Breakfast at Lunchtime
I needed to take a break. We’d been at it for a few hours and I could feel that my head was telling me that I needed to re-fuel, and my voice was close to cracking due to not drinking much water during the session. I had a goal to get the recording over and done with within a set time-frame – I wanted to finish before 3pm – I had a bus to catch to Sharm.
“Do you mind if I eat my lunch?” I asked her.
She only pulled her eyes away from the computer screen for a few seconds. “Er, yeah sure,” she replied.
The tempo of her fingers across the computer’s keyboard had changed its rhythm, and her eyes were not following the lines on the screen as closely as before.
I pulled out the plastic bag that contained the round container that held my lunch, which was in fact the leftovers of last night’s dinner of green lentils, stir-fried vegetables and a little seasoned Egyptian rice. I’m always quite pleased with myself when I make something exceedingly delicious, but we’ll leave the tooting of my horn for another post!
I like this dish hot, but it always tastes better cold, so I decided against heating it in the microwave, and set up my dining camp on the other side of the table she was working on. She pulled up the sleeve of her shirt to look at her watch.
“You’re having lunch now?” She asked, one eyebrow slightly more raised than the other in her already perplexed expression.
“Er, yeah,” I too looked at my watch to confirm that it was lunchtime; it read 12.40pm.
“This is breakfast time,” she continued.
“Breakfast? Now?” I must have been mistaken, I had to reaffirm that the time was midday and not some time in the morning.
“No, it’s lunchtime, ” I reassured her.
“We have breakfast at this time.”
“Oh yeah!” I remember my students mentioning something bizarre like that, but I hadn’t taken it very seriously, I mean, who has breakfast in the afternoon? “But I’m still British; for us, this is lunchtime, breakfast is much earlier.”
She nodded in a way that said Gosh, you lot are weird!
“I haven’t even had breakfast yet!” she laughed
“No! Why not?”
“I don’t know. But you can have your lunch, and I’ll have my breakfast!” A good joke, but I wonder why the Egyptian eating habit is so off-balance.
Upon contemplation, I realise that everything about the Egyptian day is off-balance in comparison to back in the UK. We start our day early and finish it quite early too. It’s quite normal to see shops open at 8.30 or 9am in the UK, however, Egyptians struggle with the idea of early starts, and most shops (like clothing stores) will not be caught alive at that time in the morning!
The Egyptian day generally starts late (hence we cannot fathom having 9am classes at work – there would be a 0% attendance until 10.30!), and ends late too (think of us teaching up until 10pm – don’t ask!), I have often awoken to pungent smells drifting into my bedroom from my neighbour deciding that dinner was to be eaten at 1am – yes that’s 1 o’clock in the morning, when I’m trying to stay within the land of snooze.
This could be a great reason why the large majority of Egyptians are of the curvy and round proportion – not that a lover of good food necessarily has to be overweight (I like to think that I’m testimony to that!) – but the timing of meals (and how much excercise one gets) will greatly contribute to the healthy weight vs. overweight ratio.
I’ve been told that I have become Egyptianised, but the Western eating times is something that this Londoner has inscribed within her gut. No Egyptianisation there.
– The Londoner