Sunday, May 9, 2010

Vegetarianism: Why Egyptians are not Big Fans

The relationship between Egyptians and meat is quite complex. Unlike many other places in the world where meat is consumed merely for carnivorous purposes, meat in Egypt is a status symbol.

Meat-consumption, red meat that is, in Egypt goes beyond the occasional juicy steak. The traditional method of cooking vegetables in Egypt is a stew with onions and tomato sauce. The rich add meat cubes to the mixture; the poor make it meat-less.
Egyptians even have a term for this 'meatlessness" . They call it 'ordayhi'. To cook vegetables ordayhi is ,in essence,  signaling  that you are poor and  can not afford meat.

Poorer Egyptians have a staple diet of Koshari (a dish composed of rice, pasta, and beans), Mahshi (vegetables stuffed with rice), potatoes, green salad, and bread. Meat is a luxury, especially beef. And because wealth goes hand in hand with health; meat is assumed to be a 'healthy' food. Kids who don't eat, or like, meat are considered 'weaker', and in need of supplements.

The traditional media, doctors, and even medical education, does not focus on healthy alternatives; or concepts like alternative sources of protein. And not much attention is given to the health benefits of reducing meat consumption.

Addressing these issues is paramount to the health and the economic welfare of Egyptian society. People who can not afford meat should no longer feel deprived of a privilege. It is a cornerstone of a healthy/wealthy diet.
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