Arab-Americans Eager to Discuss Love of Food

March 6, 2002

Source: The Christian Science Monitor

On March 6, 2002, The Christian Science Monitor reported that "with heightened interest in the Arab-American community since Sept. 11, and with Middle Eastern immigrants more eager to tell their neighbors who they truly are, the time may be right for food to fulfill - once again - its role as the great door-opener between newcomers and mainstream America... In fact, by simply asking people to talk about the favorite foods from their culture, one seems to enter a place where borders are dissolved in the most basic human pleasure: a good meal... There are Middle Eastern communities all across America, populated equally by immigrants who arrived yesterday and those whose ancestors arrived four generations ago... But all come with the same dreams of promise for a better life, and all - be they Lebanese, Iraqi, or Palestinian, Muslim, Christian, or Jew - bring with them the secrets of their kitchens... 'There are about 30,000 Persian Jews here in L.A.,' explains Daryoush Fakheri, editor of Chashm Anadaz, a Persian Jewish magazine for greater Los Angeles. 'And if you want to bump into them all, just go to Elat market'... he says, referring to a wildly popular Persian Jewish supermarket... Today, metro Detroit is second only to Paris as the largest Arab community in the world outside the Middle East... 'Here in Dearborn [MI], you can have Iraqi food for breakfast, Lebanese food for lunch, and Yemeni food for dinner,' says Miriam Bakri, a Lebanese social worker at an Arab community center in Dearborn, just outside Detroit. 'It all started with Henry Ford's Model T plant in nearby Highland Park, when Arab workers came seeking work,' Ms. Bakri explains... While the majority of the area's Arab population is Syrian and Lebanese (about half of them Christian), there is a huge Chaldean population (from ancient Chaldea, now in Iraq), and sizable Palestinian, Jordanian, and Yemeni groups, among others."