In the Middle East, breakfast is a big deal, especially on the weekend. It is almost a fiesta of flavours, colours and textures. My colleague Mohammed was telling yesterday about an Iraqi dish of Fool. I got interested by the name Fool and decided to go for it! He then said that he would take me for a fool breakfast. In the morning, he called me if I was ready then we could go for fool. Who will deny such an offer? He said that he would come to pick me up in half an hour. I got ready and we went to an Iraqi restaurant serving buffet breakfast. Mohammed checked before entering the restaurant that the dish was included in the buffet today. There are a few good restaurants in Baghdad serving buffet breakfast and many families and groups of people are going there to relax and enjoy nicely laid breakfast in the morning.
Fool is the Arabic word for broad beans (vicia faba). One of most popular legumes in the Biblical diet was the broad bean. In northern and central Iraq, beans play an important role in breakfast. A traditional bean dish of Maltese descent, called bagila bil dihin (Translation: broad beans in oil), is popular as a breakfast dish in Iraq. It is cooked with hot tanoor flatbread soaked in oil and broad beans, topped with an omelette.
Over time, the bean has been both scorned as “poor man’s meat” and praised as health-giving, even patriotic. The humble bean has always attracted attention — from Pythagoras’ notion that the bean hosted a human soul to St. Jerome’s indictment against bean-eating in convents. In his excellent book, Beans: A History, Ken Albala reveals that St. Jerome (ca 347 – ca 420) cautioned nuns from eating beans because of their effects on the digestive system inappropriately “tickled the genitals.” A similar warning was issued by 16th century British physician, Thomas Moffett who wrote that though fava beans were safe to be consumed at the beginning or middle of a meal with butter, pepper, and salt, they were better avoided altogether because they “too much encreaseth the seed to lusty wantons.”
But we’re no prudes. We enjoyed bagila bil dihin as breakfast in the morning. Bagila or Fool makes you feel full and satisfied due to its high fibre and calorie content. I don’t need to think for lunch today. In addition to the fact that they taste great and are very filling, broad beans also have a decent nutritional profile. They are especially high in fiber and iron, and are a good source of plant protein. They also have a good amount of vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium.
Thanks Mohammed for the breakfast treat. I really enjoyed “Fool”. 🙂