If you didn’t know, this is Arab American Heritage Month. While this is a newly recognized celebratory tradition in the states, it’s long overdue. The purpose of this month is to honor Arab Americans and Arabic speaking Americans by highlighting their culture and contributions to the world.
Here in the U.S., Arab cuisine is loved yet the culture's representation is not prevalent. One content creator illuminating Arab culture and traditions is Ahmad Alzahabi, aka The Golden Balance. Inspired by his last name, which means golden, Alzahabi initially had an interest in documenting his journey to a more balanced and healthy lifestyle. Not long after he started sharing his daily routine, his culinary content began garnering attention, drawing more and more eyes to his delicious creations.
Alzahabi admits to having more culinary passion than experience in the beginning. During high school, he interned in Dubai at a four-star Swiss hotel, which taught him the ropes of working in a restaurant. While his knowledge grew, his hunger for more culinary growth pushed him onward. Fast forward a year later, along with countless trial and error attempts, and now The Golden Balance has millions of followers across three social media platforms.
His self confidence undoubtedly plays a part in The Golden Balance’s success. Instilled in him by his parents, Alzahabi believes that it isn't an insecurity if it’s something you embrace. This spirit can be felt in his content, which not only features mouthwatering food recipes, but also messages of positivity and encouragement.
Although it was never his original intention, The Golden Balance has helped shed light on his Islamic roots. He later realized that for many Muslims, sharing their culture was a hurdle. Burgeoning fan interest in his culture inspired him to not only share more of it, but was also the origin of his tagline, “Now Bismillah.” The suggestion was made to him by Arab fans of his content who naturally identified with it. Alzahabi fondly recalled the impression these cultural interactions had on him:
“In their head it was like, sometimes it’s tough to embrace who you are, given your surroundings. So, when they see someone that’s representing who they are, and what they say and normalizing words in Arabic or foods that previously were looked down on — like look at this weirdo, look what they’re eating. And now, it’s making it cool, people feel represented. People feel represented through you, your name is Ahmad Alzahabi, you’re putting out dishes that your mom taught you that are completely Syrian, you’re saying 'Bismillah' at the end of every single video. I wasn’t doing it intentionally, I just said it because someone commented on it and thought that’s a good idea.”
During last year's Ramadan, an Islamic observance of fasting, prayer, reflection and community, Alzahabi would break fast around 8pm or 9pm, and then create food content until the wee hours of the morning. Through this experience he was inspired to begin sharing his process along with other aspects of his culture through a series aptly-named The Ramadan Chronicles.
Moving forward, Alzahabi hopes to continue sharing his culture and making the kitchen a lot less intimidating for people. While he’s unsure if he does the best job expressing it, his goal is to encourage you to embrace who you are and be unapologetic as a person through food. “You gotta embrace the process,” he underscores.
To follow Ahmed Alzahabi’s journey and learn some amazing recipes while you’re at it, you can visit his website here.