Hummus and and falafel have long been staples in US supermarkets. The more expensive and alternative the vendor, the bigger the Middle Eastern food offerings. Aimed at vegetarians and international clientele (Arabs and Israelis, especially in larger cities) offerings have improved in recent years, despite the persistence of problems that tend to plague Levantine-American cuisine, such as an absence of tahina.
Less noticeable has been the introduction of new, domestic hybrids of Middle Eastern dishes, such as this curiously named “Gaza Wrapp,” found at Cal Mart, in San Francisco. A Mexican tortilla filled with falafel and vegetables, the “Gaza” labeling immediately jumps out at you. What is it about this burrito-like mix that is supposed to signify Gaza? To hazard a guess, it must be the falafel. However, that’s clearly a stretch, as it risks gross caricature, especially as falafel is ubiquitous throughout the region.
As for the ‘burrito’, it’s not bad. Make sure to heat it before serving. In keeping with its namesake, it’s a heavy experience. The Wrapp’s weight, fresh out of the fridge, is significant. Not that giving any food product, hefty or not, the name “Gaza” is a bad thing. Far from it. It is just hard to fathom what exactly it’s mean to convey, when it is a synonym for violence and misery. Too much, perhaps, for something that tastes this good. Here’s to hoping the gesture is a utopian one. The right product, at the wrong time.
Photograph courtesy of Joel Schalit