This is not the greatest falafel in the world; this is just a photograph.
Few savory foods can make me as happy as falafel. Sure, tortilla espanol
might be more subtle in its variations. Pizza might lend itself to greater creativity. Perogi might hold more memories. But great falafel* isn’t just delicious and filling, it’s downright therapeutic. To have a belly full of warm falafel is to know, deep down, that everything is going to be alright after all, despite all of the evidence to the contrary.
My love for these little fried balls of mashed chickpeas has only increased since I left America. I loved Moby Dick’s House of Kabob back in Washington D.C. — but I just don’t know if I can go back that, now I’ve had falafel fit for a king.
I mean that literally. When Blair and I visited Jordan last month, we tracked down** Hashem Restaurant
– the place where King Abdullah II gets his falafel. The folks at Hashem are not subtle about this fact — the walls of the seating area are lined with photos of the king and his family chowing down. But they’re not leaning on their reputation. Fresh orders of hot falafel are constantly flowing form the kitchen and one will make its way to your table the second you sit down. That’s right, you’ll be given falafel even before you order the rest of your meal. This falafel is non-optional. And why should it be? If don’t like falafel you have no business coming to Hashem.
I wasn’t given a menu at Hashem. The waiter just asked me what I wanted, item by item. Did I want: hummus? (yes); pita? (well, obviously); fries? (always); vegetables? (why not); and a mashed chickpea and bean paste called fool. That’s right — fully half the components of my meal involved chickpeas and I was 100% OK with that.
Falafel ‘n pals.
It was all wonderful. I could write a love song about that hummus. But the falafel — it was so good that it made the flaws in all of the less falafels I’ve ever had seem more glaring retrospect. It was fluffy where others were dense; crisp where others were soggy; moist and aromatic where others were dry and disappointing. It outshone other falafels the way Blair outshines other women I’ve dated.
The difference is, Blair and I got married and now we travel around having adventures forever. I can’t marry that falafel stand***. I now live in a world of perma-inferior falafels. But then again, even mediocre falafel shames most of the world’s fast food by comparison. I’m just lucky I got to spend even one afternoon with the king.
* Of course, not all falafel is great. Even angels can be corrupted.
** I passed up visiting the Dead Sea, the site where Moses died and the place where Jesus was baptised to eat at this falafel stand. I am entirely comfortable with my priorities.
*** Blair is a jealous sort. She would never allow it.