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Visiting Speaker: Anny Gaul (Assistant Professor of Arabic Studies, University of Maryland)

How do you say 'tomato' in Egyptian? Agriculture, cuisine, and nation in the Nile Valley

Event details

Biography: Anny Gaul is an assistant professor of Arabic Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her research and teaching interests include food history, modern Arabic literature, and gender and feminist studies. She holds a PhD from Georgetown University and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for the Humanities at Tufts University. Anny is co-editor of Making Levantine Cuisine: Modern Foodways of the Eastern Mediterranean (published by the University of Texas Press, 2021). Her current book project is a cultural history of the tomato in Egypt.

Abstract: This lecture explores three words that are essential both to modern Egyptian Arabic and modern Egyptian cooking: quta, tamatim, and salsa. By tracing these words' usage in cookbooks, agricultural manuals, and everyday speech, I show that as tomato cultivation expanded throughout Egypt's riverine governorates, speakers of Egyptian Arabic developed a unique vocabulary for discussing tomatoes (and the dishes made from them). Juxtaposing culinary and agricultural histories, I demonstrate that the shifting tides of cultural influences––Ottoman, Italian, and Egyptian––were linked to material transformations of Egyptian sovereignty during and after the British occupation.