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John Kerry’s Polarizing Turkey Shawarma

The world cries ‘fowl’ about his culinarily curious choice of grub

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Yesterday, word spread high and low (or primarily on Twitter) about Secretary of State John Kerry’s decision to order a turkey shawarma during his trip to Ramallah. Was Kerry living in fear of Michelle Obama’s eat healthy initiative or was this the clumsy culinary equivalent of windsurfing?

Over at Commentary, the turkey shawarma took on symbolic form, where it came to represent the general meaninglessness of Kerry’s trip to the Levant:

At least that’s how Kerry’s trip will seem to those in the region, who probably watched in utter confusion as Kerry made a big deal out of his trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories but spent his time in classic Kerry fashion: mumbling opaque and equivocal platitudes that could have been issued from Washington, just without the shawarma.

Though it’s probably worth pointing out that Kerry reportedly ate turkey shawarma, which of course isn’t shawarma at all but rather a ludicrous shawarma impostor whose proliferation is a terrifying sign of impending total civilizational collapse, and thus Kerry didn’t even accomplish that one goal.

I’m not sure how any secretary of state’s attempt show American investment in the peace process is ever a bad thing, but clearly the shawarma touched a nerve. First, as Blake Hounshell pointed out, there was confusion:

Foreign Policy has confirmed that John Kerry did, in fact, have a turkey shawarma sandwich. But they called it chicken.

Earlier today, Tom Gara added:

Outrage about turkey shawerma ignores the broader point that for shawerma purists, chicken shawerma itself is a recent inauthentic impostor.

I spoke to Tablet’s culinary-revisionist-in-residence Liel Leibovitz about the phenomenon of turkey shawarma. Here’s what he had to say:

“There’s nothing inherently evil about the turkey shawarma. It’s not an unacceptable choice. But one would expect any leader of men who doesn’t feast on shawarma frequently to take the symbolic route, order the lamb, and ask for as much of the fat bit up top, which is how you eat it.”

Ron Kampeas, however, might have made the most sense of it all.

In this case, Kerry might have bridged a cultural divide rather than fell into one. Shawarma, absolutely, is Palestinian. Making it from turkey, though, is an Israeli innovation, stemming from the country’s austere first decades, when lamb and beef were barely available.

This utterly sensible practice (turkey also is healthier) spread to the West Bank, and has persisted there despite the apparent collapse of any other signs of Israeli-Palestinian agreement.

So just as there is turkey, there will always be turkey shawarma. We all have our own guilty pleasures. (Amba is the color of my energy.)

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Actually, turkey shwarma is pretty ubiquitous in Israel these days. Joints are more likely to serve turkey than lamb which is becoming harder and harder to find. They are still joints serving lamb around the markets in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. I live in Modiin, a city of 80,000 people. There are five places to get shwarma in the city and all of them only serve turkey shwarma.

    Felix Tejeda says:

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JudgeJeph says:

This entire piece was worth it for that chill 311 song you used as the throwaway gag at the end. Word.

Also amba is delicious.

Solid choice by the secretary of state, I came across this place on Yummy pick and thought to do some more research.( came across this post afterwards)

Its a no brainier and anyone visiting Rammallah should give it a try


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John Kerry’s Polarizing Turkey Shawarma

The world cries ‘fowl’ about his culinarily curious choice of grub

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