A video dialogue program for young women in the USA and Muslim countries
December 5th, 2006 at 8:34 pm
Posted by Zia in Sessions

Our session in Gabes this past week centered on food and cooking.
Eating and learning to cook. The conversation started with a discussion of where participants eat their meals. Some of the women in Gabes go home for every meal; others stay closer to campus during lunchtime. In regards to cooking, one participant explained that in Tunisia, as a woman you are expected to learn to cook once you get engaged – it becomes your future mother-in-law’s responsibility to ensure that you feed her son well (even if a woman works, she’ll be expected to do all the cooking). Others in Gabes mentioned that this situation is changing, and one woman said she’s lucky because her fiancé is a good cook so she doesn’t have to worry. The US participants indicated that in most relationships, both the men and women cook (or share cooking-related chores), especially if both work. One of the American women pointed out, however, that her boyfriend does very little around the house, so she ends up responsible for most domestic tasks. 
Typical foods. When asked what foods were typical, Americans replied that bagels were the probably the most typical New York food, but things like spaghetti, pizza and barbecue were popular, too. One participant said she came from the south so she liked soul food: “It’s awful for you but it tastes so good!” In Tunisia, there was much discussion of couscous as a national dish, as well as typical vegetable salads. One participant also talked about how it was traditional to slaughter and roast a sheep for Eid al-Adha (the Muslim feast to celebrate the end of the Haj). In her family, her father was in charge and would perform the sacrifice every year.
Food and body image. The last part of the discussion was about how food impacts body image. The participants in Gabes said weight is indeed an issue in Tunisia, particularly as women get older. They mentioned that if you are considered overweight, it affects your self-image since you are more limited in what clothing you can wear, and men may be less interested in you. They indicated there is increasing awareness of health and weight issues in Tunisia, so fitness centers are becoming more popular and women are becoming more interested in sports. The US participants said for them, too, weight is an issue – most said they do indeed think a lot about weight. The Tunisian participants asked about Americans being the heaviest people in the world - US participants explained it was generally due to lifestyle and lack of access to healthy foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables. If fast food is much cheaper and easier, people will gravitate to that option rather than cooking healthy meals from scratch.
We’ll be continuing this theme on Thursday when we’ll be discussion clothing, appearance and body image.

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