Monday, May 23, 2011

The Mediterranean Table: Hummus

It’s my first official week as a free woman. Free from studying and papers and campus life. Free from exams and classrooms and PowerPoint slides. Summer vacation is here, and everyone I know and love has gone back to their lives outside of school, where family and internships and summer jobs await them.

Last week was a medley of deep thoughts and philosophies. I kept thinking how I seemed so detached and isolated from my life back in the states since Sweden. I was invited to parties and other fun activities, but for some reason I didn’t end up going. I spent my weekends at home with the family instead of on campus. As awesome as my roommates were, they had their own lives to attend to and were rarely at the townhouse. The off campus housing community wasn’t as close-knit or as lively as I remember it being my first and second semesters at Mason. I spent the majority of this semester either at home, in the classroom, or alone with my thoughts.

As mentioned before, I was accepted to be part of a wonderful program this summer. The meeting held on Monday was quite intimidating, but a learning experience. For one, I am the youngest member of the team, and the only undergraduate among them. The rest are either entering the S/CAR Masters program, are in the Masters program, or on the road to earning a PhD. These people knew what they wanted to do with their degree, knew exactly their point of focus. And here I was, one semester shy of graduating, and life has so many options to choose from I’m getting lightheaded just thinking about it. But from this meeting I learned something about myself, something I didn’t realize to be a true-blue term for what I’ve been going through.

The term, my friends, is reverse culture shock.

There are two elements to defining reverse culture shock: one, an idealized view of home and two, the expectation of total familiarity (that nothing at home has changed while you have been away). Typically students coming home from being abroad are able to pick up from where they left off. Only when their reality is not meeting their expectations is there a problem. The four stages of RCS are disengagement, initial euphoria, irritability and frustration, then readjustment and adaptation. In a matter of nine months I had to move in and out of places seven times, so I don’t think I’ve felt settled since last summer. Much is changing, and friends are off in their own realities that seem farther away then they were a year ago. My outlet for my isolation and estrangement has been making meals for others. In the kitchen, as I prepare a bowl of this or a plate of that, I know that I’m important, that I matter. Cooking has been my way of feeling stable in a world that kept going after I left and came back.

Being abroad really shifted my priorities. I love traveling, and I still do, but I’m done with packing and unpacking every few months into another place. I want stability, a place that I (and a select few of my extended family) can call our own for as long as we wish. I’m done with my life being in boxes, of feeling like a part of me has been put on hold in my attempt to get back into the groove this side of the states grooves to.

This weekend I overexerted myself to feeling like a valuable part of the household by cooking, after three exams and moving out of the townhouse in a matter of hours. We had a close family friend stay with us, and I was determined to do my part to make her feel welcome. Since she is from the Mediterranean, we typically go to a bakery that supplies Mediterranean favorites: pita bread, hummus, baklava, and various teas. But I wanted to make some of the things we bought from scratch, just to see how it would turn out.

And let me tell you, homemade is always better than store-bought, especially when you make it gluten free.

These next few posts will give you a taste of what was on the dinner table on Friday, what was made fresh on Saturday, and what was still enjoyed on Sunday. The beauty about Mediterranean cuisine is how easy, refreshing, and filling meals can be.


2 15 oz cans Garbanzo beans, drained of excess water
2 Lemons, juiced
2 tbsp. Olive oil
5 tbsp. Tahini
3 tbsp. Filtered water
1/4 tsp. Cumin
2 dashes Sumac
2 dashes Garlic powder
1/4 tsp. Pepper
Paprika and sesame seeds, for garnish

In a food processor (or blender), combine all the ingredients until thoroughly combined.
If you want it smoother, add more water or tahini.

Makes a heaping bowl of the stuff.

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