The Definitive Guide to Living in the Capital , Cairo , Egypt

Restaurants

Mom, Dad… I’m A Foodie.

Mom, Dad… I’m A Foodie.
    written by
    Wesam Masoud

    “Doc, your food is trivial”. That’s what my cousin from the balad said when he saw me make a grilled
    cheese sandwich with French bread, cheddar and parmesan cheese and slices of
    onion and tomato.

    “Aklak hayef,” he said. If we are what we eat, then I must be a trivial
    cheese sandwich – but at least I taste good.

    Food is not just taste, though– it’s the only activity that involves all
    five senses. Some can look at a painting or a photograph and feel. Emotions and
    faint memories are stirred, transforming them into blubbering and blathering
    fools.

    That’s the effect that food has on me. Serve me a steak with potatoes
    and a green salad on the side and I’ll probably launch into a poetic opus about
    how the beef is still surrounded by its familiar rural environment.

    Chef Marco
    Pierre White is a staunch supporter of treating ingredients with respect: the
    meat should be medium–rare; the potato purée must be mixed with fresh cream and
    butter, and whipped to a smooth and creamy texture. The salad must be bursting
    with fresh garden flavour. Give me a well-cooked and well thought-out plate of
    food, and I will love you forever.

    ‘Give a man a fish and he’ll eat
    for a day. Teach a man how to fish, and he’ll eat for life.’ The same is true
    for cooking. That’s why I’ve taken my love of food to the next level, not to
    just enjoy consuming it; but also to enjoy preparing it with respect. Give me a
    steak, and I’ll eat well for a day; teach me how to cook, and I’ll eat well for
    the rest of my life.

    At nine years old, I learned to make my own breakfast: French toast,
    pancakes, omelette, and scrambled eggs. At eleven, I searched for a way to make
    my own barbecue sauce – no easy task since this was before the internet.

    My father was the first to notice my penchant for good food. During a
    long walk in Korba one summer, I picked up the scent of fresh, baked baladi
    bread. We circled the block for a good twenty minutes before we found the
    bakery and I tucked into a singular loaf of bread with a wide smile on my face.

    Instead of collecting stamps, I wrote my own restaurant guide for El Khobar, Saudi
    Arabia. It was handwritten in a notebook
    with the menus stapled to the back. Eventually, I found myself getting pulled
    out of class by teachers looking for advice on where to take their families out
    for dinner.

    Fast-forward twenty years; I dropped seven years of medical school and
    five years of experience as a clinical researcher like it was a bad habit. Now
    I’m trying my best to make a living as a food writer and eventually as a
    professional chef/restaurateur, which (of course) has led to many family
    discussions about where my life is going.

    A generation ago, a man’s position in society was determined by his
    title: Doctor, Engineer, Lawyer. That same generation also held fast to the
    convention that the kitchen was the woman’s domain. Success was a monthly
    salary and a pregnant wife. Real men were to bring home the bacon and pass the
    time avoiding eye contact with their children while their wives cooked dinner.

    Today, things are different, yet I find myself being judged by the same
    outdated yardstick.  My mother, being of
    the old school, cannot fathom how a career as a common cook will enable me to
    find a wife.

    “You’re a doctor!” she says, “Who will agree to you marrying their
    daughter when you tell them you quit medicine to become a cook?”

    My answer, delivered with a wry smile, is always the same: “A fat man,
    Mom.”

    Today I am happily home-based. When my mother returns home from work in
    the afternoon, she’ll either find me cooking, or sitting in front of my
    computer watching food porn (read: cooking programs) .

    Sometimes she’ll say, “We should
    have sent you to culinary school instead of medical school”. Other times she’ll
    say, “Why don’t you read medical books like you read cook books?”

    I don’t have any romanticised ideas of a life spent eating well and getting
    paid oodles of money for it; there’s little security in being a food writer;
    and there’s little money in being a chef.

    But then again, there’s no life in
    sitting behind a desk for eight hours a day and filling out MVRs. Many of my
    friends applaud my bold decision, expressing faith both in me and in the ideals
    of our generation: if something is worth loving, then it’s worth doing.

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