>Every country has foods they are famous for (okay not every country- I mean does anyone know what Djibouti is famous for? The Maldives? Feel free to comment if you do). Italy has tiramisu and, well, Olive Garden of course. Ireland has potatoes and well, you know the other stuff. Fish and Chips for England. Hamburgers and Fries in America, you get the idea. Good things right? Well, the country I now call home is known for fooul. Yes. Pronounced “fool.” Translation: take some beans, add some water, then cook for hours until they are kind of mushy but still maintain their basic shape. When you add some chopped tomato and onion, a whole lot of salt, and eat it with fresh bread, it can be quite tasty. Every corner shop has a few clay pots (they look like beehives) out front simmering the mixture over a little coal fire in the morning and evening. Each day, people come to the fooul vendor, buy about 50 cents worth of the strange bean dip, the vendor scoops it out of the clay pot and into a plastic bag, and the happy customers take it home to their families.
Being the culturally sensitive people that we are, my sweet sister friends and I decided we would begin buying fooul for breakfast too. Our first night in our apartment, the two adventurous ones (that’s the other two) set out on a late afternoon food jaunt to buy a few things at the dukan and buy fooul with the locals. I straightened up around the house until they arrived home (we were waiting for our appliances to come-they never did), and finally heard weary steps coming up the stairs. The door opens to reveal two faces, slightly defeated but still hopeful. I wasn’t sure how to take this.
“Not ready until 7:00 pm,” they said. So we rested in the darkening room until 7:20. Just to be safe. This is Africa, after all. The three of us set out with high spirits- seeing dinner in sight. Without a fridge, we were limited in our food choices, so by this time we were all very hungry. A half hour of wandering later, we returned home with no fooul and very little dignity once again. Fooul still not ready.
Today the sisters jaunted out once again determined to eat fooul with the rest of the country. Seriously, they have to sell it somewhere- this is the national food for goodness’ sake. A few short minutes later they returned while I was chopping the tomatoes and onions, slammed the door, and came into the kitchen. “Not ready.” They said quickly and left the room.
Three strikes. Yet the hunger remained and we were determined to win.
Two hours later, the two adventurers went out once more…and returned victoriously. Mostly.
I went into the kitchen to grab the vegetables and heard a crash followed by May’s scream and Sahara’s hysterical laughter. Poking my head around the doorframe I was confronted with the sight of fooul spread across the concrete tiles. May’s face looked totally perplexed and slightly defeated, but I couldn’t help but join Sahara in her laughter. Foolish Fooul. It was trying to get the better of us, but then again, it’s just beans. We’re smarter than it. We’re bigger than it. We will win.
And we did. A short while later, we were sitting around the table eating our first fooul and esh (bread) meal. It was, uh, almost everything we hoped for and more.