AndFarAway

A Blog from Amman, Jordan, Online Since 2004.

How to Eat with Pita Bread



We learn to use Arabic bread as a utensil from the day we’re born. I never thought about how freakin’ weird that is for non-Arabs until a short while ago, when a friend visiting the Arab world for the first time had a hard time having dinner with us.

It was really freakin’ weird for me, too. What do you mean you don’t know how to scoop that labaneh? No, you can’t eat zaatar with a fork – you must dip it in oil first then in zaatar. Shoving the bread in your mouth separately from the cheese really defeats the purpose of this whole dinner. Come on… it’s not THAT hard.

Of course, it makes sense… it’s like using chopsticks in East Asia. When I went to South Korea, I was totally awed by how Koreans can eat ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING with chopsticks, really fast. I mean, I’m really good with chopsticks, but you know, with regular food like sushi, noodles, or stir fry. I certainly can’t slurp my soup with chopsticks.

I guess it’s the same thing with Arabic bread?

As I was having my scooping breakfast of hummus this morning, I started wondering (and googling).

Do all Arabs scoop their food with bread, or is it something Levantine? Do any other cultures have similar eating habits? Is is actually harder than it seems to us, given that we were raised scooping? I didn’t find any interesting answers on the Internet, but I did find a blog with amazing illustrations of how to scoop bread. Looks hard, doesn’t it?

So funny.

Googling images also shows that the Internet absolutely does not understand eating with Arabic bread.

Searching for “Dipping with pita”:
dipping

Searching for “Eating with pita”:
eating

Searching for “Scooping with pita”:
scooping

The world is totally missing out. Must start a crusade to spread proper pita love.

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6 Comments

  1. Rami Haikal

    Pita wars, or more accurately: حرب الغماس

  2. Lool.
    That would be funny. Euf nefsi Hatouteh.

  3. Craig

    I always thought Pita was Greek! The only way I’ve eaten with pita bread has been like your illustration “Eating with pita” – sandwich style. Thanks for the tips, may come in handy sometime :)

    PS: I got so good with chopsticks after being married to a woman who grew up in China that I could flourish a twirl with em one handed while going for my rice! And rice is about the hardest thing to eat with chopsticks in my experience. Luckily properly steamed rice is pretty gooey, but when you can pick up individual grains of rice easily you’re pretty much master of chopstick kung fu. Chinese drink soup out of the bowl, as if it was an oversized cup of tea. That’s not hard to do but for westerners it takes a while to get used to, because we’re raised to think it’s rude to drink soup right out of the bowl. At least, I was :)

  4. Leila Dallal

    Mmmm… Amman has the best bread ever. When you buy pita bread here in the states it is not the same at all. Same with hummus, which is now readily available in every grocery store ( even the Walmart in Bonham). There is a good brand called “mammas” made by a Texas Arab family. Also, I finally found some comparable goat cheese on “Greek Week” at our store called Central Market. But there is not a chance finding good zatar. If other places had amazing fresh hot pita everyday, they would probably naturally start eating with bread too.

  5. Hi Craig. You must try it out the proper way then. It makes a huge difference :) Let me know when you do! As for chop sticks, must be quite a trick to be able to do that one handed! Eating with chop sticks is so much fun.

  6. Leila, I’d imagine that it is hard. I guess a lot of Arabs in Texas though, no? So there must be some good Arabic. Yes, Greek food is very similar! For zaatar, if you can find fresh thyme, we can send you a recipe.

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