In Michigan, Museum Foods Tours Supply Tastes Of Arab Tradition

Enlarge this imageAdam Hashem and Ali Alaoieh greet shoppers because they enter Hashem’s Industry & Roaster, a family-owned busine s specializing in fresh, imported spices and traditional Turkish coffee.Cybelle Codishhide captiontoggle captionCybelle CodishAdam Hashem and Ali Alaoieh greet clients as they enter Hashem’s Market & Roaster, a family-owned busine s specializing in Yovani Gallardo Jersey fresh, imported spices and traditional Turkish coffee.Cybelle CodishWhile on holiday in Rome five years ago, Devon Akmon, director of the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Mich., took a food stuff tour in a neighborhood known for its culinary traditions. He walked around for hours, tasting samples and hearing the personal stories of shop owners. That experience sparked the idea of establishing walking food items tours in metro Detroit, home to the largest concentrated Arab community in the United States. “Food was always bubbling up in our collective thought proce s here at the museum,” Akmon says. “Through food items, we could bring people who are not Arab into the life and the work of the museum.” Unlike most museums, the Yalla Eat! excursions take people outside of the building and into the community. People who are unfamiliar with Arab cuisine and tradition can talk with busine s owners about their experiences and the products they sell. Now in its fourth year, the museum’s Yalla Eat! (“Come on, Eat!”) food tours have spiked in popularity. On a hot Saturday afternoon in August, Nourhan Mattar guides a tour group through Dearborn, the hub of metro Detroit’s roughly half-million Arab-American residents.Attorney Miriam Barilovich says she read about Yalla Eat! and decided she wanted “to learn more about the cuisine and about Arab foods [that] I see in markets but don’t know what they are.” Super Greenland, one of the premier Middle Eastern supermarkets in Dearborn, Mich., features freshly made traditional foods, produce and a world-cla s olive bar.Cybelle Codishhide captiontoggle captionCybelle CodishDearborn is a dense community and Arab busine ses line the main avenue. The group starts out at a current market called Super Greenland to meet store manager Mona Alaouie. The sector is swarming with families, and kids run up and down the aisles as their parents shop. Alaouie takes us to the dairy aisle, pointing out various kinds of imported Arabic cheese like testouri and halloumi, while talking about the history of the sector and the story of the family who opened it. Mattar has been a guide for two years. She’s a gifted storyteller who talks about the varieties of falafel and explains halal to those of us unfamiliar with Muslim customs. When she gets to the olive section, things Ryan Braun Jersey get really interesting. Olives are a staple of the Arab diet and the 30-foot long olive bar shows just how prevalent they are in the Middle Eastern community. “These little green olives are from the Levant region,” Matter says. “They’re small and have a big pit. They’re harder to eat but they produce some of the most flavorful olive oil.” A sampling of one of the many Lebanese olive oils available in Dearborn, Mich., marketplaces.Cybelle Codishhide captiontoggle captionCybelle CodishMiddle Eastern countries are territorial over their olive oil production and every country thinks theirs is the best. The bottles we see in the supermarket aisles are deeply connected to the economies of many Arab countries. Olive oil is also very political. “Palestine is a quickly dying region and lifestyle,” Mattar says. “Their primary livelihood is olives. A lot of people will exclusively buy olive oil from Nablus, Bethlehem or different parts of Palestine. When Palestinian companies produce olive oil, it’s a revolt against their occupation.” The group hangs on her every word. Mattar isn’t surprised at how little people know about Arab society. She says people on the tour often tell her that they hear about the community in the news and want to learn more. “There is little discu sion of Arab history,” Mattar says. “Some people think all Arabs are refugees.” The group walks past a raw juice bar, several Arabic restaurants and a dre s shop for formal Middle Eastern events before arriving at a store called Hashem’s. Adam Hashem greets us outside with a tray of Turkish Delight, a de sert that is delicately chewy, perfectly sweetened and scented with the exotic flavor of rose water. He’s a lively character, a natural narrator who talks with his hands. He begins by telling the group about how his parents fled the Lebanese civil war and came to Detroit in 1975. They opened a small store dedicated to high-end nuts, chocolates, spices and coffee. Hashem and his brother now run the store that still carries the family name. Coffee is Hashem’s specialty and as he’s grinding Arabica and Italian coffee beans with a mix of cardamom, Mattar jumps in. “If you’re ever invited to an Arab home, you will more than likely be offered Turkish coffee,” she says. As he pours everyone a tiny cup, someone asks, “Why is this kind called Turkish coffee?” “Because of the Ottoman Empire,” Hashem says. “The Ottoman Empire was a global force that went from as far as Greece and Albania down to North Africa and as far as the Arabian Peninsula. That created this style of coffee that’s now consumed around the world.” Enlarge this imageAdam Hashem from Hashem’s Marketplace and Roaster demonstrates the proper way to make traditional Turkish coffee.Cybelle Codishhide captiontoggle captionCybelle CodishAdam Hashem from Hashem’s Industry and Roaster demonstrates the proper way to make traditional Turkish coffee.Cybelle CodishFarah Erzouki, a 24-year-old Arab American, wanted to take the tour to learn more about the history of some hallmark Arab dishes. “This tour gives really great insight into the different regions, based on experts who work in the food items industry, people who have studied it,” she says. “[It] gives an encompa sing perspective on the different cuisines in the Arab world.” At this point in the tour, we have eaten and learned about several kinds of falafel, how to pair fruit with jibneh cheese and the staples of Arab cooking. But like all good food items tours, we end up at a tiny bakery where all of the recipes come from a small village in Lebanon. There we eat an original de sert called kanafa bikaak (cheese dome) and melt into a sugar coma. As we stroll back to our cars, we marvel Robin Yount Jersey at all that we’ve just learned. “I can’t wait to go and talk about this with my parents,” Erzouki says. Just before we say our goodbyes, I ask Barilovich if she got much out of the tour. “I really did. I didn’t understand how geographically wide Arabic foodstuff is I learned so much.” Barilovich says. “And I just love the pride the people take in olive oil.” The succe s of the excursions has led Akmon and his team to incorporate more food-based programming. Akmon says that when the museum started the tours five years ago, he was concerned that the community wouldn’t buy into it. “These are mom-and-pop shops, and they’re just trying to make a living, and here comes this museum bringing people into their busine s,” Akmon says. “But the busine ses embraced us. Now we’re looking at the different ways we can collaborate with entrepreneurs who are meals based, so we can design unique experiences that shed light on our society.” Martina Guzmn is a journalist based in Detroit. She’s currently the race and justice journalism fellow at the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights at Wayne State University.

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