The blurb on early editions of Food for Copts presents it as a cookbook, a practical joke that sets the tone for Charles Akl’s uncompromising style. The culinary journeys in this book, rich as they are, are inroads to bigger questions about what it’s like to be part of a Christian minority in Egypt.
Each chapter is built around a food category or tradition, from the unique vegan cuisine inspired by Lent and Advent fasts and the place of pork in a Muslim-majority country, to the quintessential Egyptian ful bean, monastery produce, and seafood.
In some ways, this is a work of food anthropology; in others, it’s a dauntless personal memoir: a crisis of faith is navigated through a meaty pasta with béchamel sauce; a vividly described Christmas feast becomes a diatribe against social hypocrisy and sectarian violence; and school lunch sandwiches are an arena for class prejudice and Christian-Muslim rivalry (but don’t let that distract from a mouth-watering recipe for fried artichoke).
Foreign rights: contact the publisher