Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Quasi-Vegetarianism & Being Spoon-fed

With the most awesome holiday weekend behind us,
I started to reflect on my eating habits.
However, in my reflections,
I’ve realized that they are not necessarily MY habits.
What I eat completely depends on who I’m with.

Let’s break it down:
I’m guaranteed to be
in an Arab home three days of the week,
and American homes two of those days.
It really only leaves
two days of the week up to chance,
and chances are,
it’ll be an Arab kidnapping me to feed me.
Really, it’s exhausting.

The food here is… delicious.

There is only one dish that I have found I don’t really care for,
but the rest I could [and do] eat any day of the week.
And I’ve noticed two things. The first is that I have become a quasi-vegetarian.

Not out of choice, but out of circumstances.
Because I am continually accepting last-minute meal and tea invitations, I don’t plan meals for myself. So I can’t pull some chicken out of the freezer and know for sure when I will be home to cook it.

[Last time I did that it sat out overnight because I completely forgot about it, got invited to a friend’s house, accepted that invitation, and came home so late that I had no need to enter the kitchen. Meat’s expensive and I can’t be wasting it and my money like that. So now I just don’t plan. But when I do come home, the meat’s still frozen. And even though I would love to eat that frozen chicken, I’m too hungry to defrost it and I end up eating whatever I can make in ten minutes. If I’m not making a meal for someone or if I’m not eating with some friends, I don’t have meat. It’s a classic case of quasi-vegetarianism, don’t you agree?]

I’ve also started taking advantage of being single in this matter. Since I don’t have anyone that I have to cook for [say, a husband and kids] I go ahead and eat whatever I can find. Peanut butter & jelly for dinner? Yes, please. People who don’t really know me just assume that I’m single because I can’t cook and invite me to bring a salad or drinks [puh-leeez] to whatever gathering we’re having. Rather than being offended, I enjoy this and save time and money.

The second point of reflection I’ve come upon is that I am often spoon-fed. I don’t get to choose what goes in my mouth. Now, the first time this happened, it was a lovely old grandma, covered in black, missing a few teeth. I tried to tell her that I was full and so happy with the food, thanks be to God, and that I couldn’t take one.more.bite. With jungle cat-like reflexes she picked up her spoon, grabbed my jaw and promptly [and efficiently I might add] shoveled food into my mouth. I was in shock. Grandma had just spoon-fed me. She was very satisfied with herself and I had no idea what to do. With all eyes on me, I quietly smiled, started chewing and mumbled a “zaki” [delicious] and a “shukran” [thank you] in her direction.

Since then, it’s become a common occurrence. Sometimes I’m able to gingerly avoid the spoon-feeding events, other times I know I have to succumb. It’s like they get together over tea and camel races, talking about how they make me eat, keeping score of who has force-fed me the most. I don’t really mind it, but I definitely don’t prefer it. I rarely get to dish up my own food, and even if they let me, I know a few minutes later they will be heaping more on my plate, while they just graze and eat a fraction of what I have to. I can never eat enough—I’m so rude.

Then come the speeches on how much weight I’ve lost or how much I’ve gained; how I’m not as fat as I used to be or how I need to “be careful.” But I’m saving that for another day.

All I know is that I decided that when I make something and they try to refuse, I take on their very character and force them. Unfortunately, I don’t think my friends recognize their own medicine. The only thing they can’t get enough of is chocolate-chip cookies. I’ve created monsters.


  1. I just read and commented on last week's post too. But I can SO RELATE to this. I've never been spoon fed, I must say. Have you ever tried eating really slowly? In my country you can never win this battle. I leave food on my plate, so they won't give me more, but then they ask, "Didn't you like it??? Finish it!" And yes, I get comments about my weight too!

  2. ha, ha...read the spoon-feeding grandma part at our morning staff meeting. It's always good to start the day with a laugh.

  3. I've been hand fed with food someone has already bitten off of.

    But, hey - you can't show us those photos and not include some sort of recipes!!!

    A thought about the quazi vegatarian thing. Here's an idea.. buy meat, cook it, cut it up into serving sizes and freeze it that way. If you pull it out, you don't have to worry - just either eat it quickly as it won't take much to cook, or put it in the fridge for another fast meal.

    Since most of our family's meals start out with the same steps - fry an onion, add ground beef, and garlic and seasonings... I keep some already fried up ground beef with onion, garlic, and seasonings precooked but frozen. It makes a quick meal easy, too.

    It might work for you, too. Cook the chicken and freeze it in small sections. But vegetables are fine, too.

  4. This was hilarious! I think I just gained ten pounds looking at the photos, thank you very much. The culture here is very different. You don't have to eat everything on your plate because the hostess is expected to give you a doggie bag to take home enough food for the rest of your family. I like this system better. No one knows if you liked their food or not.

  5. I can totally relate to being conspired against about food! When I was an exchange student in Japan, I changed host families every 2 months (everyone wanted to share me:). One host mother would talk to the next and they all determined to out do each other. I easily gained 50 lbs! I thought the American diet was high carb! I ate more carbs in Japan than anywhere else!

  6. OTree: I feel like I've tried everything! I only eat when they're "looking at me," I take tiny bites, I chew my food for forever, I put my spoon down in between bites, I say I'm on a diet or that the Dr. said I couldn't eat so much, or I'm training for a run--I have a special diet. Nothing works. I hate it/it's really funny.
    Editor: I'm so glad. ;)
    Ellie: There's no such thing as a recipe here. I video my friends making food & they can't identify the spices they put in... because they don't know the English name & I have no clue as to the Arabic & it's also in a recycled Nescafe jar with no label. And they don't measure (this is my favorite part) they just dump it in til it looks good. But you could definitely google this food & get an idea & give it a try. Please report back on this!! And thanks for the advice on the pre-cooked meat. Many-an-American-mom has tried to get me to do this, just short of doing it FOR me, but it always requires that I'm home for a meal to use this meat & also for an extended period of time to actual cook & freeze it. Yes, my time at home is that sparse. It's amazing to me & my roommate. I recommend this to new people by the way--like I actually do it & find it to be a lifesaver... is that bad?? haha.
    Jamie Jo: One word for you: NEEALEK!!!! (you're lucky!!!!!) I get stuffed and then rolled out with leftovers, too. But yes, I definitely like your system better. Maybe you should be my next stop.
    BCCC Mamma: 50lbs? That. Is. Incredible. I freaked out about 10. You win, lady--you win. Did you like the food at least? I'm addicted. :)


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