Being a 31-year old Middle-eastern woman is not easy. Being a single, 31-year old Middle-eastern woman is, to my people, a tragedy.
To say that parents in the Middle East are obsessed with their daughters’ marital status would be a huge understatement. A family friend, who shall remain anonymous, always wanted assurances that a job offer, an activity, a trip or even the mere act of attending a funeral will help her 22-year old daughter find an Ariss (the Arabic word for ‘groom’)… Her exact question, translated, was always “…but will this bring her a groom?”
By the time they hit puberty, girls (‘women’ is used for married females only) are told about the importance of marriage. “A man’s shadow is better than a wall’s shadow,” one lady lectured me. I had to fight the urge to say that the exposed brick wall in my apartment is often better than many men I’ve known.
And the irony of all is that your single status becomes the main preoccupation of those same women who always complain about their marriage.
However, I had to develop a coping mechanism while I lived in Damascus. Afterall, how do you tell a particularly persistent lady, determined to set you up with this-great-guy, that you would rather find love your own way?
Did I mention she was calling every day?
So, I played the food angle. I told her that I wanted to get better at cooking first, THEN find a man I can seduce with it, because the shortest way to a man’s heart goes through his stomach.
That’s right; if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!
And to make up for my shameless lying, I am posting a recipe for those honest souls out there looking to attract that special guy, or girl: Baked Spicy Fish with Walnut and Herb Stuffing.
And if that doesn’t work, I know of someone who could set you up with an Ariss!
Baked Spicy Fish with Walnut and Herb Stuffing
1 whole fish with the head cut off, and split into two (salmon, or any other firm fish works)
1 cup of fresh flat-leaf parsley
1½ cup fresh coriander (cilantro)
4 whole chillies, de-seeded
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon coarse salt (or 1 teaspoon if using regular table salt)
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon cumin
5 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup raw walnuts
Place the two sides of the fish in an oiled baking dish then sprinkle them with two teaspoons worth of cinnamon.
Put the rest of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse a few times until all ingredients are finely chopped.
Place the walnut and herb mixture on one side of the fish, then put the other side of the fish on top.
Attach both pieces with kitchen twine, as shown below, then drizzle with olive oil.
Bake in a high-temperature oven for about 30 minutes.