The Soup

Posted on February 28, 2006


Like all Egyptian persons, I can’t eat soup of any description without lemon juice in it. I had thought this was a worldwide phenomenon till I moved here and found that people were content to eat fatty concoctions that slipped blandly down their throats. I have not abandoned my quest, however. Every time I purchase soup I begin the Lemon Pursuit afresh. It’s always been my strategy to ignore all the evidence of reason and past experience. It’s definitely genetic. The conversation usually goes like this:
Me: I was wondering if you had any slices of lemon.
Cafeteria person: Lemon? (As if I’d asked for lightly flavoured arsenic.)
Me: Yes, you know, a slice of lemon. Or lime.
Caf person: Lemon?
Me: Yes, you know lemons?
Caf person: (Light dawns) We have lemon tarts…
Me: No, I want a slice of a real lemon. For squeezing in soup.
Caf person: Soup?! (Outright panic) No, no, we don’t have lemons.
Me: OK, thanks.
My boyfriend (M) witnessed this exchange once. It’s a good thing he delights in socially difficult situations created by me. Consider the following. We were having a reasonably romantic meal at a nice Italian restaurant, and I ordered minestrone soup. I took a deep breath and asked for some lemon. Our waiter, a large jovial man, looked at me and said, “You must be Mediterranean. Where are you from?”
“Egypt,” I said.
He shook my hand. “Ahlan wa sahlan, el oloob 3and ba3daha.” I had suspected that he was Egyptian (only we can grow bellies of that magnitude) but then again, he had a shiny Canadian accent, especially considering that he was in his 40’s, and was, after all, a waiter. I couldn’t see Egyptian parents allowing this. It was even more surprising that his Arabic was equally good. He brought the lemon wedges.
“I’m always asking for lemon, I’m so happy I’ve finally found some,” I said ecstactically.
“Yeah, I know, right? And they always give you just one even when they have them. A slice. How are you supposed to squeeze it?”
“Totally!” I squealed. M looked on this bonding exchange in bemusement (and amusement).
“What is the deal with this lemon stuff anyway?” he said.
The waiter explained how lemon helps to break down the fat on which most soups are based and make it easier to digest. This is a commonly held Egyptian belief that is wholly unsubstantiated by fact. I just like to de-bland stuff. Still I was glad that for once my “pickyness” about food was met with approval, and indeed, “hearts in agreement”.
Posted in: Egyptians, food