Arab/American: Landscape, Culture, and Cuisine in Two Great Deserts

Arab/American: Landscape, Culture, and Cuisine in Two Great Deserts

by Gary Paul Nabhan
     
 

The landscapes, cultures, and cuisines of deserts in the Middle East and North America have commonalities that have seldom been explored by scientists—and have hardly been celebrated by society at large. Sonoran Desert ecologist Gary Nabhan grew up around Arab grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins in a family that has been emigrating to the United States

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Overview

The landscapes, cultures, and cuisines of deserts in the Middle East and North America have commonalities that have seldom been explored by scientists—and have hardly been celebrated by society at large. Sonoran Desert ecologist Gary Nabhan grew up around Arab grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins in a family that has been emigrating to the United States and Mexico from Lebanon for more than a century, and he himself frequently travels to the deserts of the Middle East. In an era when some Arabs and Americans have markedly distanced themselves from one another, Nabhan has been prompted to explore their common ground, historically, ecologically, linguistically, and gastronomically. Arab/American is not merely an exploration of his own multicultural roots but also a revelation of the deep cultural linkages between the inhabitants of two of the world’s great desert regions. Here, in beautifully crafted essays, Nabhan explores how these seemingly disparate cultures are bound to each other in ways we would never imagine. With an extraordinary ear for language and a truly adventurous palate, Nabhan uncovers surprising convergences between the landscape ecology, ethnogeography, agriculture, and cuisines of the Middle East and the binational Desert Southwest. There are the words and expressions that have moved slowly westward from Syria to Spain and to the New World to become incorporated—faintly but recognizably—into the language of the people of the U.S.–Mexico borderlands. And there are the flavors—piquant mixtures of herbs and spices—that have crept silently across the globe and into our kitchens without our knowing where they came from or how they got here. And there is much, much more. We also learn of others whose work historically spanned these deserts, from Hadji Ali (“Hi Jolly”), the first Moslem Arab to bring camels to America, to Robert Forbes, an Arizonan who explored the desert oases of the Sahara. These men crossed not only oceans but political and cultural barriers as well. We are, we recognize, builders of walls and borders, but with all the talk of “homeland” today, Nabhan reminds us that, quite often, borders are simply lines drawn in the sand.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780816526598
Publisher:
University of Arizona Press
Publication date:
03/27/2008
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
160
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.50(d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     ix
Introduction: What Flows Between Dry Worlds     3
Cultural, Ecological, and Culinary Connections Between Deserts
Camel Whisperers: Desert Nomads Crossing Paths     9
Eres Paisano? The Culinary Influences of Arabia and al-Andalus in the U.S. Southwest and Mexico     29
Chasing Alice Ann: Arabic Terms Leaping Languages and Oceans     37
Oasis Time: From the Sonoran to the Sahara, Following Doctor Forbes     46
That Cosmopolitan Look: The Plants That Make You Forget Your Country     57
Bridging Identities and Family Histories in Two Worlds
A Desert Is a Home That Has Migrated     67
Watching for Sign, Tasting the Mountain Thyme     90
Conflict and Convivencia
Hummingbirds and Human Aggression: A View from High Tanks     99
Other Voices, Human and Avian: Reconnecting Place with Peace in a Broken World     121
References     135
Source Credits     143

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