Vanishing ways - Cooking in Egypt

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Some traditions or customs just vanish over time. Once you are 30 years or more, you start to see this for yourself, reminiscing over how things were like when you grew up, vs. how they are now.These are examples of societies evolving right before your eyes.Let take a few examples from Egypt, related to cooking for example.

Eid Cookies كحك العيد

For example, in the last week of the fasting month of Ramadan, women of a household, together with other women relatives and friends, used to spend days preparing "ka7k كحك" (sort of cookie dessert). It was an elaborate process, making the dough with genuine "samnah baladi سمنة بلدي" (clarified butter from water buffalo milk), making the fillings, whether it is cooked date paste "3agwa عجوة", or honey and nut mix "3agameyya عجمية", or a mix of cinnamon, sugar and nuts "ma3mool معمول". The indiviudal cookies themselves were decorated by a special tongue like tool called "mon2ash منقاش", so when it is sprinkled with powdered sugar, it would hold in the grooves. You can see a picture of how ka7k looks like.

It was also traditional to make Ghorayeba غريبة, which was peculiar in that it was made with no water at all, but by kneading the flour with the butter directly. It was decorated with a single half almond on top.

All this was not baked at home. It was not a tray or two, but an elaborate affair, where the cookies were spread on huge blackened trays (kept in storage for the entire year! Often in a "sandarah" سندرة which is a storage area concealed in the ceiling of an area in the house), then the trays were sent to the neighbourhood bakery, and then carried back home, and stored in large tins for consumption for months.

Ka7k was never sold in dessert shops until fairly recently, when certain enterprising ladies started making it at home and selling it to people, then the shops and bakeries caught on, and it became a thing to be bought and not made at home ...

Falafel فلافل

Another thing that is not made that often is one of the Egyptian National dishes, Falafel فلافل or "ta3meyya طعمية".

These are the fried fava beans patties.The process of making these is fairly elaborate. Ingredients include "Ful magroosh فول مجروش" (peeled fava beans, soaked in water overnight), fresh coriander sprigs, fresh parsley, onions, leeks, leftover stale bread, baking powder (or bicarbonate of soda). All this was put in a hand grinder, and made into a paste that is stored in the fridge and used with more baking powder and eggs when ready for frying, normally as a breakfast.

Today, people buy packaged falafel powder, which is quite good as well.

Ful Medames فول مدمس

Even "Ful Medames فول مدمس" (Fava beans), THE national dish in Egypt used to be made in a special way. It was put in a special metal container that fits on top of a kerosene lamp's "Lambah sahhari لمبة سهاري" glass hood, and left to slow cook overnight. This was adapted afterwards to the "damasah دماسة" slow cooker, with a container for water on top, so hot water was always available to add to the beans when the water level was low. This kept the temperature of the beans hot, and did not cause it to cool by adding cold water.Today, people use the pressure cooker, or simply buy canned Fava beans.

Couscous كسكسي

Finally, there is "koskosi", also known as "Couscous". Again, this was a communal activity, with several women collaborating for the undertaking.It was made by sprinkling warm water on flour and rubbing that mix between the palm of the hands, causing small pellets to fall off. These pellets were then cooked in a cloth over steam, using normal pots, or a special steamer.Couscous is a West Arab dish, with its origin in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia. From there it spread to Libya and Egypt. I do not know if these countries make it in the same way we used to make it in Egypt or not.Today, Couscous is sold dried in ready made packets, which is quite good too.

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Comments

Vanishing Egyptian recipe traditions

I am not Egyptian but was close to an Egyptian family that I loved dearly. Many of the vanishing dishes you mentioned were prepared lovingly by this family. But overtime and because of a lack of time they too succumbed to pre-packaged ingredients and fast food. It is really very sad because traditional foods and customs have a beauty to them and fill a human longing that goes beyond just eating. I hope that young Egyptian women will once again see the wisdom of their ancestors.
Thank you,

Kahk decorating tool

Where do I get the Kahk decorating tool?