You are what you eat, if you have the choice, that is! RICH & FRUGAL FOOD [Archives:1997/41/Health]

October 13 1997

By: Athena Hamoud Al-Absi
Everybody needs a balanced diet. The Yemeni people, due to their general backwardness, are mainly ignorant of the necessary nutrients needed in their diets. Poverty is, of course, another major cause of malnutrition. Recently, the gap has widened between the rich and poor in our society. Three families from different socio-economic backgrounds were chosen for this little study on eating habits.
Family A is a low-income family consisting of three members in which the father is the only bread-winner. He works as a guard in a government office.
Family B has six members whose father and eldest son work for a private company.
Family C is a very rich family whose members work in the business of exports and imports. They are also agents for many international companies. The family is composed of 8 persons. The eating habits and the varieties of food consumed by each of the three families are as follows:
Breakfast The poor family usually has mashed foole (horse beans) with home-made bread and sweet tea. The second, higher-income family has bread with cheese, butter, baked beans, or eggs and tea. The upper-class folk eat butter, cheese, jam, olives, corn flakes, French bread, cakes, tea or coffee with milk and fresh juice.
Lunch The poor people do not eat meat at all, except on rare occasions. These also include being invited to a wedding banquet or a funeral wake. They mainly eat mixed boiled vegetables for three times a week and “aseed” which is boiled flour with potato, oil and vegetables, for the other days of the week. On Saturday, the middle-income family has chicken meat, rice, and mixed vegetable sauce. Sundays they can be seen eating “salta” (rice, vegetables, and coriander), shafoot (large thin bread), yoghurt, onions, radishes, and herbs. Fish and rice are reserved for Monday. Chicken, bread and consomm√© are eaten the next day. On Wednesday, they have shafoot and salta. Fish and rice are repeated on Thursday. On the weekend, lamb and salta are the order of the day. Rich food is for rich families. Our rich specimen family eats fish, rice and green salad on Saturday; fish, chicken, rice, and green salad on Sunday; lamb, spaghetti, pizza, chips, and green salad on Monday; chicken, fish, mixed vegetable sauce, and bread on Tuesday; lamb, shafoot, rice, and salad on Wednesday; on Thursday, food such as lamb or fish, mashed dates or banana with bread with salads or cooked vegetables, is brought from a traditional Yemeni restaurant or mekhbazah. On Friday, lamb or chicken with rice, salad, and meat consomm√© are eaten by the rich family.
Supper Foole with home-made bread and sweet tea is the staple diet of our poor friends. The higher ups have foul, baked beans, eggs, mixed vegetables sauce, bread and tea. The rich have eggs, baked beans, fish, and roasted chicken or meat.
Fruits The poor family eat bananas – the cheapest fruit in Yemen, especially at the end of season – once a week. The middle income family eat fruits five times a week, especially when the prices come down later on in the season. The rich eat all kinds of fruit during the day and evening meals.
Sweets Sweets are too expensive for the poor family so they do not eat them at all. The middle income family, on the other hand, has home-made sweets about four times a week. The rich eat all kinds of sweets every day – bought ready-made or home-made, if they have free time. The sweet they have include cream caramel, custard, jelly, or ice-cream.
Milk Milk is relatively expensive in Yemen. So the poor family does not drink milk nor does it consume other dairy products. The middle income ones drink powdered milk twice a week only. The rich, however, drink fresh milk every morning and evening.
Refreshments Soft drinks and other types of refreshment are out of the question for the poor family. Water is their only solace. Fresh juices are made at home by the middle family. The rich drink fizzy drinks, imported packed fresh juice and home-made juice.
Conclusion With the economic reform program, subsidies on basic food commodities are gradually lifted leading to more hardships for poor families. So their diet will become even poorer. The persistent habit of chewing qat, among the poor, will further aggravate the problem. Many people spend more money on qat than on food. Since there is a large proportion of poor people in Yemen, future generations are threatened with many dangers arising from malnutrition.
* Athena is a free-lance journalist writing for the Yemen Times.