last night, jason and i went to a bbq at the house of some new friends. the dad runs a falafel shop down the street that we've eaten at a few times. last week, we went by to say hi and really talk to him for the first time and he was like, "so, when are you coming over to my house for a bbq?". this culture is great like that. you meet someone one time and you have them over to eat. and you really mean the invitations. because we said, "sure, we'd love to come sometime", and his response was, "yes, i know. when? today? tomorrow?". so we settled on thursday night.
this put jason and i in a bit of a pickle. thursday night we were taking the kids to mundo's, a pizza restaurant, for dinner. the pizza is really good there. i love it. but we knew that we would have more food shoved in front of us at the bbq than anyone would ever think of eating, so we shouldn't eat any pizza. but we did. jason was smart and at least only ate one piece. but when i finished my first piece, they brought a brand new, hot, cheesy pizza out and sat it right in front of me. so i ate another piece. i figured i had about two hours before i'd have to eat again, so i'd be ok. i was wrong.
we got to the house and abu mahmud was out grilling. they have a beautiful yard area with real grass and an arab style table...mattresses in a square with pillows all around and big sheet in the middle. it was so great. the weather was perfect. it's been hotter than heck the last few days, but yesterday it was cloudy and warm and it even rained a little bit. mostly just sprinkles off and on, but it was still rain. so we sat down and made ourselves at home.
abu mahmud handed us each a steak sandwich. they were probably only 6 oz. steaks, maybe a little bigger. and they were soooooo good. juicy, lots of flavor, fresh off the grill. i told him how good they were and he said that i shouldn't get too excited, this was just the appetizer. i laughed. but he was serious.
then they started bringing out the second appetizer. hummus, babaganoush, french fries, bread. there were two dishes of each, one for me and jason and one for everyone else. i was already getting full and i had no idea what was coming next, so i didn't eat. but then aida, the wife, shoved the fries in front of me and told me to eat them because they were hot and fresh. i offered her some and she declined because she'd just eaten an hour ago. well, so had i, but that excuse apparently doesn't work for guests. so jason and i picked slowly at the fries and hummus, hoping to not have to eat too much before the main course.
and then the main course arrived. his sons had left the meat that his shop, so they had to go back and get it. they came in carrying two buckets of food. yes, buckets. not big bowls or huge serving platters. buckets. abu mahmud started to put the chicken on the grill. it looked and smelled delicious. i think he cooked two chickens. and there were eight adults and four little kids eating. then came the kebabs. they cooked them as little meatball things. there were probably forty of those. and this is in addition to the steak appetizer that everyone has already had. and as if that wasn't enough food, he threw on a couple more steaks and then so kindly plopped them onto our plates before we could say anything.
so two steaks, one chicken breast, two chicken legs, one kebab, a handful of fries, and a spoonful of hummus later, i couldn't move or think about eating anything else. at this point, they were actually very un-arab and stopped putting food on our plate when we said we'd had enough. most places we've been, we've gotten at least one more serving at this point, especially jason. it was some of the best meat i've eaten since i've been here. and probably more meat i've eaten since i've been here.
we stayed for about another hour, talking about what we do, what we're doing next year, where their families are from, stories from america (abu mahmud has been there twice). it was a really fun evening and i hope we get to spend more time with them. aida, the wife, has offered to teach me how to cook arab food. i think i'm going over next weekend. they told us when we move to our new apartment, they can be our first guests and i can cook them an arab meal. they were such a fun family, very relaxed and welcoming, doing their best to make us feel at home and make our time here as good as it can be. also, they gave us ice cream, which was actually a normal texture and no toothpaste aftertaste, so we'll definitely stay friends with them.