Sunday, August 19, 2012

Assyrian food, what?

Last time I went down to San Jose for an ethnic festival in a church parking lot, it was to the annual Greek festival in the Rosegarden. This time it was to an Assyrian festival in Willow Glen. Assyrian, I knew, is the designation that most of the small Christian community in the upper Mesopotamian area (and its diaspora, of course) has for itself, though whether they actually have a better claim of descending from the ancient Assyrians than any other folks in that area, I have no idea. Judging from their t-shirts and the art for sale at the festival, they do eagerly claim those ancient kings with the pleated beards as part of their ethnic heritage, and they have a cool alphabet which they write some latter-day form of Aramaic in.

I go to these ethnic festivals mostly for the food, so how was it? Some of it was general Middle Eastern - kabobs and hummus and tabouli - and some of it was Greek - dolmas - and some of it was shared with Slavic - piroshki and baklava. This last is less strange than it sounds, because the piroshki has filtered into Central Asia so long as the Russians have been there, and the Russians actually got baklava from the Turks in the first place.

The best thing I tried, however, had no precedence that I know of, and no meat, either. It was a thick soup of beans and spinach with noodles. With a little sour cream on top it was just right. And I brought home a small container - and "small" was enough - of a yellowish rice pudding that, when you put a spoonful in your mouth, causes your brain to scream, "Saffron!!!" (And not the one from Firefly.) Well, it is yellowish for a reason.

All this while, the music was loudly playing, and it may have been in Aramaic, but it sounded indistinguishable from Arabic pop to me.

I browsed the few sales booths, which at least weren't the same folks you see at all the art and wine festivals. But I didn't buy anything. The trinket boxes in intricate real-world shapes looked well-made, but a little gaudy. The earrings were more drop-hanging than B. would like. And while a t-shirt in Aramaic might have been cool, I'd have no idea what it said, and if I'd asked, I'm not sure whether I'd a) be confident in its accuracy, or b) remember it.

Uh, unless it was "He who is valiant and pure of spirit may find the Holy Grail in the Castle of ..." That I'd have bought. He must have died while printing it.

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