft. In ancient times, the ful was left simmering in large copper jars throughout the night, to be served from the next morning.
While the beans are cooking, chop up the tomatoes, boil the eggs and crumble the cheese. Place all in separate bowls with spoons to have available for toppings.
Once your ful is ready, Scoop it up in bowls, top with olive oil and pass on to family and friends to pick their own individualized toppings.
Enjoy with a side of couscous with grilled veggies.
We ended our evening with a healthy dessert of halwa and fig crackers. Please stop by A Crafty Arab on Pinterest to see more recipes from the Arab world.