Migration, Longing, and Food

As I read Exit West, I am concurrently working on a research project on the history of the vertical spit, a cooking method that was invented in mid-19th century Turkey and spread around the world. In a way, the story of the vertical spit is a story of immigrants: Turkish immigrants in Germany, Lebanese immigrants in Mexico, Greek immigrants in Chicago. With each relocation, some adaptation or some new tradition arose as the original doner kebab transformed into shawarma and tacos al pastor and gyros, while the vertical spit remained constant. I would theorize that such innovations arise for the same reasons that Saeed began to intensify his prayer habits once he left his home city: we search for reminders of our past life, adapting as necessary to regain what we felt we have lost. As people migrate to new places, ingredients and recipes may alter, but the core of a traditional doner kebab stays the same because it reminds one of home. The evolution of food (especially the foods of the United States) is a product of the same longing for what was left behind that Hamid wishes to illustrate using the magical doors. It is a product of hardship, not just of the place one has left, or of the journey to somewhere new, but the hardship of starting over and leaving a life behind.

One thought on “Migration, Longing, and Food


    This is another example that reminds us of the theme of Exit West that everyone migrates. Anf furthermore, everything migrates. Life is ever-changing and throughout that change, we try to hold on to certain things as the world around us is shifting. This was a very interesting additional perspective that relates to the book but is not about it directly.


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