Filling a void - Iraqi food

Wonderful story -- from the Wall Street Journal:

Shawarma, Ready-to-Eat: Arab Cuisine Invades Camp Pendleton
Denise Hazime, a Muslim woman, contacted food services officials here last July with what she thought might sound like a preposterous proposal: She wanted to open an Arabic food stand on the largest Marine base on the West Coast.

It turned out to be an appetizing idea. Marines returning from Iraq and the Persian Gulf were pining for pita, according to focus-group surveys conducted on the base.

Last month, Ms. Hazime and her husband, a Marine veteran, opened "Dede Med's Shawarma House" - the first Arabic food stand on a base with a daytime population of 60,000 hungry Marines and civilians.

Minutes after the place opened, Travis Post, a Marine captain from Oklahoma who had been stationed in Iraq for seven months, pulled up in his car. "So you've really got shawarma back there?" Mr. Post asked, referring to the spicy grilled meat sandwich popular throughout the Middle East.

"You want one?" asked Ms. Hazime's husband, Crisantos Hajibrahim, who was working the cash register.

"Heck, yeah!" Mr. Post responded. While training Iraqi police, he had shared meals with locals daily. "There was a lot of lamb in my life," he says.

As Mr. Post grabbed his $7 sandwich and walked away, he yelled,"You'll see me next week."

For decades, American troops have been on the front lines of foreign cuisine, sampling exotic foods during even the most dangerous conflicts.

Since 2001, more than 2 million military service members have been deployed to the Middle East. While many take their meals on U.S. bases there that serve American-style food, those sent to villages and neighborhoods quickly learn about lamb, flat bread, and the ubiquitous chickpea. In the Middle East, shared meals are often a key part of forming bonds and winning trust.

"They're deploying to that part of the world and they're developing a taste for that kind of product," says Lane Jones, Camp Pendleton's director of community services.

Camp Pendleton - a sprawling, 125,000 acre base 38 miles from downtown San Diego, had already been expanding its cuisine, adding Mexican, Chinese and soul-food places. But Ms. Hazime's shawarma stand is a more delicate proposition than the base's planned opening of a Panda Express selling Americanized Chinese food.

"This is not about war. This is not about politics. This is about shawarma," said Ms. Hazime. "And falafel," she said, referring to the fried chickpea patties, a big part of the cuisine.

Very cool -- wonderful food. When I used to work at Microsoft, they would have guest chefs visit on a rotating basis and there was one who did wonderful Middle Eastern food. We are fortunate to have an excellent M.E. stand in Bellingham as well as three very good Greek restaurants.

I love her quote: "This is not about politics. This is about shawarma," said Ms. Hazime. And falafel"

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This page contains a single entry by DaveH published on March 15, 2010 10:08 AM.

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