QSR Magazine is the bible of the fast-food and fast-casual industry, one that's usually good in its reporting. But an article in this month's issue shows how advanced we are culinarily in Orange County, how the rest of the United States, even in this globalized age, is still rather clueless when it comes to the dishes of the world, and how scared of Arabs we remain.
The article deals with what almost everyone refers to as Arabic, or at least Middle Eastern cuisine: the falafels, shawermas, hummus, tabbouli and other popular platters of the Levant that entered the Orange County diet at least a decade ago, if not earlier. Of course, the article doesn't call the cuisine “Arabic” and only vaguely “Middle Eastern”, instead going with “Eastern Mediterranean,” a term that, while technically accurate, is like calling Mexican food “Lower-Middle North American” cuisine.
Amazingly, the article never once uses “Arabic” in the story even though, you know, Arabs have perfected the cuisine over millennia and all the words for the food are Arabic. For chrissakes, Turkey get a bigger shout-out in the piece (for supposedly pioneering shawerma), even though falafels and hummus hardly play as big a role in the cuisine as, say, doner kebabs and coffee–which isn't the point of the piece. Israel gets a bigger shout-out than Arabs, which surely irks those Arabs already pissed that Israelis have tried to claim the falafel as their creation.
That's the insulting part; the funny part is reading, in this day and age, definitions for babaghanoush (“mashed or cut eggplants mixed with herbs and seasonings that may include
tahini, salt, mint, cumin, chili powder, parsley, garlic, and lemon
juice”), falafel (“deep fried balls or patties of chickpeas or fava beans, often served in a
pita or flatbread with vegetables and toppings, such as a sesame seed
paste called tahini”) and other such hilarities. The article is pegged to a rise of fast-casual restaurants hawking this “Eastern Mediterranean” grub, but with hawkers like this refusing to acknowledge their cuisine's Arab roots, who needs Arab-bashers? It's the opposite of political correctness–more like cultural erasing…