Falafel memories

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It’s the weekend again. This morning, I took Zain for a walk. We walked to a shop in Javastraat to buy freshly made hummus, za’atar, and falafel. If you live in Amsterdam, and like Middle Eastern food, the shop is called *Tigris En Eufraat*

That walk reminded me of the old days when I was a little boy. Every morning, my parents gave me money to go buy fresh Egyptian bread and falafel. Not long after, we all gathered around the table to have a hot and fresh breakfast. 

To be fully honest, I didn’t always enjoy going out on those breakfast hunting trips. At the bakery, the queues were long, and almost no one shared the same queuing ethics I had. Every day, it was our little morning bread war. Older boys, big men, and even bigger women, all sweaty and glued to each other pushing their neighbors forward and to the sides, hoping that this would get them faster to the front of the queue. On a good day, I would queue up only for 15 minutes. On a bad one, I would queue up for 3 hours. On a really bad day, the bakery would run out of bread before I reached the front of the line.

Once I won the bread, it was time for the falafel. While the falafel shop was only a five-minute walk from the bakery, somehow the concept of queuing up never made it there. There were the same people I was queuing up with at the bakery, but now they were glued to each other to form the shape of a meatball instead of being glued together in the shape of a sausage-like how they did when we were queuing at the bakery. 

We all stood together shouting and raising our hands trying to get the attention of the sweaty man frying the falafel. He always stood there with a huge deep-frying pan in front of him. I always believed that the frying pan had been put in that place, between him and the customers, to give that poor man enough safe space to do his job without us bothering him. 

The frying pan was doing its job very well. We all stood there very close to it and the heat made us all even more sweaty, but we enjoyed looking at the falafel balls while they slowly lost their green color to gain a new shiny brown one. The small falafel balls are mild. The big flat falafels are the spicy ones. It’s falafel 101!

While it seemed that the shouting was chaotic and random, it actually had a pattern. The shouting always started whenever the falafel man started to take the fully cooked falafel balls out of the frying pan, and the shouting would stop once all those falafels had sold out. By my estimate, the frying pan was able to take up to 50 falafel balls per round. If you were not one of the lucky ones to get their falafels that time, it would be smart to save your shouting voice until the next falafel round was out of the frying pan. 

I don’t think I’ve ever again felt as triumphant as I did every time I left the falafel shop holding my burning hot falafels, wrapped in an oily paper cone made out of old school books. My morning task was done. I took the fresh bread and falafel home, put them on the table, and called my parents, sisters, and brother to come have some of those heavenly falafels and breads made in hell. 

This morning when I went to buy falafel with Zain, I didn’t have to queue up, and Amsterdam’s cold weather didn’t allow me to sweat even a little, but I was happy to have falafel for breakfast with my wife and Zain. Still, I wonder if Zain will ever have as many falafel memories as I have.