fun with citrus fruits
Posted by adiamondinsunlight on April 10, 2009
Earlier this week H and I had an argument about tabboule. Well, not really about tabboule: about what goes into tabboule. And not even that: what we argued about was the word.
H is teaching an Arabic course at a local institution, and this week they were focusing on food and kitchen words.
Sorry to bother you, H said when I answered the phone, but can you tell me what “parsley” is in Arabic?
H doesn’t cook, clearly. And nor does he remember the name of my laptop: Bekdounes.
But isn’t that also cilantro? H continued. I was stumped: I had no idea. But I knew how to find out – and so I looked it up.
Its kuzbara khudra2, I said. And coriander, cilantro’s cousin (coriander comes from the dried seeds; cilantro comes from the fresh leaves), is plain old kuzbara.
So: we were good with green things, and we were also good with banadoura and burghul, the other two critical components of a good tabboule. But then H said something I didn’t understand:
And of course zeit and hamoud, H finished.
What? I asked. What is that word?
Its lemon, H said, surprised.
Amoun? I asked. Can you say it again?
Hamoud, H said.
How do you spell that? I asked, still mystified.
I have no idea, H said – like many Lebanese, able to speak Arabic fluently, but unable to read or write.What would you say for “lemon”?
Um, I said. I would say “limon”.
Oh, you Frenchies, H said sighing. And I do like French: but “lemon” in French is “citron”. Where did I get “limon” from?
I looked up “lemon” in an English-Arabic dictionary, and found that – surprise, surprise – we were both partly right. According to my dictionary, the word for “lemon” is: حامض ليمون. “Hamid” means sour or bitter, and “limon” means “lemon”.
I’m still a bit confused, though. I thought that citrus fruits were effectively native to the region, or at least to North Africa and Palestine, having come over from the Iberian peninsula. Hence the name for “orange” in Arabic is “burtuqal”, i.e., “Portugal. Does “limon” indicate a Spanish/Portuguese origin for lemons, as well?