Monday, February 7, 2011

Being Poor in Egypt

This photo of a girl, standing in a field of corn, was taken by me as I sailed down the Nile on a tour boat in the summer of 1976. I can still smell and taste the wonderful corn on the cob, grilled in the husk, that was a common street food in Cairo. The British turned the Delta in a region for cash-crop long-staple cotton production. As Egypt's population boomed, the country was forced to import cereal grains. Food riots in the 70's followed the government's requirements to toe the line of the IMF and decrease the subsidy on bread. In the 80s, I recall reading an article in which Egyptians expressed their dissatisfaction with a government proposal to add corn flour to the mix for making daily bread. Which brings me to the topic of the post preceding this one, about my astonishment to discover a box of Corn Flakes, made in Egypt, in one of those "Dollar Stores" that proliferate throughout the U.S. Many years ago, a Russian-American sociologist, Ptirim Sorokin, opined that World War I was all about "boire et manger." I think he was on to something! Please check out my other posts about food, whether on shelves in Indo-Pak groceries, or Israeli and Arab products
"coexisting" on the shelves of local ethnic markets. If we all ate together, and limited Americanization to Corn Flakes, we would all get along much better, I am sure of it! But no corn to export out of Egypt, please!

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Egyptian Corn Flakes

UPDATED 2-4-11: WHAT GREATER EVIDENCE IS NEEDED OF EGYPT'S MIND-BOGGLING POVERTY AND DESPERATION? WHAT KIND OF GOVERNMENT EXPORTS FOOD IN A COUNTRY WHERE NEARLY HALF THE PEOPLE LIVE ON THE EQUIVALENT OF TWO DOLLARS A DAY? WHO PROFITED FROM THIS? In 2009, for this blog, and as promised, I searched my vast archives of global flotsam and jetsam for this strange artifact of New World Corn in an Old World context making its way back to the New World in a most unusual transformation, which lends itself to discussion from any number of angles. But I am too tired to do that, so all I will say is: I believe that Egypt's average per capita income is about $700 annually. So why corn grown there ends up in a low-rent "Global Foods" box that is actually shipped back to the U.S. and sold in those (usually) Chinese-owned "Dollar Stores" boggles my mind. Which is plenty boggled as it is.