Food in Jordan – Nothing wrong with four meals a day

Most Jordanian food does not fall into the category of bizarre cuisine but remains very different from what I am used to. On a very basic level, it is more uncommon to have fresh fruit, vegetables, or milk, and meat is very expensive. These boundaries seem to have structured meals in a different manner. Common breakfasts and snacks involve lots of pita, feta cheese, a highly processed pink meat called siniura, and been dishes like hummus and fool (pinto beans). While the majority of what I’ve eaten is fairly bland, a few foods in Amman are simply too strong in flavor for me. Fresh olives as a side dish with every meal can be a bit much, and salty yoghurt drinks are overpowering for someone raised on American food. It should also be noted that spicy food is seldom present in Jordanian cuisine.

The two traditions that seem to influence Ammani cuisine most heavily are Levantine and Bedouin (nomadic) foods. Levantine food like Palestinian cuisine seems to incorporate more fresh vegetables while the Bedouin food is more basic and often revolves around rice, bread, and meat. This distinction exits because of the diverse population within Jordan. Native Jordanians live with Iraqi and Palestinian refugees (and their descendants) as well as Egyptians who have come to find work.

For street food one will find commonly known Mediterranean eats like falafel and shawerma sandwiches. Also common is barbeque including kebab and shoo gef, two barbecue dishes I am told have their roots from cultures father inland. The former is commonly known in the US as shish kebab; usually ground lamb meat wrapped around a skewer and served along with grilled onions and tomatoes—which it far more delicious than I can make it sound. Shoo gef is essentially the same thing but in steak cube form. It’s a popular thing to go out to the country on Friday with friends and barbeque & smoke argila (known in the States as hookah).

As for mealtimes in Jordan, I feel as though I am still learning the ropes. It seems that most families eat a small breakfast, then a large lunch at one or two in the afternoon, then a small dinner in the early evening, and another meal later (around nine or ten). The lack of structure in mealtimes is very confusing, and I am constantly forced to apologize to my stomach for getting a meal. For example, just yesterday, I had a breakfast before class of pita, cheese spread, and eggs. In between classes I had a pizza, and when I got home around five my host mother made me a lentils and rice dish. For meal number four I went to an incredible Syrian barbecued chicken restaurant with a friend around nine-thirty. This is not typical, however. Maybe that’s the problem; lack of structure. It’s frustrating sometimes, but on the other hand there’s nothing wrong with eating four meals in a day.

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