Every year doctors and nutritionists alike plead with the public not to eat fiseekh (salted fish) – but to avail. Fiseekh has been a Sham El-Nessim tradition for decades and decades, and Egyptians are not going to start giving up their salty favorite anytime soon. That said, there are numerous cases of food poisoning reported each year, so to avoid getting sick at least make sure you have your bases covered. Buy your fiseekh from someone credible. Go to an established fasakhany and never, ever, buy off a streetseller. The latter usually skimp on the salt, which is key to preserving the fish properly and preventing bacteria from forming. A few tips on what to look for when you’re buying:
• Check out the fish before you buy. If it’s soft or mushy to the touch, don’t make the purchase.
• If the fish looks more reddish than not, avoid it by all means as it’s likely not salted properly or salt unfit for human consumption has been used.
• Make sure the fish is not bloated and that the skin is unbroken.
Now Roll Up Your Sleeves
Sham El-Nessim spreads are hardly dainty knife and fork affairs – you’ve got to roll your sleeves up for this one. If smoked herring and fiseekh are your main dishes, make sure you serve up some greens to absorb all that salt. Good choices are lettuce and arugula. Bear in mind that fiseekh is not for everyone, and people who should avoid it completely are children under the age of three, moms-to-be and nursing moms, as well as those suffering from hypertension. Fiseekh will raise your blood pressure through the roof because of its excessive salt content. Eating bad fiseekh will cause food poisoning and possibly botulism, an illness that attacks and disarms the nerves, potentially leading to paralysis and even death. If you or anyone in your party starts developing any of the following signs, rush straight to a hospital:
• General lethargy, weakness, trouble seeing and/or speaking
• Nausea and vomiting
• Feeling of weakness in the arms and legs
• Dry mouth or throat, difficulty or inability swallowing, loss of facial muscle movement
• Difficulty breathing
The government does import antidotes which are highly effective but not available everywhere. VACSERA (check out their facebook page at www.facebook.com/Vacsera for address) is likely your best bet. Note that symptoms typically occur around 12 hours after eating but can sometimes take up to a few days to appear.
No Mess Decorating
If you don’t want to bother boiling batches, why not boil all your eggs at once and decorate instead? While some say that boiling over high heat for 8 minutes gives you the perfect egg, Martha Stewart tells us that you’d do better to place your eggs in a large saucepan and pour in cool water until there’s about 1 inch covering your eggs. Bring to a boil, cover, remove from heat and let sit 12 minutes. Place eggs in colander under cool running water. Now for the fun part — decorating. Pick up some patterned sticky tape from your local stationery store and cut into geometric shapes before sticking on your eggs. It’s colorful, easy and mess free! You can also tie down mini flower or herb bouquets to eggs using twine for a fresh spring feel. Fresh mint or thyme will add a wonderful fragrance.
All Life Comes from An Egg
So goes the Latin saying, and this month both Sham El-Nessim and Easter spreads are not complete without painted eggs, we’re giving you some inside tips on how to get the perfect colored eggs — all with natural ingredients. You’ll need to make several batches to produce different colors. First place eggs in a pot and pour in cool water until eggs are fully submerged. Add colorant of choice and bring to a boil. Add 3tsps vinegar, simmer 15 minutes then remove with a slotted spoon and leave to cool. If you want more intense color, cool the remaining water and pour over cooled eggs. Leave overnight in fridge then remove with a slotted spoon.
Things you probably didn’t know about Easter eggs …
• Tradition has it that eggs laid on Good Friday, if kept for a hundred years, would have their yolks turn to diamond
• An egg laid on Good Friday, if thrown into a fire, will extinguish it
• An egg laid on Good Friday will never rot and if put on a shelf will bring good luck to its owners
• Eggs laid on Good Friday ensure a fertile crop and protect against sudden deaths
• Finding two yolks in an Easter egg is a sign of wealth to come
• Fish and chip shops in Scotland offer up deep-fried chocolate eggs for Easter — an spinoff of the wildly popular deep-fried Mars bar