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My mom’s chicken zorbiyan connected me to Yemen, and her memory


For Ramadan, Fork the System brings you stories of family, connection and the dishes that made the month special for our guest chefs.

Our first guest chef, Akram Said, has taken social media by storm with his videos showing how traditional Yemeni dishes are made. He spoke to Al Jazeera via video conference to share his story and the story of the dish Ramadan is making for him. Here’s his story, in his words:

Growing up in Dallas, I had a very aggressive stuttering problem, so I had trouble speaking. At worst, my speech impediment caused me to break things so I could get the words out. I broke something and suddenly the words came tumbling out.

I was laughed at, even by my own siblings. But my mom, she made me feel special. She took me to Makkah, on an umrah. We were supposed to go on vacation together, just the two of us. She never said no to me and was always there for me.

I wish I could say I was giving back, but I really was a problem kid. I was bad at school and I dropped out of high school in 10th grade because I was always in and out of trouble. I ended up in juvenile detention centers. But my mother never gave up on me.

So one day, while I was lost after a failed attempt to live in Yemen, which was disrupted by a revolution, she told me her plan for me. She would take me to enroll in cooking school. I don’t know where the idea came from, I had never cooked before and showed no interest in cooking. But within hours of her telling me, I was signed up and on my culinary journey, on my way to becoming a chef.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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