Across the street from the building where I work, a new Middle Eastern market opened. My company recently moved to the new location as well so we definitely wanted to make friends with the folks who own the market…you know, being neighborly. The guys who own it are super friendly and a lot of fun. A co-worker and I were in there the other day and one of the owners took us around through the store and showed us a lot of the goods they sold. We talked about different foods and cooking and a little bit of everything. As we were talking, he opened a bottle of olive oil and a bag of bread and another of green za’atar (which I learned, is wheat, thyme, sumac and sesame). We dipped our bread and ate way too much standing around goofing off.
Our friend watched us eat every bite, trying to tell if we liked it or if we were about to run out the door. He suggested some spicy pickles and awesome hummus and all sorts of other things. We loaded our baskets with all sorts of things. I think we passed the test because he finally took us over to the jars of makdous (check this out…Arabic for makdous: المكدوس It’s sort of pretty. I love wikipedia). I am not sure if you folks have ever seen a jar of makdous but it looks as if it belongs in a biology lab. I could only describe it in fairly crude terms which I won’t directly mention…hmm…let’s just call it the dead things in oil.
Our friend showed us one brand and said that we could bring them back if we didn’t like it. I am not one to shy away from much of anything so we bought a jar and headed back to the office. I read the label and makdous is in fact, eggplants stuffed with walnuts and spices and packed in oil. I ate the pickles and the hummus and za’atar. Finally, the makdous was calling to me. I tried one…and then I had to have another…and then another. Holy moley, makdous is awesome. Not everyone in the office who tried the foods that day liked them, but I think that was to be expected.
I went back the next day to buy another jar of makdous and my friend smiled. He said that he and his business partner debated after we left whether our tongues would be suited to their foods. Jar #2 sealed the deal that I was adventurous and interested. I went in again on my favorite holiday of all (Groundhog day), and my friend called me over to the cooler. His wife had made tabbouleh and he brought a container for me to try. I ate the entire container for supper tonight (along with hummus and all sorts of other things). I want to take him some uniquely American dish that he might not have had. I suspect that we will have lots of fun sharing food and conversation! It’s bad to have a food place right across the street though…both my tongue and my wallet may be pushed to their limits!