There is no greater way to describe how I feel after voting other than that I feel like an idiot.
Did I know any of these people I voted for? No. Had I even heard of them before? No. Could I find any decent reading material about what these people are trying to bring closer to me? No. All I knew was as follows:
All the aunties and uncles were telling me to vote for specific people. It didn’t matter who they were, what they were doing or how they made their money — “Just go and vote! Trust me, we don’t want the people who’ll put the veil on us!” Fear and agitation filled many living rooms I’d visit.
My mom’s housekeeper of 20 years instead voted for the people that have helped her area for several years by providing them with sugar, rice and everyday necessities. My mother-in-law’s housekeeper voted for the people who had the longest history and were “organized enough to do something with this country.” Different reasons, same vote.
All that was asked of me by other people was to remember symbols. That’s how you’d find them on the list. Some of the most educated people in this country had resorted to picking out “trusted” symbols, spreading the message from one social circle to the next; and depending on which social circles you belonged to, the symbol you were to vote for would reach you by word of mouth.
This was the absurd subliminal message being sent my way: if you vote for those who use kitchen appliances as symbols they’re more likely to force you to cover up but if you vote for those with hardware tools, they’ll probably try to fix the economy.
Entering the polling station, a man leering over me grinned upon seeing my first tick and immediately pointed out where my next tick would be. He assumed that from the way I look, I would naturally be voting this way. How disappointing that we have all become stereotypes to one another.
Despite feeling like an imbecile, I walked out happy to embrace the sights and smells of a winter morning in my beloved Cairo, a morning so sunny and bright with a spirited breeze trying to weave itself through my tightly-bunned hair. The man calling out on a megaphone that four satchels of garlic are for LE 10 behind two younger boys carrying warm baladi bread, an elderly lady peddling socks in front of a store stacked with jars of golden honey, the Ministry of Agriculture’s outlets lined up for unaware consumers to buy the unaware farmers’ produce — all reminding me of how delicately balanced this country is, holding on to hope and ever-creating chaotic beauty in such coarseness. How will we ever organize this country and if we do, will we lose our charm?
In times of confusion, it’s comforting to turn to food, especially a dish so with one on the street. Asked over and over by the adults that act like adults in our family to refrain from midnight runs to get street food, I chose to pick up fresh Egyptian sogo’, or sausage, this time and conjure up a recipe as close to the fiery sogo’ sold at places that should place a warning sign on the door.
If you too are being nagged about devouring mystery meat in the street, invite your friends over for a pseudo-street-food party. If you’re lucky, someone will bring in the real stuff and rave about your recipe while your gorge on their street-bought oil-drenched deliciousness.
Fiery Egyptian Sausage
500 grams of Egyptian sausage
½ a tablespoon of ghee
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 medium red onion, finely diced
2 teaspoons of tomato paste
2 cups of water
1 squirt of lemon juice
1 large yellow pepper, finely diced
1 teaspoon of cumin powder
½ teaspoon of cinnamon powder
½ teaspoon of chili powder
1-2 medium red chili peppers, thinly sliced
1 handful of parsley, chopped
Begin by separating the sausage links. In a large pan, heat the ghee on high heat and sear the sausage for 3 minutes until browned. Remove and set aside. Lower to medium heat and using the same pan, add the onions, yellow pepper, chilli peppers and stir to release flavor. Add the cinnamon, cumin and chilli powder to the mixture and allow to cook for a minute. Spoon in the tomato paste and cook off for 30 seconds to break the acidity. Add the water and bring your sauce to a rapid boil. Add the sausage back into the sauce, reduce the heat, add the lemon juice and allow to simmer gently until the sauce is reduced by half. This should take about 20 minutes. Garnish with parsley. Serve hot with warm baladi bread to scoop up the sauce.