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How Did Arab Food Become Mainstream in America?

posted on: Aug 7, 2019

How Did Arab Food Become Mainstream in America?
Phots Credit: “Best halal food in NY” by Keith Chu
By: Mohamed Nada/Arab America Contributing Writer

Can you remember a time where Arab food was not as popular as it is today? It was like 15 years when you said hummus or falafel and no one knew what you’re talking about.

People would either look at you funny or just be disgusted by what you just described to them and would hesitate trying it. In addition, when you went shopping for food, you never expected to see a large amount of hommus on shelves of Costco, Kroger’s, Safeway and others.

So really how did it change in a span of a few years? Have people gotten bored and tired of the same food in America and wanted to try something different or the food just have gotten magical that everyone around the world wants to have some?

Actually, with the increase of Arab people in the diaspora, the spread of the food increased significantly.  Also, more Americans do travel to the Arab World and become obsessed with its cuisine.  Some of these Americans are students, or State Department employees, businessmen and women, humanitarian organizations and plain tourists.  When back, they love to eat it in Middle Eastern restaurants or make it at home.

Now, one can hardly go to a reception and not being offered hummus, falafel, or the tabbouleh salad.

 On a website called Facts and Details, they explain the popularity of falafel and shawarma by saying:

“Falafels” (a fried chickpea ball often served in pita bread with salad and sauce) and “shawarmas “(sliced meat prepared like a felafel in pita bread with salad and sauce) are two of the best known Arab American foods.

They are popular throughout the world and can be bought in restaurants and on the streets. Falafels can be served by themselves or wrapped with salad and sauce in Arab bread (Pita). In the Arab World, they are so popular, according to the New York Times, a discussion of their origin can incite a fiery debate.

Shawarmas are typically made with tender pieces of skewered chicken, garlic puree and salad wrapped in Arab bread, often served with pickles and tabbouleh salad.

How Did Arab Food Become Mainstream in America?

Not only is that the case when it comes to halal Arab food, but the projection for the popularity in this food is expected to grow and reach many more people than it has now in 2019.

A piece that was written by Jessica Tyler, on Business Insider, mentions how the growth of middle eastern foods are starting to see a rise and:

According to Whole Foods, hummus, pita, and falafel are “entry points” into Middle Eastern food, and spices like harissa, cardamom, and za’atar are likely to start popping up on menus more often.

Are there benefits that arise from this cuisine?

How Did Arab Food Become Mainstream in America?

Everywhere you go nowadays you see a halal food store opening up on the streets of America because:

1. There are many more Arabs in the US that want to share Arab Food with the rest of the world

2. The food is a healthier alternative than what you were already planning on eating

  1. There are spices and different textures in there, that once you take a bit, everything explodes in flavor.

According to the Arab food expert and Arab America Contributing Writer, Blanche Shaheen:

One of the reasons Arab food has gone mainstream is it is a prime example of the Mediterranean diet, which in many scientific studies has shown to be the healthiest diet around. She also goes on to say:

The food is not just healthy but delicious, so people don’t feel as guilty eating Arab food and find it highly enjoyable. 

Is this making a change in our community?

It’s interesting that as Islamophobia exists, the rise of popularity of Arab cuisine is increasing and portraying Arab Americans in a positive manner.

How Did Arab Food Become Mainstream in America?
By creating food that can be enjoyed by people other than Arabs, we can slowly show the world that not only do we make good tasting food, but we are good people.

Next time you and your friends are trying to figure out what you should eat, just remember you can never go wrong with Arab food.