Food and family are the foundation of Arab and Arab American culture. For Arab immigrants, the family is the single most important social and economic institution. Early immigrants worked very hard and lived frugally in order to send money to relatives in their country of origin, often called “the old country.” Once financially secure, these immigrants brought their immediate and extended families to the U.S.; in some cases, entire Arab villages were reunited on American shores. Established immigrants helped the newcomers adjust to life in the United States by providing a social cushion, helping them to find jobs and places to live until they became self-sufficient. Food is also an integral element of the cultural identity. Specific foods mark important cultural and religious events. Shared meals allow family to gather and socialize, and are always prepared in large quantities in case unexpected, but always welcome, guests drop by.

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