The blue and white banners were up and the annual Sydney Greek Festival was upon us once more. As with all the cultural festivals which regularly take place in Darling Harbour, serious planning is required to avoid a full scale pig-out. But none of that mattered when I saw them. There they were, those perfectly golden balls, speared with little toothpicks, gleaming with honey and christened with a sprinkling of cinnamon. Loukomades –so, we meet again.
It was at the same festival 3 years ago that the mere sight of Loukomades sent my husband surfing on a wave of nostalgia. Its Arab twin, Lugaimat or Luqmat al-Qadi, is a Ramadan favourite in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Middle East. Deep fried balls of dough, they are soft and airy on the inside with a thick, crunchy outside saturated in either rich, sticky honey or syrup. With a quick call to his buddies, half the Saudi student population in Sydney were soon at Darling Harbour enjoying their own tubs of warm Lugaimat and reminiscing about that crazy country they simultaneously loved and hated but were nonetheless obliged to return to.
After that night, I resolved to learn how to cook the perfect Lugaimat. At the time, I thought it was merely to impress my husband and his friends by being able to, like the Arab wives, send a nice dessert along to the boys’ regular gatherings where they often talked and drank Arabic coffee until the early hours of the morning. But I now see it for what it really was – an attempt to defeat my ever-present, imaginary rival: the ‘perfect’ Arab wife. Call it competitiveness or just plain insecurity but I felt I needed to prove that, though I may not be Arab, I could not only do anything an Arab wife could do, I could do it better.
Unfortunately, that was wishful thinking. I didn’t have the first clue about how to run a home, even a tiny one like ours, and even if I had known I was far too lazy to act on it. That year living together in Sydney was fraught with more culinary disasters than any kitchen should ever be exposed to so I shouldn’t have been surprised when what were supposed to be effortlessly spherical little treats came out looking like deformed elephants. Not to mention that the texture was all wrong – doughy on the inside and tough on the outside.
After numerous failed attempts, I gave up. My husband couldn’t care less, but it had never really been about him. It was about proving to myself and others that, despite being Australian, I was a wife worthy of a Saudi man. I’ve since realised, albeit at a painfully slow rate, that if he had wanted this so-called ‘perfect’ Arab wife, he could easily have found her or at least someone more closely resembling her, in Saudi Arabia. It would have been a pleasing arrangement for both his government and his family. But he didn’t want that for himself, in fact he wanted something quite different, something only someone like me could offer. So while I still silently compete and compare myself with the no doubt non-existent ‘perfect’ Arab wife, I’m learning to appreciate myself for the things that make me different from her because it was for that that my husband married me.