June 26, 2022

"Destruction begins with small details. What is happening is not just a matter of food, but a way of mocking the people’s heritage."

"And when you mock the heritage of a people in this way, it is a prelude to trivializing what is most important and diluting or dissolving identity."

Mansaf is a rice-and-mutton dish traditionally eaten from a large, shared platter using one's bare hand. We're told "Often, the sheep’s head is placed at the center of the platter. Its cheeks, eyes, brain and tongue are highly prized and intended for the table’s most important guest."

Perhaps the traditional style of eating is more important than the food itself, but does that mean you shouldn't eat the food without the traditional behavior, that it's a mockery to eat it in some other way? I can see why you might want to deprive people of the food unless they follow the tradition, because that would cause people who crave the food to slow down, gather together, and interact with each other. But it's hard to understand that eating the food — with a spoon — from a paper cup is mockery.

The only thing I could think of is if someone were to sell communion wafers for people to snack on like a roll of Necco wafers.

88 comments:

Owen said...

I am offended that this guy is offended by somebody else choosing to enjoy and share a configuration of food most of whose ingredients are commonplace enough. The layers of “meta” here are too numerous to count, but I suppose such pathology is inevitable when a buck is to be made by complaining over pretty much anything.

Wince said...

Didn’t Sammy Davis Jr. get in trouble for saying communion is like pizza on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson?

Aggie said...

Why not try an eye-roll?

Not Sure said...

Before the Trump Justices joined the Court we could've held on to the hope that there was a Constitutional right to eat the food of our choice in whatever manner we chose.

Now it seems like we only have the right to eat it in the manner prescribed by longstanding custom.

Of course, I'm not sure about that. Lawyer Barbie says, "Con law is hard!"

jaydub said...

"Mansaf is a rice-and-mutton dish traditionally eaten from a large, shared platter using one's bare hand."

That should read "bare right hand." Eating it from a go-cup is much preferable to eating it with the bare left hand.

Andrew said...

"Often, the sheep’s head is placed at the center of the platter. Its cheeks, eyes, brain and tongue are highly prized and intended for the table’s most important guest."

Personally, I refuse to eat a steak unless the cow's head is staring straight at me.

Paddy O said...

They already sell Styrofoam which tastes the same as communion wafers.

The reality to is that communion wafers themselves make a mockery of the Christian tradition of actual bread, for the sake of convenience.

Lucien said...

Israel oughta’ give the West Bank back to Jordan. That’ll fix ‘em.

William said...

When you receive honor of being served the sheep's eyes, would it be a gracious gesture to cut out the cornea and offer it back to the host as a token of your esteem and gratitude for being offered such a prize delicacy. If I'm ever an honored guest at such a banquet, you may be sure that I will equitably share my prized delicacies. Just a couple of lamb chops for me. I'm humble, I am. Please, no fuss.

Narayanan said...

is it tasty vittles ? is it an improvement? too standardized?

?baptist v bootlegger?

Quaestor said...

"The only thing I could think of is if someone were to sell communion wafers for people to snack on like a roll of Necco wafers."

This one provoked a spit take. You own me a keyboard, Althouse.

Communion wafers:
The Body of Christ. The Body of Christ. The Body of Christ. The Body of Christ.

Necco wafers:
The Body of Oprah. The Body of Oprah. The Body of Oprah. The Body of Oprah.

Maynard said...

The only thing I could think of is if someone were to sell communion wafers for people to snack on like a roll of Necco wafers.

There is not much risk of that, given the taste of communion wafers. However, there is probably worse food out there.

I guess by this guys standards, Christians should not drink wine outside of church.

I prefer a good Bourbon or Rye anyway. Hmmm... I wonder how communion wafers would taste with Old Forester 1910.

papper said...

I am happy with the Dobbs decision, but this immediate cancellation of procedures that are already planned speaks to the reliance factor of Roe/Casey that people could argue in respect of maintaining the existing law in terms of scheduling abortions, at least for people currently pregnant. Could the court have put a 90 day delay in implementation to avoid issues of upending the plans of people could reasonably argue that they relied on what was the law prior to Friday or is this something the court can't or won't ever do?

I am asking this as a legal matter, as I am on the pro-life side, but perhaps not an absolutist.

Butkus51 said...

I worked at a place where I was basically the foreigner. One time they had a pot luck.....lot of indian/pakistani food. Some of it I love. Samosa and Biryani being 2 faves. Once they had this thing that was similar looking to a hamburger patty. I passed. A girl there goes, mmmm, this is so good, what is it Maliha?

Goat.

Should have seen the look on that girls face.

I love comedy



gilbar said...

traditionally eaten from a large, shared platter using one's bare hand

here's an idea (that unfortunately goes Against EVERYTHING ISLAM STANDS FOR)..
We don't live in the 7th century any more.

Sticking your bare hand (just the right, right?) into a pile of food, and then
Sticking your bare hand into your mouth, then repeating.. Is The DEFINITION of double dipping!
You're swapping spit with EVERY OTHER PERSON in the tent. Can you say COVID? Can you say UCK?
SURE, this is how people ate back in 650AD.. Before Sporks were invented.. But it's DISGUSTING
And Unsanitary.. And Disgusting

Of course, That's the way Muhammad did it. So it's GOOD!!! And Should be followed
You know? like marrying your 8 year old niece, or Killing Infidels

Joe Smith said...

'The only thing I could think of is if someone were to sell communion wafers for people to snack on like a roll of Necco wafers.'

Necco wafers are the candy of the gods...is there a connection?

I went to mass yesterday so I can make that joke...

Narayanan said...

I was going to compare to Starbucks in Jordan but they don't serve the good coffee

coffee-in-jordan-art-and-culture

Steve said...

Communion wafers are 3 cents apiece on Amazon. No one cares.

This is like raging against single serve turkey pot pie in the freezer case.

Ted said...

If you read to the end of the story, you learn that the original company has gone out of business. It was replaced by two competitors, but they say their business is slowing. So now one is selling "French fries in a cup with ketchup, mayonnaise and nacho cheese." Which seems like an appropriation of American Taco Bell traditions.

Harold said...

Until the host is consecrated it's just unleavened bread, so there wouldn't be much of a scandal about someone buying it and eating it. There would be an outcry about someone selling or claiming to sell consecrated hosts but that wouldn't be about the bread as a food stuff.

Lem said...

But it's hard to understand that eating the food — with a spoon — from a paper cup is mockery.

Not if tradition is seen as closely related with identity, to the point where they are one and the same. In the US we have lots of identity, but little to no tradition to sustain it. Maybe that's why that highly prized thing - authenticity - is highly prized because it always feels out of reach. Keep tradition alive and identity follows. Mock tradition, in the time of tic tock, and identity could suffer. #Imjustsaying

Godot said...

I hear ya Abdul. I feel the same way about hamburgers.

n.n said...

Wafers, Christ... cells of color socially distanced through a technical term of art.

The horror of cultural appropriation. There is no social justice in serving rice-and-mutton in a paper cup.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

They charge extra for the 'mansaf in a cup with eyeball'

Mike Petrik said...

The communion wafer comparison is inapt. One can debate the prudence or even decency of offering a particular food in an untraditional way if there is widespread feeling of offense among those who practice the tradition, but such an effort almost certainly neither anticipated nor desired to give offense. In contrast intentional mockery is virtually inescapable in the communion wafer example, and if the wafers were somehow consecrated the offense would be far worse than simple mockery.

BUMBLE BEE said...

Lambs head (cheeks) and tongue are delicious. We had a Michelin Rated Lebanese restaurant we went to when I was young. Hummus, laban with cucumber, kibbee sounieh and lambs head can't be beat. Lamb's tongue and cheeks are the best parts of the lamb! Good Times!

BUMBLE BEE said...

Mabsoot!

M said...

A tradition isn’t a religious ritual (though of course a religious ritual is usually traditional)This traditional meal in a cup is more like those “Thanksgiving dinners in a can”.

Temujin said...

Ummm…mutton brains.

Clyde said...

I remember how ‘Indians Jones and the Temple of Doom’ was called problematic because of the chilled monkey brains scene.

JAORE said...

Maybe that's why they call so many things a MICRO aggression. Perhaps a million such will add up to a single, actual aggression.

JAORE said...

Can I drink English tea while NOT participating in a high tea? Can I not drink tea from Japan without all the ceremonial flourishes?

Too many asses too easily chapped.

Iman said...

Is this a good time to announce SheepDip? It’s delicious with pita chips.

Ted said...

Re: "The DEFINITION of double dipping!"
--The dish is traditionally served on a large, round platter, and you only eat the portion that's directly in front of you. I suppose there could be some crossover at the sides, but it doesn't really seem any less sanitary than, say, sharing a plate of nachos.

Ralph L said...

Necco wafers are darned expensive these days, and they're still no good against vampires. Walmart used to have big bags of small rolls before Halloween for a couple of bucks. I've yet to see the new ones anywhere but online.

Mikey NTH said...

Mutton and Rice.

Sounds to me like someone is angry and looking for a reason.

Michel said...

Unconsecrated communion wafers have been sold at stores in Quebec since at least the 1970s. There is nothing particularly sacred about the wafer itself.

John henry said...

Blogger Butkus51 said...

goes, mmmm, this is so good, what is it Maliha?

Goat.

Should have seen the look on that girls face.

I love comedy


I love comedy but I love goat even more. Fairly common down here in the ultra-deep south.

Also stewed tripe.

And blood sausage. Yum!

Unfortunately gout forbids me from eating them but I used to be an ultra-fan of both. Never passed them up when on the menu.

John LGBTQ Henry

John henry said...

Sure am glad we live in a free country where we can eat anything we want and say anything we want about it.

Is this like when someone opened a McDonalds in France a while back and frenchmen were up in arms? No Frenchman Frenchman would eat such barbarous food, they said, then burned the restaurant to prevent anyone from proving them wrong. Now they have about 1500.

French food is not horrible but there is not that much of it on the plate. It is creative and beautifully plated, but they have Mickey D's so you can fill up on the way home.

John LGBTQ Henry

Chris Lopes said...

"There is not much risk of that, given the taste of communion wafers."

You had communion wafers with taste? I am sooo envious.

Big Mike said...

Destruction begins with small details.

You mean like marriage being between a man and a woman? Just trying to get clarification.

effinayright said...

I hear "Mouse on a Stick" is considered an Afghan delicacy.

Yancey Ward said...

Is this a "Cutting off the head" sort of insult?

effinayright said...

jaydub said...
"Mansaf is a rice-and-mutton dish traditionally eaten from a large, shared platter using one's bare hand."

That should read "bare right hand." Eating it from a go-cup is much preferable to eating it with the bare left hand.
************

Once I was invited for dinner at a Nepalese home in Kathmandu.

I am left-handed when I eat---which I knew to be taboo. So I slipped my left thumb into a belt loop on my trousers and kept it there.

(Delicious meal!)

gspencer said...

I'm still compiling my major opus titled, Things Muslims Don't Like."

I've been working on it since 2001.

Mary Beth said...

Communion wafers are just wafers until they've been blessed by a priest. I guess in this case, the sheep's head is the equivalent of the priest. Mutton and rice is just mutton and rice without the sheep's head.

The to-go cup guy isn't preventing anyone from gathering and eating the mutton and rice in a traditional way. After a couple of years of a worldwide pandemic, non-communal servings seem like a really good idea.

Gahrie said...

Islam depends upon traditional ways of thought and behavior. Anything that supports tradition is good, anything that challenges tradition is bad.

Narr said...

Don't forget--coleslaw for nine hundred men.

Narr said...

I like my lambs eyes like I like my hallowed traditions--charred to perfection.

Martin L. Shoemaker said...

We in the prosperous West are too squeamish about our cuts of meat. And I include myself in that, though I try to be more adventurous when the opportunity comes up. Cheeks and tongue are just cuts of meat, and I would try them if I got the chance. Eyeballs and brains are exotic organ meat, right up there with liver and kidneys and pancreas. I'll pass, but I can afford to pass. When the standard of living drops, people start using much more of the carcass.

On the other hand, the communal plate combined with eating with the hands would be a deal breaker for me.

Michael said...

How many of today's Jordanians eat mansaf in the traditional way? (Which I'm guessing meant dipping bread into the common pot, not your empty hand.) Why can't they coexist with the little cups? It doesn't seem like mockery unless it's presented with sheep's eyes, etc., printed on the cup in a frivolous manner. And communion wafers are just (tasteless) crackers unless they are consecrated, which probably doesn't work on a commercial basis.

walter said...

Hard to make the Sheep's head in a to go friendly package. Maybe something like the broasted full chicken is put in. Clear plastic so you get a good look at it before purchase.

Tom T. said...

I'm reminded of Elaine's boss on Seinfeld, eating a Snickers bar with a knife and fork. People were aghast.

Scott Patton said...

Starting at the bottom (obviously) of a 24 oz cup (grind in some black pepper every other layer):
1/4 cup of stuffing
cover with 1 tbsp gravy
single layer of green beans
cover with 1 tbsp gravy
layer of white meat (2oz)
cover with 1 tbsp gravy
1/4 to 1/2 cup mashed potatoes
cover with 3 tbsp gravy
layer of dark meat (3oz)
cover with 1+ tbsp gravy
Top with something unexpected, be creative. I recommend a layer of thinly sliced well roasted brussel sprouts.
Buttered roll on the side unless your culture thinks that's cheating. My culture is fine with that.
The Platists may shun you, but we're probably better off anyway.

JMR said...

I ate mansaf in company in a Yemeni restaurant in 2018, and the proprietors were not in the least bothered by our use of utensils to serve ourselves from the large tray with which they had served us.

I've gotten way more interference at Korean restaurants where they're afraid I'm going to eat bibimbop wrong. All of this is professional petulance.

Narayanan said...

traditionally eaten from a large, shared platter using one's bare hand
========
is that not definitive ritual of herd immunity process?

Narayanan said...

mom bonding happened with us as she would with her hand put little balls of mixed rice in our little hands during summer break lunch befoe naptime.

RNB said...

Ralph L: "I've yet to see the new ones [Necco wafers] anywhere but online."

Cracker Barrel.

tim maguire said...

Some people think they own their culture like they own their house or their shirt. They’re wrong. Nobody invented it, nobody controls it, it doesn’t even exist in any tangible sense. Cultural appropriation isn’t a thing, nobody has a right to limit access to or use of a culture.

gilbar said...

Ted corrected gilbar, saying...
--The dish is traditionally served on a large, round platter, and you only eat the portion that's directly in front of you

okay. I would NOT know, i come from the land of Sporks.

You know what IS cool? a Spork with a serrated edge, so you can cut with it too. Of course, the edge can't be too sharp, obviously. The Real question is: What would call it? a Spifke? a Sporknif?

madAsHell said...

Often referred to as.....The Slippery Slope.

Marc in Eugene said...

"Inapt" (Mike Petrik), yes. Althouse, being raised a Methodist (have I remembered that correctly?) has no cultural or theological understanding of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, by which observation I mean only that I 'cut her slack' when she writes nonsense like that: there's no reason whatever to doubt her respect for religion sincerely practiced.

The issue with the mansaf doesn't seem to have anything directly to do with religion, anyway, although daily life for many in Jordan hasn't eliminated the traditional social coherence of religious practice and popular custom, apparently. Experience in the 'melting pot' of the US being what it is, I can't think of a real Catholic analogue off the top of my head. In the Old World, Mexico, etc etc there are all sorts of culinary traditions bound to religion, and I can see that people in village N. are going to look askance at McDonalds suddenly beginning to sell the local Saint Perseveranda cookies (made with canola oil and corn syrup) but, eh. Perhaps hot cross buns? They were formerly specially made to honor the Passion of Our Lord at Good Friday but now they (or, rather, an unhappy facsimile of the real thing) are on sale at the supermarket in the three weeks before and after Easter: comparatively few notice such connexions and the NYT doesn't pay for articles about them, either.

Marc in Eugene said...

I was reminded the other day by someone on Twitter of the anecdote about Saint Bernard of Clairvaux: he reproached a group of effete monks for hesitating to eat out of the same bowl in which they had earlier washed their feet.

loudogblog said...

Anyone can sell Communion wafers all day long and it would not be a problem with the Catholics. It's only through the rite transubstantiation that it becomes the body of Christ.

rhhardin said...

Tradition must be both an imposition and a choice.

Jamie said...

The reality to is that communion wafers themselves make a mockery of the Christian tradition of actual bread, for the sake of convenience.

I was fortunate - let's say "blessed," because I was - to belong to a church where they made their own communion bread. It was delicious, hearty, nourishing. There was a ministry dedicated to it; the people involved gathered once every six weeks or so and made all the bread for the next six weeks of services, then froze it in Sunday-sized bundles.

The recipe also appeared in the parish cookbook, because, as has been pointed out, until consecrated it was just bread.

Of course, it is an Episcopal church, meaning that is kind of left to the parishioner to decide whether the consecrated bread is the Body of Christ or just a symbol thereof. I am a cradle Catholic, so.

BudBrown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ernest said...

You do know why eating with the left hand is verboten in many cultures? It's the hand you use to clean yourself in the toilet.

Richard Aubrey said...

When a form of sloppy eating is so important to defining one's culture...there isn't much left.
When waiting tables in college, I had a banquet for Middle Eastern profs and staff. All dressed nicely and served at table in the western style. I conceived of a profit opportunity. Sell dress shirts in the Middle East whose lower sleeves were detachable--couple of buttons--and replacements by the half-dozen.
But that required the prospective customers saw an issue which needed, you should excuse the term, addressing.

Howard said...

Mexicanx feel the same way about the Burrito.

Howard said...

Sheepshead is a type of reef dwelling fish in So Cal that starts off as a girl and transition into a boy fish complete with hydrocephalic looking forehead and crooked teeth.

donald said...

I caught one of those sheepshead last Tuesday off Santa Rosa and I caught a 24” sheepshead in Gulf shores within the last two weeks. I’m a sheepshead slayer.

Narr said...

Reversible cups and sanitary pedestals are virtually unknown in some parts of the world.

Rick67 said...

Sticking your bare hand (just the right, right?) into a pile of food, and then
Sticking your bare hand into your mouth, then repeating..


This raises a serious question about eating customs in other nations and cultures including in our own.

I worked with internationals (mostly grad students and visiting scholars) for 18 years in this city. About half were Chinese. In 2010 I spent four weeks traveling in China. Typically a bunch of dishes are places in the middle of the table, you use chopsticks to get some, put it on your small plate (south) or small bowl (north), eat. I was surprised they didn't fuss about "you're touching our food with chopsticks you just used to eat". Maybe it has to do with good technique, they place the food in your mouth without actually going in.

Also spent a few weeks in south India where people eat with their *right* hands. You don't stick your hand in your mouth, it's mostly brings the food to your mouth, your thumb pushes it in. But you also don't use that hand to get portions from the shared dishes.

I recently learned about the traditional Filipino kamayan feast, everything on banana leaves, everyone stands around and uses their (surely right) hands.

In college I was a sacristan for a local Catholic parish. My job was to drink any consecrated wine that wasn't consumed. Which was left after about 100-200 students had a sip. In Orthodox Christianity everyone takes eucharist (bread + wine mixed together) from a shared spoon.

Lurker21 said...

I don't see any religious element. It's more like the French or Italians with their "slow food" crusades. Busy urbanites and the poor either don't want or can't afford a goat's head, and it's undoubtedly better if they aren't eating with their hands Is the agitation really about taking the food out of its traditional setting, or is it rage against the styrofoam packaging for the proles, taking the meal down market? Maybe tell them that in the West, a lot of styrofoam takeout is actually quite high end.

Mary Beth said...

JAORE said...

Can I drink English tea while NOT participating in a high tea?


Of course. "High tea" is the name of an evening meal. Like pub fare but with tea. You can also have afternoon tea (also a meal, but lighter with small sandwiches or snacks) or just a cuppa. High tea is working class and afternoon tea is posh.

(Serious answer to a comment made in jest.)

gpm said...

>>The only thing I could think of is if someone were to sell communion wafers for people to snack on like a roll of Necco wafers.

Hmmm. Makes me wonder if Althouse is aware that the *only* reason Catholic kids *ever* bought Necco wafers was to use them as pretend communion wafers. Because, as candy, they were (and presumably still are) just vile. Eating them was an act of penance.

The Necco/"New England Candy Company" factory used to be on Mass. Ave. in East Cambridge, near MIT, I think as late as the time I was in college "near Boston" in the early 70s and maybe even into the 80s. You could smell the factory from a couple blocks away. There was a movie theater near there I used to go to all the time where I saw all the Marx Brothers movies and who knows what else in those pre-TCM days. I think it's still a theater that does some kind of live productions, but I haven't been there in probably 35 years (the Brattle aka shrine to Bogie near Harvard Square is one of the few of the many old-time theaters in and around Boston and Cambridge still in operation, along with the restored Coolide Corner (in, duh, Coolidge Corner in Brookline) and the Davis Square (in, duh, Davis Square in Slumberville).

Cambridge used to be quite the candy capital of the country. I don't know if it's still there, but there used to be a hundred-year-old factory on Main Street that made about five brands of popular candies, including Sugar Daddies (pretty much the same thing we called all-day suckers in Chicago), Sugar Babies, and, I think, Junior Mints, using pretty much the same machinery that had been used for a century.

We had/won a state tax case about twenty years ago for the Tootsie Roll company, which had purchased the "Cambridge Brands" and the factory almost twenty years earlier. The Tootsie Roll headquarters are still (I think) at 79th and Kenzie, along with a huge warehouse, about three miles from where I grew up on the South Side of Chicago.

I never saw/had any, but Squirrel Nut Zippers also used to be made in Cambridge. Apparently the brand was acquired by Necco, which subsequently went under. The band that borrowed the name is apparently still going strong, though I'm not familiar with their music.

--gpm

KellyM said...

@gpm you made me laugh out loud. Kendall Square and the West End of Boston were my old stomping grounds. I seem to recall the smell of Tootsie Rolls on the air in the 90s. The Kendall Theatre is a more recent addition, but I used to go to the Brattle all the time. Best place to see vintage Bond films.

walter said...

It's ok as long as you wear mask between hand shoveling.

Narayanan said...

On the other hand, the communal plate combined with eating with the hands would be a deal breaker for me.
==========
so what to do when a plate of sauced chicken wings is placed in front of you?

tim maguire said...

There's as scene in Billionaire where one of the major characters (a white guy, BTW) deliberately picks a fight in a Japanese restaurant because someone else is eating sushi wrong.

Chris Lopes said...

Maybe, just maybe, no one owns the copyright on a culture. Human existence has been a constant exercise of one group of people taking something another group of people do, copying it, changing it somewhat to suit their purposes, then calling it their own. That is how culture is created. Eating Chinese food with a fork is not a denigration of Chinese culture. Eating Kosher beef with a glass of milk is not a denigration of Jewish culture either. You eat food your way and I will eat it my way.

Chris Lopes said...

Maybe, just maybe, no one owns the copyright on a culture. Human existence has been a constant exercise of one group of people taking something another group of people do, copying it, changing it somewhat to suit their purposes, then calling it their own. That is how culture is created. Eating Chinese food with a fork is not a denigration of Chinese culture. Eating Kosher beef with a glass of milk is not a denigration of Jewish culture either. You eat food your way and I will eat it my way.

Larvell said...

If you’re Catholic, it’s not the body of Christ until the priest does his thing. If you’re Protestant, it’s just a cracker anyway. People might think the marketing is crass, but that’s about it.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Cook: Christ Chex

Catholic Crunch

Biotrekker said...

The nexus of Islam and the Middle East seems to be the epicenter of taking offense from everything, no matter how minor.

PM said...

Probably every altar boy has eaten unconsecrated hosts at some point...um, so I've heard.

Jamie said...

The Squirrel Nut Zippers (the band) are great - a modern swing band.

And Necco wafers are also great, in their own wafery way. There is, at least, nothing like them. (I could say much the same about Red Hots, but I hate those little suckers.)