2 Ma’amoul, 2 Sheep, and a Car Accident

And more pictures than probably was strictly necessary.

I apologize in advance, but the extreme quantity of notable occurrences that have happened to me in the last 48 hours necessitates the exorbitant length of this post.
I will narrate in chronological order.

Two nights ago two friends of mine were leaving, so I went over there for their sort of “last supper” deal. We ate, talked, hung out, and by 10 pm I was sitting around a table with all the women of the household, an aunt, and one of my friend’s moms, making ma’amoul à la Palestine. You take a clump of dough, roll it into a small ball about half of a golf ball, roll it out until it’s about 3 or 4 inches long, push it with your fingers so it’s flatter and kind of has a trough down the middle, then you take the tamar filling stuff, roll that into a ball and then into a snake so it fits in your trough. Wrap the dough around the filling, so you have a filled tube, and then make it into a circle, attach the ends, and voilà! Into the oven and sooner or later you’ve got zaki ma’amoul.
The next day it was time to buy a sheep for slaughter, because it’s Eid al-Adha and that’s what you do. Eid al-Adha celebrates that time when God was testing Abraham and told him to take Isaac to the top of a mountain to sacrifice him, and then took a ram instead. At least that’s our version of the story but it’s something like that. Anyway so that’s why you get to kill a lamb (or two or three) this week. So I was walking (which is totally not done in this country but whatever I just wanted a walk) towards my friend’s house because I was going to go sheep shopping with them, and I had just crossed an intersection when I heard a HUGE bang. HUGE. Thank God I had crossed when I’d crossed because debris from the crash skittered to within 10 feet of where I was standing. What happened was some girls were driving and turning right onto the road when a big ol’ tow truck came along and took off the entire front of their car, basically all the way back to the front axel. There was coolant spilling everywhere, all of a sudden people appeared on the street from out of nowhere, got the girls out of the car, made sure they were okay and then started shaking each other’s hands and greeting each other like this was just another day in Amman; Hey there Mohammad, how’s the family? Eat any good mansaf lately? Anyway so I basically stood their for 5 or so minutes until I got of the courage to take a picture of it…
I finally got to my friends house, a little shaken up to be sure, but all in one piece, and we headed out to the sheep selling venue. I’m not entire sure how to describe these things. It’s like a vacant lot on the side of the road, movable fences organized into contiguous pens filled with sheep, rams, goats, and probably some other animals or half-breeds all spray-paint marked to designate their vendor. People would walk around, browsing the goods for sale, and then start to ask questions about weight and age and things like this, all of which are apparently very important in sheep purchasing. Then the sheep is chosen wrangled, and stuffed into the trunk to be taken to to await its slaughter and transformation into mansaf. But a picture is worth a thousand words in this case…
Phew. We’re getting there. When I got home after sheep shopping I walked in to find the women and girls of this household sitting on the floor around a big bowl of dough and a tray of tamar filling, making Jordanian ma’amoul. What’s the difference, you ask? So for these, you take a ball of dough about the same size as if you were Palestinian, now flatten it in your palm, and take a ball of filling about the same size as the dough ball and put it in the middle of the flattened dough. Now close the dough up around the filling and roll between your hands so it’s sealed. Now you put it into this wooden mold thing, which when you pop it out makes it look kind of like an Aztec pyramid. Then you bake it and eat it!
Okay. Almost done. So today was the first day of Eid al-Adha and I was determined to spend it with my family doing whatever they were doing. So we got up, had breakfast, blah blah blah, we find out visitors are coming! All of a sudden we are making mansaf, the traditional Eid meal – rice, a yogurt sauce, sheep (or is it lamb? I forget), and topped with toasted almonds. I leave the room for a few minutes and when I come back, the meat of an entire freshly slaughtered sheep is strewn about the kitchen, being designated for charity, mansaf, or in the case of the vital organs, to be cut up into stew-size pieces and saved for a meal at a later date. Next thing I know I am slicing lung into bite-size pieces and throwing it into the colander along side liver, kidney, heart, spleen, and – wait for it – esophagus. The weirdest/coolest part of the whole thing, well except that I was touching a lung, was that this sheep was killed two hours before hand. The inside of the lung, inside all the fatty part, was still kind of warm! It was really cool to be like, hey, this is a whole sheep, and it just died, and now we can look at its organs and judge its health and cut it up and then eat it! And you could tell by the color of its organs that it really was a healthy sheep.
So then the mansaf was cooked and served, with the head of the sheep (which had to be done in a pressure cooker because apparently heads cook slowly?) the crown jewel of the platter. Important cultural factoid: if you are having guests for a holiday you are supposed to slaughter an entire animal to serve them because it’s a sign of respect. How do you prove that you did this? You put the head right in the center! Another fun fact: mansaf is traditionally eaten with ONLY the hands – no utensils, no plates – so it’s basically you make balls of rice with the yogurt stuff and pull strands of meat off the bones with your hands. The best part of mansaf (well I don’t do it but I like to watch other people) is that when you are mostly finished eating you just sit around picking the “delicious” parts off the head, such as the cheek, the tongue, the eye socket…you get the idea. It’s like Thanksgiving, the Farbers, and a turkey carcass, except way more badass.

Tomorrow I am supposed to go to my friend’s for more sheep slaughtering (this is the one for whose purchase I was present) and eventual mansaf eating…I don’t know how much more of this I can take!


3 thoughts on “2 Ma’amoul, 2 Sheep, and a Car Accident

  1. Exactly! Need the pics after reading that blog. It’s the most exciting piece this ex-IDEXXer, now East Texan has read in months!

  2. Sorry the pictures are coming…internet connections are not as fast or as reliable here in the third world as over there in the first world, and so I’m waiting till I’m somewhere with high speed so I can upload them. I promise they’re coming though.

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