Sunday, July 15, 2007

Hasawis And Their Seeds

When I first took my furnished apartment upon arriving to Saudia from America, I found a stick-on bindi left over from the previous tenants embedded into the seemingly clean short-piled carpet. From this bindi, I had accurately guessed (later to be confirmed by my new neighbors) that the former tenants were Indian as wearing a bindi is an Indian thing to do. I wonder if the people who took the apartment after us guessed accurately that Hasawis had lived in the apartment upon the discovery of discarded seed husks which had remained deeply buried in the carpet fibers, unseen to my eyes as I cleaned, which tend to pop up one at a time during successive cleaning sessions.

From a previous post- tips on spotting a Saudi Hillbilly:

#1 You know you’re a Hasawi if there’s a pile of chewed-up spit-out seeds shells on the ground next to you.
#12 You know you’re a Hasawi if you must have a bag of seeds, della of tea and beyalas to “travel” to Dammam. (Dellas are vacuum thermos flasks and beyalas are little glass tea cups).

My first days with my in-laws, they stayed with us in the temporary furnished apartment that we’d rented for a few days to welcome me to the family. On the first night, they came with vacuum thermoses of tea and Saudi coffee and distributed plates of various toasted and salted seeds such as sunflower and melon seeds. They sat sipping tea, chatting, laughing, and putting handfuls of seeds in their mouths.

I watched in silenced shock as my new family members deftly maneuvered the seeds around their mouths with their tongues to crack open the shells, extract the inside of the seed, and move the empty shell to the outside of their mouths leaving the husk dangling from their bottom lip waiting to be orally projected out onto the floor in front of them- all without the use of their hands. It was reminiscent of watching those large parrots at the pet store eat their seeds, cracking them open with their beaks and extracting the inner part with their tongues.

Within a half hour of the first seeds being consumed, the living room floor was filled with discarded seed shells which then became embedded into the bare feet navigating through the shell piles. This facilitated the migration of seed shells throughout the entire apartment as they resettled on the previously immaculate carpet once shaking free of their podal vectors. There wasn’t a corner left unmolested by a seed’s presence in the entire apartment. Several times during my in-laws stay, the husks were swept up by a hand-broom (as I hadn’t yet been able to buy a vacuum) once seed-appetites had been satiated for the evening only to have a fresh coating redistributed during the course of the next tea/chat session.

This was my introduction to Hasawis and their love of seeds.

Previous to coming to Saudia, most of my Saudi acquaintances had been either Hijazi or Najdi. People from all different parts of Saudia eat seeds, although not necessarily in the manner previously described. What sets Hasawis apart from the average Saudi seed eater is the frequency and amount of seeds that are eaten as well as the manner in which the husks are disposed of. Although I have seen many Hasawis delicately remove the empty seed shells from their mouths with their fingers and neatly dispose of them in a designated receptacle, more prefer the spittoon-style disposal method onto the floor/ground. This irks me to no end- especially if it’s MY carpet!

Keeping in mind that I may be generalizing, I didn’t apply the seed-eating/spitting stereotype to ALL Hasawis. However, year after year of witnessing countless discarded seed husks around town around have confirmed that this is indeed a wide-spread Hasawi convention. Also, I’ve come to learn that some Hasawis use eating seeds as a way to help with appetite control when dieting or to stop smoking. With the exception of peanut shells on the floor of a well-known steakhouse chain, I’d never before come across seed husks when in public. Here are a few locations I’ve seen piles of seed husks:
· friends and family’s cars
· the park
· the desert on the outskirts of town- despite its size there are usually petrified seed husks mixed in the sand.
· in parking lots
· on supermarket floors
· on the ground in the souk
· in the sofa-cushions of just about any Hasawi home.
· at the beach
· outside my children’s schools
· outside the hospital
· in DesertFlowers knickknacks
· inside computer printers
· thobe pockets

There are more, but you get the point.

DD has not only infuriated me with this seed-habit, he refuses to alter it any despite my trying to convince him with logic. Yesterday, while watching the Saudi vs. Indonesia game, he called for the housekeeper to bring him up a plate of seeds. I started telling him he shouldn’t be eating seeds now; Buddy is 8 ½ months, crawling and putting everything he finds in his mouth. I’m worried a broom-evading seed husk could get lodged in his little throat. After he deflected my objections with a look that says he doesn’t give a damn and I’m just nagging, my housekeeper arrived with the plate of seeds. Unaware of my having already reprimanded him, she started chastising him too. Apparently, the middle-ground was reached because by the end of the game there wasn’t a seed husk left on the floor because they’d been respectfully discarded in the trash bin. Thanks DD…and it only took 10 years folks!

So…if when in Saudia you see a pile of seed husks on the ground- chances are, a Hasawis been there.


Organic-Muslimah said...

I love the way you wrote this post. You are an excellent writer, mashAllah!

When you said: "deftly maneuvered the seeds around their mouths with their tongues to crack open the shells, extract the inside of the seed, and move the empty shell to the outside of their mouths leaving the husk dangling from their bottom lip waiting to be orally projected out onto the floor in front of them-"

Why did it seem so familiar? Could it be that I've been caught doing the same thing?


hema said...

you know, the above description sounds very impressive, i want to try it! i will wait patiently for a chance to do it on your carpet, though one day :)
(do seeds actually taste of anything? i can't imagine wanting to eat them. i think i wil stick to chocolate)

Suburban said...

My family is looking at me like I've finally gone round the bend, because I can't stop laughing.

As always, a great post.

Ann said...

Assalaamu alaikum,

Yup, another great post... Well, I have to say that my brothers, full-blooded Americans, used to eat a lot of sunflower seeds, but I can't remember how they got the shells out of their mouths. I do think they spit them, but not in the house. Personally, if I want sunflower seeds, I buy the kind that are already shelled and salted (i.e., in a jar from Planter's).

But my husband's family does the same thing as yours. Not as much, though. He often has a bag in the car, and he just spits the seeds into his lap. Then when he gets out of the car, they're all piled up in his dishdasha, and he just... I can't think of the word, but I'm sure you could describe it well... you know - he just pulls the fabric out so all the seeds fall on the ground. And then the dishdasha's clean, with no sign of any seeds. (So if you see a pile of seeds in a parking lot, it might not be from a Hasawi - it could be him, lol.)

The thing I can't understand is when they eat the stuff called "bennik" or something. What is that anyway? They're hard little kernels that seem like they'll break your teeth - and even the kids eat them.

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

Organic- Thanks for the compliment. I'd gather that you weren't the one cleaning the floor on those seed-spitting days:)

Hema- I'm not the least bit surprised you haven't eaten seeds...they're healthy:P Some day you'll come over from the dark-side of food and try them, you'll find that different seeds all taste different.

Suburban- I look forward to more comments from you in the future, your blog was hilarious!

Ann- DD isn't as neat with his driving/seed spitting habit...he lets them fly where they may. To make matters worse, he's probably the only Khaliji that doesn't like to have a clean car. The result is a butt covered in seed shells every time he gets out of the car for the next few weeks until he finally gives in and goes to get the car cleaned.

ابؤ شثيد said...

I would like to re-introduce myself as Daisy's seed-spitting husband and I would like to tell everybody who reads this blog that the ONLY reason I eat seeds now is to make my wife MAAAAAAAAD!

The main joy of eating seeds is to eat then's not fun to take them out neatly, one at a time. This is a fact...when you start withone seed, you just can't stop until finally, you get into a fight with your wife who takes the seeds away from you despite the fact that the damage is already done and she should just let it be. And to complete the fun, I promise her I'll pick them up only to leave them and watch her bitch about it. And it's even more fun to watch her keep bitching AS she's cleaning them up. Then I do it again and again:)

I'm surprised that she only now got around to writing about her seed issues. Future plans: to teach my kids the same habit and watch the sparks fly to create a never ending circle.

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

See what I have to deal with folks?

أبو سنان said...

LOL! That was funny.

My mother in law and sister in law love "fis-fis". I buy them for the two from time to time.

If you have ever seen these ones you'll know how small they are. I have tried them, but for me it is too much work to get such a small seed out of. Besides, it is pertty hard to even get the little shell open without cracking the whole thing in the first place.

Dont they sell them shelled?

Anonymous said...

Nice post. Strange how something like eating seeds sets apart one culture from another.

Did you know Bangladeshis eat jackfruit seeds? We dry them, roast them and add them to curries or just eat them roasted. They're nice. Nutty.

Anonymous said...

Back home many pple love eating sunflower seeds too, and some pple even give them out on weddings! My husband simply loves them and I can't stand them too! Same reasons as yours, the major one being that it would get picked up by a young child and then she would put it in her mouth. I have caught her doing just that in more than one occassion. Though dh eats his in an *organized* manner, he makes a *cone* using a newspaper and then puts the shells in it. But I still find some in my couch, or under the carpet. It's an annoying habit but it seems that they just do it to get us mad. hehehehe sf

hema said...

the ONLY reason I eat seeds now is to make my wife MAAAAAAAAD!

ha ha ha . you two are too cute. ha ha

daisy- perhaps you should try reverse psychology and pretend you don't care.

John Burgess said...

One of the joys of going to the Egyptian cinemas is that you're assured of leaving with a variety of husks in your hair as the folks behind you get rid of them.

In Egypt, they call them 'Lib Lib' and they're usually an assortment of seeds.

Personally, I prefer pumpkin seeds. I chew and swallow the husks for an extra good dose of fiber. Sunflower seed husks are a little to sharp for that.

Saudi Stepford Wife-Daisy said...

shelled...that would spoil all the fun!

anon- I bet you won't find as many seed piles around a Bangladeshi town as you do here though:)

sf- do what I did for awhile...any seeds DD bought would "magically" disappear only to magically "reappear" later in my MIL's kitchen cupboard. Since I've a housekeeper now I've loosened up the seed restrictions a bit.

hema- I'm not stoic enough to keep the look of horror/rage off my face when I've cleaned the house and he walks through it spitting seeds with every other step.

John- Thanks for the heads-up. I'll avoid giving seeds to my Egyptian guests now too:)
I remember the look of disgust on my in-laws faces when I ate the entire pumpkin seed instead of shelling it. It was the same gobsmacked look they gave me as they watched me pour hot tea over ice with lemon and drink it with delight.

Shahrzad said...

Lol, i liked your posts. In Iran we also eat seeds so much, any kind of seeds.Spc when there is a soccer competition show in TV. We also use hands for eatting.This time i try saudi way, They seem very professional seeds eaters! lol
Take care honey

Tiago said...

Living with people of very different customs is really difficult. I used to travel a lot and I stayed in hostels with many people of other places, but finally I got tired and in buenos aires rent an holiday apartment and never again tried to share the room with others. Now I travel so much comfortable.