Foodways: Photos for my presentation “The Costs and Benefits of Fishing in Southern Oman,” ‘Fish as Food’ conference, International Comm. on the Anthro. of Food and Nutrition

“The Costs and Benefits of Fishing in Southern Oman,” Dr. M. Risse

Fish as Food: Lifestyle and a Sustainable Future, International Commission on the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition

hosted at the University of Liverpool, Sept 1-3, 2021, http://www.icaf2021.uk/

(photo by Onaiza Shaikh)

Below are a collection of photos to help document the types of boats used and the coastal areas. I am very grateful to Onaiza Shaikh, Hussein BaOmar, M. A. Al Awaid and S. B. for kindly giving me permission to use their photos to help illustrate cultural issues in Dhofar.

Fishing boats and dhows, photos by Onaiza Shaikh

Fishing boats and fish by Hussein BaOmar

Catching sardines and drying abalone by M. A. Al Awaid

Sardine catch and coastal areas by S. B

Foodways: Data for my presentation “The Costs and Benefits of Fishing in Southern Oman,” ‘Fish as Food’ conference, International Comm. on the Anthro. of Food and Nutrition

“The Costs and Benefits of Fishing in Southern Oman,” Dr. M. Risse

Fish as Food: Lifestyle and a Sustainable Future, International Commission on the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition

hosted at the University of Liverpool, Sept 1-3, 2021, http://www.icaf2021.uk/

(photo by S. B.)

This post contains:

  • the abstract
  • data set discussed in the presentation
  • selected bibliography
  • list of seafood

Abstract

My presentation discusses two important questions about fishing economics: how much does it cost to catch fish and how does that expense create a social benefit for fishermen, regardless of the money earned from the catch? My research is based in Dhofar, the southern region of Oman, where I have been looking at the theme of generosity, including sharing food, for more than ten years. In this presentation I will explain how much a typical day and season of fishing costs a fisherman, as well as how giving away part of every catch creates a benefit that is more than monetary. Using interviews and personal experiences, I will explain how the cash outlay for gas, nets, bait, etc. is transformed into social, in addition to economic, capital for fishermen.

Data Set

To give an overview of the fishing industry from data collected by the Omani National Center for Statistics and Information (ONCSI), latest available yearly data is 2019, latest monthly data is April 2021:

  • renewed fishing licenses in Dhofar – 2,424 (33%, out of 7,266 for all of Oman)
  • new in Dhofar – 324 (20%, out of 1,607 for all of Oman)
  • renewed boat licenses in Dhofar – 998 (11%, out of 8,847 for all of Oman)
  • new boats in Dhofar – 57 (10%, out of 547 for all of Oman)
  • tons landed by traditional fishermen in Dhofar – 74,400 (14%, out of 550, 210 tons for all of Oman)

In other words, in 2019 in Dhofar 2,748 licensed fishermen using 1,055 boats caught 74,400 tons

Two other data points. First there is a wide seasonal variation because of the monsoon season: approximately 7,794 tons in October 2020 – 10,653 tons in December 2020 – 5,447 tons in February 2021

Secondly, at the last monthly data set available: April 2021: 8,401 tons were landed in Dhofar by traditional fishermen and the same month 1,392 tons landed by all commercial fishermen

information from the ONCSI at:

Selected References about Fish/ Fishing in Dhofar/ Oman (including cooking and historical texts)

In brief, there has been work done on the types of fish along the Omani coast (e.g. Al-Jufaili, Hermosa, Al-Shuaily and Al Mujaini 2010; Choudri, Baawain and Mustaque 2016, Harrison 1980; McKoy, Bagley, Gauthier and Devine 2009) and how fish are sold (e.g. Al-Marshudi and Kotagama 2006; Al Rashdi and Mclean 2014; William and Fidelity Lancaster 1995; “National Aquaculture Sector Overview-Oman” 2019; Omezzine 1998, Omezzine, Zaibet and Al-Oufi 1996; Siddeek, Fouda and Hermosa 1999).

Al-Hamad, Sarah. 2016. Cardamom and Lime: Flavors of the Arabian Gulf, the Cuisine of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the U.A.E. Singapore: IMM Lifestyle Books.

Al-Jufaili, Saud, Greg Hermosa, Sulaiman S. Al-Shuaily and Amal Al Mujaini. 2010. “Oman Fish Biodiversity.” Journal of King Abdulaziz University 21.1: 3-51.

Al-Marshudi, Ahmed Salim and Hemesiri Kotagama. 2006. “Socio-Economic Structure and Performance of Traditional Fishermen in the Sultanate of Oman.” Marine Resource Economics 21: 221-30.

Al Maskiry, Fawziya Ali Khalifa. 2004. A Taste to Remember, 3rd edition. Muscat: Al Nahda Press

Al Rashdi, K. and E. Mclean. 2014. “Contribution of Small-Scale Fisheries to the Livelihoods of Omani Women: A Case Study of the Al Wusta Governorate.” Gender in Aquaculture and Fisheries: Navigating Change – Asian Fisheries Science Special Issue 27S: 135-149.

Campbell, Felicia. 2015. The Food of Oman: Recipes and Stories from the Gateway to Arabia. London: Andrew McMeel.

Carter, Henry. 1846. “The Ruins of El Balad.” Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London 16: 187-99.

—. 1845. “Notes on the Gara Tribe.” Journal of the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society: 195-201.

Choudri, B., Mahad Baawain, and Mustaque Ahmed. 2016. “An Overview of Coastal and Marine Resources and their Management in Sultanate of Oman.” Journal of Environmental Management and Tourism 7.1: 21-32.

Clements, Frank.  1977. “The Islands of Kuria Muria: A Civil Aid Project in the Sultanate of Oman Administered from Salalah, Regional Capital of Dhofar.” Bulletin (British Society for Middle Eastern Studies) 4.1: 37-39.

Cruttenden, Charles. 1838. “Journal of an Excursion from Morbat to Dyreez, the Principal Town of Dhofar.” Transactions of the Bombay Geographical Society 1: 184-88.

Ghazanfar, Shahina. 1998. “Status of the Flora and Plant Conservation in the Sultanate of Oman.” Biological Conservation 85: 287-295. 

Gilette, Maris. 2019. “Muslim Foodways,” in The Handbook of Food and Anthropology. Jakob Klein and James Watson, eds. London: Bloomsbury Academic. 48-73.

Haines, Stafford. 1939. “Memoir to Accompany a Chart of the South Coast of Arabia from the Entrance of the Red Sea to Misenat, in 50, 43, 25 E. Part I.” Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London 9: 125-56.

—. 1845. “Memoir of the South and East Coasts of Arabia: Part II.” Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London 15: 104-60.

Harrison, David. 1980. The Journal of Oman Studies: Special Report 2: The Oman Flora and Fauna Survey 1975. Muscat: Diwan of H. M. for Protocol.

Higgins, Andrew. 2011. With the S.A.S. and Other Animals: A Vet’s Experiences during the Dhofar War 1974. Barnsley: Pen and Sword Publishing.

Ibn al-Mujāwir. 2008. A Traveler in Thirteenth-Century Arabia: Ibn al-Mujāwir’s Tarikh al-Mustabir 19, Third Series, G. R. Smith, trans. London: Ashgate for the Hakluyt Society.

Ibn Battuta. 1929. Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354. H.A.R. Gibb, trans. London: Rutledge.

Janzen, Jorg. 2000. “The Destruction of Resources among the Mountain Nomads of Dhofar,” in The Transformation of Nomadic Society in the Arab East, University of Cambridge Oriental publications 58. Martha Mundy and Basim Musallam, eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 160-75.

—. 1986. Nomads in the Sultanate of Oman: Tradition and Development in Dhofar. London: Westview Press.

The Journal of Oman Studies: Special Report 2: The Oman Flora and Fauna Survey 1975. Muscat: Diwan of H. M. for Protocol.

Kanafani, Aida Sami. 1979. Aesthetics and Ritual in the United Arab Emirates. unpublished dissertation, University of Texas at Austin.

Lancaster, William and Fidelity Lancaster.  1995. “Nomadic Fishermen of Ja’alân, Oman.” Nomadic Peoples 36/37: 227-244.

McKoy, John, Neil Bagley, Stéphane Gauthier, and Jennifer Devine. 2009. Fish Resources Assessment Survey of the Arabian Sea Coast of Oman – Technical Report 1. Auckland: Bruce Shallard and Associates and the New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research.

Mendonca, Vanda, Barry Jupp, Musallam Al Jabri, Thuraya Al Sariri and Mohamed Al Muzaini. 2003. National Report on the State of the Marine Environment. Muscat: Ministry of Regional Municipalities, Environment & Water Resources, Marine Pollution and Coastal Zone Management Section.

Miller, Anthony, Miranda Morris, and Susanna Stuart-Smith.  1988. Plants of Dhofar, the Southern Region of Oman: Traditional, Economic, and Medicinal Uses. Muscat: Office of the Adviser for Conservation of the Environment, Diwan of Royal Court.

Mintz, Sidney.  1996. Tasting Food, Tasting Freedom: Excursions into Eating, Culture, and the Past. Boston: Beacon Press.

Mintz, Sidney, and Du Bois, Christine.  2002. “The Anthropology of Food and Eating.” Annual Review of Anthropology 31:99-119.

Morris, Jan. 2008/ 1957. Sultan in Oman. London: Eland.

Morris, Miranda. 1987. “Dhofar – What Made it Different’,” in Oman: Economic, Social and Strategic Development. B.R. Pridham, ed. London: Croom Helm. 51-78.

“National Aquaculture Sector Overview-Oman.”  2019.  Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations-Fisheries and Aquaculture Department. http://www.fao.org/fishery/countrysector/naso_oman/en

Omezzine, Abdallah.  1998. “On-shore Fresh Fish Markets in Oman.” Journal of International Food and Agribusiness Marketing 10.1: 53-69.

Omezzine, Abdallah, Lokman Zaibet and Hamad Al-Oufi.  1996. “The Marketing System of Fresh Fish Products on the Masirah Island in the Sultanate of Oman.” Marine Resources Economics 11: 203-210.

Patzelt, Annette. 2015. “Synopsis of the Flora and Vegetation of Oman, with Special Emphasis on Patterns of Plant Endemism.” Braunschweigische Wissenschaftliche Gesellschaft. 282-317. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281240453_Synopsis_of_the_Flora_and_Vegetation of_Oman_with_Special_Emphasis_on_Patterns_of_Plant_Endemism

Sadeghin, Farideh.  2015, Oct. 27. “The Food of Oman is Too Good to Ignore: Recipe-testing a Middle Eastern Cookbook Gives our Test Kitchen Director a New Love for an Under-appreciated Cuisine.” Saveur. https://www.saveur.com/food-of-oman-cookbook-cuisine-felicia-campbell

Saunders, J. P. 1846. “A Short Memoir of the Proceedings of the Honorable Company’s Surveying Brig ‘Palinurus,’ during Her Late Examination of the Coast between Ras Morbat and Ras Seger, and between Ras Fartak and the Ruins of Mesinah.” Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London 16: 169-86.

Serjeant, R. B. 1995. Farmers and Fishermen in Arabia: Studies in Customary Law and Practice. G. Rex Smith, ed. Aldershot, Variorum.

Siddeek, M., M. Fouda and G. Hermosa. 1999. “Demersal Fisheries of the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Gulf.” Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 49.1: 87-97.

Tabook, Salim Bakhit. 1997. Tribal Practices and Folklore of Dhofar, Sultanate of Oman. Unpublished PhD thesis, Faculty of Arts, Exeter University.

Thesiger, Wilfred. 1991/ 1959. Arabian Sands. New York: Penguin.

Thomas, Bertram. 1932, reprint. Arabia Felix: Across the Empty Quarter of Arabia. London: Jonathan Cape.

Webster, Roger. 1991, October. “Notes on the Dialect and Way of Life of the Āl Wahība Bedouin of Oman.” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 54.3: 473-485.

Wilkinson, J. C. 2013. Water & Tribal Settlement in South-East Arabia (Studies on Ibadism and Oman). New York: Georg Olms Verlag.

Yamani, Mai.  2000. You Are What You Cook” Cuisine and Class in Mecca in A Taste of Thyme: Culinary Cultures of the Middle East. Sami Zubaida and Richard Tapper, eds. New York: I.B. Tauris Publishers. 159-72.

topic – fish types

Al-Jufaili, Saud Greg Hermosa, Sulaiman S. Al-Shuaily and Amal Al Mujaini. 2010. “Oman Fish Biodiversity.” Journal of King Abdulaziz University 21.1: 3-51.

Choudri, B., Mahad Baawain, and Mustaque Ahmed. 2016. “An Overview of Coastal and Marine Resources and their Management in Sultanate of Oman.” Journal of Environmental Management and Tourism 7.1: 21-32.

Harrison, David. 1980. The Journal of Oman Studies: Special Report 2: The Oman Flora and Fauna Survey 1975. Muscat: Diwan of H. M. for Protocol.

The Journal of Oman Studies: Special Report 2: The Oman Flora and Fauna Survey 1975. Muscat: Diwan of H. M. for Protocol.

McKoy, John, Neil Bagley, Stéphane Gauthier, and Jennifer Devine. 2009. Fish Resources Assessment Survey of the Arabian Sea Coast of Oman – Technical Report 1. Auckland: Bruce Shallard and Associates and the New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research.

topic – catching fish

Al-Marshudi, Ahmed Salim and Hemesiri Kotagama. 2006. “Socio-Economic Structure and Performance of Traditional Fishermen in the Sultanate of Oman.” Marine Resource Economics 21: 221-30.

Al Rashdi, K. and E. Mclean. 2014. “Contribution of Small-Scale Fisheries to the Livelihoods of Omani Women: A Case Study of the Al Wusta Governorate.” Gender in Aquaculture and Fisheries: Navigating Change – Asian Fisheries Science Special Issue 27S: 135-149.

Lancaster, William and Fidelity Lancaster.  1995. “Nomadic Fishermen of Ja’alân, Oman.” Nomadic Peoples 36/37: 227-244.

Mendonca, Vanda, Barry Jupp, Musallam Al Jabri, Thuraya Al Sariri and Mohamed Al Muzaini. 2003. National Report on the State of the Marine Environment. Muscat: Ministry of Regional Municipalities, Environment & Water Resources, Marine Pollution and Coastal Zone Management Section.

“National Aquaculture Sector Overview-Oman.”  2019.  Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations-Fisheries and Aquaculture Department. http://www.fao.org/fishery/countrysector/naso_oman/en

Omezzine, Abdallah.  1998. “On-shore Fresh Fish Markets in Oman.” Journal of International Food and Agribusiness Marketing 10.1: 53-69.

Omezzine, Abdallah, Lokman Zaibet and Hamad Al-Oufi. 1996. “The Marketing System of Fresh Fish Products on the Masirah Island in the Sultanate of Oman.” Marine Resources Economics 11: 203-210.

Siddeek, M., M. Fouda and G. Hermosa. 1999. “Demersal Fisheries of the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Gulf.” Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 49.1: 87-97.

List of seafood

This is a short list of types of seafood eaten in Dhofar. It is not comprehensive and rough translations are given in italics, A – Arabic, G – Gibali.

abalone – sufela, regulated season for a few weeks at the end of November/ December, depending on quantity, some years the season is canceled

amberjack – A shathruch, G shatrach

barracuda –  A akama/ G ‘eqmat (not perceived as dangerous for swimmers close to shore but possibly dangerous for men diving for abalone as fish is attracted to anything sparkling, might bite hand, for example, if person is wearing something silvery)

belt fish – G sasul

black tip trevally – A thumkeri (thum-ker-ri), G thumkiri (thum-kir-ri)

cuttlefish – A habaar, G tarbha, common, usually used for BBQ (not seen as delicacy)

farsh – A gazelle/ G batemeera (only caught with ‘live’ bait, e.g. cut sardines)

grouper –  andak/ andaka/ G. anthka (usually in deepwater @ 200 meters, comes closer to shore in khareef when it can be caught by line)

hagmam – A shatruck/ G shatraq (2rd or 3rd most expensive fish after kingfish, only caught in boxes)

hamour – G difn (2nd or 3rd most expensive fish after kingfish, caught in boxes or by live, usually favorite fish to eat

king fish – A kanud/ G tharnak (most expensive fish at 3 or 4 OR per kilo, caught by line and net, now protected by a winter ‘season’ [allowed to be caught and publicly sold only at certain times], fairly rare in Dhorfar because it prefers flat, sandy seabeds and Dhofar coast/ seabed is usually rocky except the straight, flat beach between Raysut and Taqa)

lobster – shaarkha, regulated season from March to end of the April

mahi-mahi – A anfluss, G bathubon (caught by line)

mussells – A zukka, G zikt (gathered by women at low-tide, often cooked with pasta, usually found along coast north of Salalah)

red mullet – A and G zajajee (only in deep water, caught in boxes)

red seabream – A  fraha/ G farhat (usually in deepwater @ 200 meters, comes closer to shore in khareef when it can be caught by line)

saafi – A seesan, G seedhob (used to be a very important fish for trading, was dried and shipped to other countries, still eaten but not dried and shipped, usually in 2 – 3m water)

salted fish – A marakh malah – salt and raw fish layered in a bucket, covered and kept for 1 to 4 weeks

sardines – freshly caught are served grilled; air-dried (usually on a beach) are used for animal fodder

sea catfish – A khann/ G gamm – least expensive kind of fish, often 200 or 300 baisa per kilo

shark – not often caught/ eaten, owaal – dried shark (sliced open, cleaned and, with skin still attached, the meat is sliced into thin sections, this is dried in the sun for 2 to 10 days, fewer days with lower humidity)

sheri – A shari/ G hamshk

squid – A habaar, G atharaya – usually caught only in khareef, and further north along the coast than Salalah – often 2-4 kilo, better tasting than cuttlefish

sultan Ibrahim – G. ali br dughun (caught in boxes, not by line)

tuna – unregulated season from the end of January/ beginning of February until end of May, best times are March and April, depending on ocean temperature

trevally – A/ G minaya

I will be presenting about Dhofari Fishermen at the ‘Fish as Food’ conference organized by the ICAF, hosted by the Univ. of Liverpool

Fish as Food: Lifestyle and a Sustainable Future

International Commission on the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition, hosted at the University of Liverpool

ICAF Conference 2021

Sept 1-3, 2021

 

The Costs and Benefits of Fishing in Southern Oman

Dr. Marielle Risse

My presentation discusses two important questions about fishing economics in the Dhofar region of Oman: how much does it cost to catch fish and how does that expense create a social benefit for fishermen, regardless of the money earned from the catch?  I have been looking at the theme of generosity, including sharing food, for more than ten years and in this presentation I discuss how much a typical day and season of fishing costs a fisherman, as well as how giving away part of every catch creates a benefit that is more than monetary. Using interviews and personal experiences, I explain how the cash outlay for gas, nets, bait, etc. is transformed into social, in addition to economic, capital for Dhofari fishermen.

 

 

I will be presenting “Ethical Eating in Southern Oman” at the annual convention of the Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition, June 2021.

I am pleased to announce that I will be presenting “Ethical Eating in Southern Oman” at Just Food, virtual conference of the Association for the Study of Food and Society; Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society; Canadian Association for Food Studies and the Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition, hosted by the Culinary Institute of America and New York University. June 9-15, 2021.

(photo from social media)

y - good morning 1

https://foodanthro.com/2020/12/01/just-food-because-it-is-never-just-food/

https://www.food-culture.org/2021-conference/

Foodways – other avenues of research

(photo by Salwa Hubais)

The good news is my book, Foodways in Southern Oman (Routledge), is now officially published. The bad news is, as every author knows, I keep finding topics I should have mentioned. Just today I happened upon: Of Dishes and Discourse: Classical Arabic Literary Representations of Food by Geert Jan van Gelder – what a great-sounding book! I will try to find a copy and read it.

I know there is a whole sub-genre in Arabic literature of personified ‘fights’ between different type of foods (munazara) for example “The Delectable War between Mutton and the Refreshments of the Market Place” featuring King Mutton and King Honey (or Clive Holes’ work “The Dispute of Coffee and Tea: A Debate Poem from the Gulf,” in Tradition and Modernity in Arabic Language and Literature, ed. J.R. Smart, 1996, 302-315). But I did not include a discussion of these as they seemed a little too far from my topic, as did poems about being a host/ guest such as Abu al Hakam Al Maghribi’s “A Domestic Disaster” which is too ribald to teach but is a good match with Ben Jonson’s “Inviting a Friend to Supper.” Perhaps at some point I can look more closely at this type of writing.

I have also realized that I was never able to find government documents about the number of animals (cows, camels, goats) in Dhofar – that was on my to-do list, but got lost in the shuffle of work and dealing with corona. I also wanted to go to a fish market and meat market and write a lot more about cuts of meat/ types of seafood in terms of prices, how they are prepared and sold but the markets didn’t re-open until after the books was sent to press.

Another topic I want to reflect about more is cultural issues relating to TIME and PLACE of eating, i.e. [pre-corona] my surprise that many of my students do not eat or drink anything before coming to class while they are surprised to see me eating lunch at my desk (“Why don’t you have lunch at home? How can you eat in your office?” they wonder.) Or the surprise of me drinking or eating while walking, something that is not done here. Another difference is my habit of making a cup of coffee last over an hour, while most Dhofaris will finish their drink quickly. A small cup of tea is usually gone in three sips, while I nurse mine until it is cold.

Lastly, I wanted to do interviews with Dhofaris who made/ sold food on Instagram, at festivals and small stores. I have heard of one Dhofari man who opened his own restaurant where he not only supervised, but cooked. However, between the public and private mourning for Sultan Qaboos and the on-set of corona, spring 2020 was not the time to ask strangers to help with my research. I hope 2021 affords more chances to write, research, think and discuss about foodways!

y - meat rice and fruit

Foodways and Literature – Animal Poems

As I was looking for food poems last week, I realized how many animal poems I have taught and have written out a partial list below.

One starting place is the Mu’allaqa, most of which have many vivid descriptions of desert animals, for example in Imru al-Qays “Halt, friends” and Labid’s “The campsites at Mina.” Another group of early poems which feature animals are by the sa’alik poets; no one who has read Shanfara’s Lamiyyat (“Sons of my mother”) can forget the wolf metaphors.

“Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers,” Adrienne Rich

“Bear,” Valerie Worth

“Butterflies,” Fawziyya Abu Khalid

“Cat, Valerie Harper

“The Crocodile,” Lewis Carroll

“The Darkling Thrush,” Thomas Hardy

“Darwin’s Finches,” Deborah Digges

“December Snow,” May Sarton

“The Dromedary,” Archibald Young Campbell

“The Eagle,” Alfred, Lord Tennyson

“The Face of the Horse,” Nikolai Alekseevich Zabolotsky

“The Gazelle Calf,” D. H. Lawrence

“The Goat Paths,” James Stephens

“The Horses of the Sea,” Christina Rossetti

“How To See Deer,” Philip Booth

“The Last Wolf,” Mary Tall Mountain

“Minnows,” Valerie Worth

“A Night with a Wolf,” Bayard Taylor

“Not Swans,” Susan Ludvigson

“The Nymph Complaining for the Death of her Fawn,” Andrew Marvell

“Pangur Ban,” unknown, Irish

“The Plaint of the Camel,” Charles Edward Carryl

“The Poet and the Moth,” Ahmad Qandeel

“The Raven,”  E.A.  Poe

“The Seal’s Lullaby,” Rudyard Kipling

“Sister Cat,” Frances Mayes

“Snake,” Emily Dickinson

“Snake,” Valerie Worth

“The Terrapin,” Wendell Berry

“To a Skylark,” Percy Bysshe Shelley

“Turtle Came to See Me,” Margarita Engle

“Upon a Snail,” John Bunyan

“The Vixan,” John Clare

“The War God’s Horse,” unknown, from the Navajo

“The White Stallion,” Abu I-Salt Umayyah

and many poems by Mary Oliver including “Ravens,” “Swans of the River Ayr,” “Turtle” and “White Heron”

More of her poems can be found at: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/mary-oliver

Short stories: “Pepsi” by Mohammad Al Murr, “A White Heron” and “A Dunnet Shepherdess” by Sarah Orne Jewett and all the Jungle Book stories by Rudyard Kipling

Foodways and Literature – Food Stories and Poems

(photo by Salwa Hubais)

I teach literature classes but my most recent book is on foodways, which might seem like two dissimilar topics but food is omnipresent in poems, stories and dramas so my students and I often have conversations that include foodways, literature and cultural differences. Explaining a reference to Persephone in a poem led to my telling the story of Demeter/ Ceres, which led to a conversation about cereals.

Sometimes I focus simply to the vocabulary aspect: explicating “civil as an orange/ and something of that jealous complexion” in Much Ado about Nothing or “cucumber sandwiches”  and “sugar tongs” in The Importance of Being Earnest. But occasionally food takes center stage as with the fishing with a sword scene in Tawfiq Al Hakim’s Princess Sunshine when the question of ‘who makes dinner’ helps carry the theme of the play. Another food-centered example is the dual breakfast scene in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. On our first run-through, it’s simply a confusing jumble of random statements. But when we have read it a few times and then ‘perform’ it with one student per character, the beauty (and sadness) of that section shine through. Students often remark, “it’s like that at my home.”

Some stories show cultural similarities, such as Laura bringing food to the widow in Mansfield’s “Garden Party,” but they can also show differences. Unlike in Oman, only Laura visits the house (not with her mother and older sister) and she only stays a brief time.

Another Mansfield story “The Doll’s House” uses food to give insights into the social standing of the schoolgirls – having a sandwich with meat shows wealth while a jam sandwich wrapped in newspaper points to poverty. Similarly, the social niceties observed in the dining room at the beginning of Room with a View preview the theme of the novel. Who sits at which table reveals the hierarchies which Lucy will eventually break.

Food issues can even be the comic element of a story as with Elizabeth Gaskell’s magnificent Cranford with its details of manage your cook, take care of your cow and why you should eat your orange in your room (so you can roll it under your bed to check if anyone is hiding there and then slurp the orange sections in private).

Food essays are also wonderful for sparking good student writing. “Jam” and “A Thing Shared” from The Gastronomical Me  by M. F. K. Fisher, “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid and “In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens” by Alice Walker are great example texts to help students see how to write about their own food experiences.

As for poems about food, we have to start with

“Talk,” Gökhan Tok

You never hear it

but at breakfast the sweetest talk

is between the jam and the honey.

and Naomi Shihab Nye’s wonderful “Arabic Coffee,” “My Father and the Fig Tree,” “Sifter,” “The Traveling Onion” and “The Tray.” For more, please see https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/naomi-shihab-nye and https://poets.org/poet/naomi-shihab-nye

Other poems include:

  • “After Apple-Picking,” Robert Frost
  • “The Angler,” Thomas Buchanan Read
  • “The Bean-Stalk,” Edna St. Vincent Millay
  • “Blackberry-Picking,” Seamus Heaney
  • “Coolness of the Melons,” Matsuo Basho
  • “Cynddylan on a Tractor,” R.S. Thomas
  • “The [Date] Palm Tree,” Adnan Mohsin
  • “The Fisherman,” Goethe
  • “From Blossoms,” Li-Young Lee
  • “I Return to the Place I was Born,” T’ao Yuan Ming
  • “Love Poem With Toast,” Miller Williams
  • “Mending Wall,” Robert Frost
  • “The Solitary Reaper,” William Wordsworth
  • “Sorry I Spilled It,” Shel Silverstein
  • “What’s That Smell in the Kitchen?” Marge Piercy

A few food-oriented short stories include: “A Dash of Light” by Ibrahim Aslan, “I Saw the Date Palms” by Radwa Ashour, “A Cup of Tea” by  Katherine Mansfield and “Lamb to the Slaughter” by Roald Dahl, as well as several by Mohammed al Murr including “A Late Dinner,” “The Night’s Catch,” “Look After Yourself” and my favorite: “Dinner by Candlelight.”

y - morning coffee

Selected Bibliography: Animals, Birds and Fish in Southern Oman

It is important to look at foodways in the context of the region, so I have been exploring what has been written about animals, birds, fish and the environment in southern Oman.  (photo by S. B.)

Selected Bibliography

Al Hikmani, Hadi and Khaled al Hikmani. 2012. “Arabian Leopard in Lowland Region on the South face of Jebel Samhan, Oman.” Cat News 57: 4-5.

Al-Jufaili, Saud Greg Hermosa, Sulaiman S. Al-Shuaily and Amal Al Mujaini. 2010. “Oman Fish Biodiversity.” Journal of King Abdulaziz University 21.1: 3-51.

Al Kindi, Nasser. 2014. Birds in Oman. Muscat: Muscat Printing Press.

Al-Marshudi, Ahmed Salim and Hemesiri Kotagama. 2006. “Socio-Economic Structure and Performance of Traditional Fishermen in the Sultanate of Oman.” Marine Resource Economics 21: 221-30.

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Partial list of wild animals

from: Spalton, Andrew, Hadi Musalam al Hikmani, David Willis and Ali Salim Bait Said. 2006. “Critically Endangered Arabian Leopards (Panthera pardus nimr) Persist in the Jabal Samhan Nature Reserve, Oman.” Oryx 40.3: 287-294. 291

  • Arabian leopard
  • Wildcat
  • Arabian wolf
  • Striped hyaena
  • Honey badger
  • Blanford’s fox
  • Red fox
  • African small-spotted genet
  • White-tailed mongoose
  • Nubian ibex
  • Arabian gazelle
  • Rock hyrax
  • Indian crested porcupine
  • Ethiopian hedgehog
  • small rodents including gerbil, jird, mice, spiny mice, rat, and shrew
  • gecko, lizard, chameleon, skink, toad
  • bees, butterfly, dragonfly, grasshopper, locust, and moth
  • scorpion, tick, wasp, and snakes, including cobra and viper

Partial list of birds

from: Al Kindi, Nasser. 2014. Birds in Oman. Muscat: Muscat Printing Press.

  • Dhofari and/or migratory: bee-eater, dove, hoopoe, roller, silverbill, swallow and weaver
  • coast – avocet, bittern, coot, crake, duck (pintail), egret, grebe, flamingo, gull, heron, ibis, moorhen, spoonbill, tern, wader
  • grasslands – pipit, raven, grackle, stork
  • wadi/ mountains – courser, partridge, sandgrouse, owl
  • semi-wooded/ woodlands – bunting, cuckoo, flycatcher, grosbeak, kingfisher, pigeon, owl, shrike, sunbird, warbler
  • semi-desert/ desert – bunting, lark, owl, sand partridge, warbler, wheatear
  • raptors – eagle, falcon, kestrel. osprey, vulture