Monday, March 15, 2010

Shawarma on Marines base

Well - it's true that I visited Quantico VA Marines base two weeks ago, but I have nothing of value to report from there. (Except being glad to not be there anymore) But this post refers to new food stands at another base - where they serve Middle Eastern food. Good for them, nothing wrong with satisfying taste buds.

IMHO, the best Shawarma is to be found in Israel, where I'll be flying to with family this Thursday, so you won't be hearing much from me for next couple of weeks.

Marines, enjoy your Shawarma :-)
Shawarma, Ready-to-Eat: Arab Cuisine Invades Camp Pendleton

Denise Hazime, a Muslim woman, contacted food services officials here last July with what she thought might sound like a preposterous proposal: She wanted to open an Arabic food stand on the largest Marine base on the West Coast.

It turned out to be an appetizing idea. Marines returning from Iraq and the Persian Gulf were pining for pita, according to focus-group surveys conducted on the base.

Last month, Ms. Hazime and her husband, a Marine veteran, opened "Dede Med's Shawarma House"—the first Arabic food stand on a base with a daytime population of 60,000 hungry Marines and civilians.

Minutes after the place opened, Travis Post, a Marine captain from Oklahoma who had been stationed in Iraq for seven months, pulled up in his car. "So you've really got shawarma back there?" Mr. Post asked, referring to the spicy grilled meat sandwich popular throughout the Middle East.

"You want one?" asked Ms. Hazime's husband, Crisantos Hajibrahim, who was working the cash register.

"Heck, yeah!" Mr. Post responded. While training Iraqi police, he had shared meals with locals daily. "There was a lot of lamb in my life," he says.

As Mr. Post grabbed his $7 sandwich and walked away, he yelled,"You'll see me next week."

For decades, American troops have been on the front lines of foreign cuisine, sampling exotic foods during even the most dangerous conflicts.

Since 2001, more than 2 million military service members have been deployed to the Middle East. While many take their meals on U.S. bases there that serve American-style food, those sent to villages and neighborhoods quickly learn about lamb, flat bread, and the ubiquitous chickpea. In the Middle East, shared meals are often a key part of forming bonds and winning trust.

"They're deploying to that part of the world and they're developing a taste for that kind of product," says Lane Jones, Camp Pendleton's director of community services.

Camp Pendleton—a sprawling, 125,000 acre base 38 miles from downtown San Diego, had already been expanding its cuisine, adding Mexican, Chinese and soul-food places. But Ms. Hazime's shawarma stand is a more delicate proposition than the base's planned opening of a Panda Express selling Americanized Chinese food.

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