Lebanese Food / Wine and Culinary Traditions

Lebanese Food / Wine and Culinary Traditions
Spring time always inspires me...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Things Happen for a Reason

Today something very bizarre happened to me, as it always does. From the very start of my culinary path, things have happened to me for a specific reason, I've received an e-mail on the subject. I will enclose it. I have met many people for a reason, I have visited a place for another reason, I have experienced an adventure for the sake of learning a valuable lesson, etc... Some of you may say, "this happens to all of us!" and I agree.

I was writing about soap making today for my Mouneh book. Two recipes will be included: The first is on how to make olive oil soap and the second one will give a detailed description on how to make laurel soap. It took me all morning to "decrypt" my findings.... OK, this is me being dramatic... I viewed a cd I had purchased a year ago in Saida concerning soap making, then I stopped and called my girlfriend to ask her about the founder of the Foundation. One hour later, THE FOUNDER called me to ask me about my project. It was really a weird coincidence. So I hope that this streak of telepathy will continue and that all goes smoothly until I find a way to print my 550 page book, full of photos - recipes - and stories. I have faith. It needed to be done, it's done - now the business side (which I absolutely despise). Oh and guess what, I have an idea for my next project, actually 3 ideas ... if only there were 24 hours in a day... I have the rest of my life to write about food, and that is what I shall be doing... What is the worst thing that can happen to a food writer? The food writer goes on a DIET!!! Wish me luck!

Here enclosed is the nice words I received through an e-mail from my friend Diva which make perfect sense to me...

People come into your life for a reason, 
a season or a lifetime. 

When you know which one it is, 
you will know what to do for that person... 

When someone is in your life for a REASON, 
it is usually to meet a need you have expressed. 

They have come to assist you through a difficulty, 
to provide you with guidance and support, 

To aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually. 

They may seem like a godsend and they are. 

They are there for the reason you need them to be. 

Then, without any wrongdoing on your part or at 
an inconvenient time, this person will say or do 
something to bring the relationship to an end. 

Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away. 

Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand. 

What we must realize is that our need has been met, 
our desire fulfilled, their work is done. 

The prayer you sent up has been answered and 
now it is time to move on. 

Some people come into your life for a SEASON, 
because your turn has come to share, grow or learn. 

They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh. 

They may teach you something you have never done. 

They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy. 

Believe it, it is real. But only for a season. 

LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons, 
things you must build upon in order to have a 
solid emotional foundation. 

Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person 
and put what you have learned to use in all other
relationships and areas of your life. 

It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant. 

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Take the Time to COOK

I read an article written by Michel Ruhlam yesteday and I thought it was important for me to share it with you you. Why you may ask? First take a look at the article: michel ruhlam's article, author of many books including the Making of a Chef.

The message is clear, good things take TIME! You have to invest in the cooking process and experience to feed your family. There is something magical when all the love and energy of a mother / cook is transmitted in the food and consumed by the family. Food should be a celebration between family members. One meal per day, at least, together should be a necessary ritual.

When I first got married, years ago, I would spend 1/2 hour during my lunch break at work writing my grocery list to prepare a meal for my husband and I every night. At 5:00 o'clock, I would head to the market and buy all the necessary goods. I would come home and cook up a storm to celebrate our evening. Years later, the children arrived into our lives. The menu got more intricate as everyday the "plat du jour" had to contain all food groups.

I have become a very busy person too. like you...I work on books, I take care of my husband, 3 children, a dog, and a cat, but I make it a point to always have wholesome food on the table to feed my loved ones. I don't underestimate its importance and its significance. It's a way to show my affection. It symbolizes a maternal instinct. It reassures my family that "home is where the heart is."

I will always remember an instance when days after our wedding, I invited my husband's Belgium relatives for a barbecue. The house was not furnished, but the kitchen was equipped. That's all that mattered. I cooked up a lavish lunch for my guests. Uncle Henry, the jovial husband of my husband's aunt, took me aside. He said with a smile, "You will succeed in your marriage, I feel it! - the way that you feed your family will be the best way to unite them and to keep them close." I understood what he was saying because I had witnessed the same thing with my husband's mother as she fed her 5 children and husband daily. The dinning table was a source of happiness, of laughter, of quality time spent together... It was now my turn to set the example.

Having said all this, I hope that some of you may come to realize the importance of taking time to celebrate one's meals, be it as a large family or a small one. Life goes by so fast, cherish the moments and slow down to appreciate each bite alone ... discover the endless ingredients and flavors available out there...

Invite your children to the kitchen and make them part of  what should be the heart and soul of the house...and build memories of a lifetime together ..

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Defininng cooks, the Slow Food Way

Definition of cooks according to Slow Food, this says it all!

Cooks play an essential role. They are the interpreters of a territory, who can add value to it through their own creativity. The Terra Madre cooks understood that pleasure must not be separated from responsibility to producers, without whom none of their work would be possible. In this way, they reinforce the food communities, through dialogue and collaboration with producers, and fight against the abandonment of cultural tradition and standardization of food. And it is in their restaurants that this philosophy reaches consumers.

I know there are many creative and talented cooks in Lebanon. I think they play an important role in keeping our culinary heritage alive. Many cooks are using basic Lebanese ingredients and are doing magnificent creations with the food. Lebanese cooks should be cherished, put on a pedestal, respected, and given the opportunity to shine in our society. I think this is currently taking place, slowly but surely...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Slow Food Newsletter

I just got the Slow Food newsletter in the mail. Here is a glimpse:

"Slow Food is working to help communities around the world to rebuild their local food systems in order to eat better, protect the environment and maintain cultural diversity."

The most exciting news is that the program for the Terra Madre meeting has been published:

Terra Madre 2010
Cultures and indigenous languages at the fourth world meeting of the network

More than 5,000 representatives from the worldwide Terra Madre network will meet in Turin, Italy for the fourth time this October 21 to 25 - coinciding once again with the international Slow Food fair Salone del Gusto. The five-day meeting will bring together food communities, cooks, academics, youth and musicians from all over the world, who are united in a desire to promote sustainable local food production in harmony with the environment while respecting knowledge handed down over the generations.

A new feature in 2010 will be a focus on cultural and linguistic diversities - in recognition of the need to defend minority ethnic groups and indigenous languages, and with an appreciation of the value of oral traditions and memory. At the opening ceremony, representatives of indigenous communities from all continents across the world will speak to the audience in their native languages.

The second day will be dedicated to examining eight crucial issues for the future of agriculture and the planet (from biodiversity to renewable energies and education to traditional knowledge). On the third day communities will meet in national and regional sessions, while on the fourth day Earth Workshops will be held.

The official closing session of Terra Madre will be marked by the presentation of a program of proposals from the Terra Madre network for a sustainable future.

There will be specific opportunities during the event to receive information, to present projects involving taste education (gardens, canteen projects etc.) or food biodiversity (Presidia and Earth Markets) and to organize Terra Madre Day in your community or country - with the second edition to be held on December 10, 2010 around the world. The Terra Madre youth network will play an important role during the event.

For Terra Madre information and updates: www.terramadre.org

Monday, May 3, 2010

Massaya - 1st of May

I went with my family on the 1st of May to the winery Massaya. They were hosting an arak workshop so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to learn more about arak production. A delicious lunch was served with an array of traditional Lebanese dishes. My favorite corner was where two women from the Bekaa cooked marquq - paper-thin bread. The lighting was perfect and I couldn't stop myself from indulging in both the bread and the photo shots. We lunched with our friends the Bosquin family and a very nice couple who own a restaurant in England, The Dock Kitchen . It was a very relaxing day!

As we arrived, everyone was busy preparing for the lunch.

A general view of the vineyards, very romantic!

This is where the arak, after being distilled three times, is conserved for at least 6 months.

Kishk pies being prepared the traditional way.

I simply couldn't stop photographing this woman.

One more shot!

Isn't he cute?

I have come to love this traditional drink, often called the lion's milk.

The frikeh was simply delicious!

Grilled vegetables served with lots of sesame seeds.

A nice dish of  meat shawarma ....

Final Day at Horeca

I think the final day was one of the best days at the fair... We had two important guests: Al Hallab and Baba Sweets. Al Hallab is notorious for its production of delicious oriental sweets, a destination one always visits in Tripoli. Baba Sweets is another famous stop located at the other extreme of the country in the city of Saida, among other locations. Things definitely got sticky with all the sugar, but it was definitely a great treat for both Chef Richard and I, and of course our huge crowds.

Al Hallab prepared Halawet el Jebn - This is made with unsalted fresh cow milk cheese that is boiled for a few minutes. Its water is thrown out and butter is added, melted and mixed with semolina. The mixture is cooked to a fine dough then it is put on a large round tray. The cheese is then pulled and stretched and becomes very elastic. It is cut into even squared shapes and filled with ashta - curd cheese. The whole is drenched with sugar syrup. A true delicacy!

Baba Sweets
prepared an array of oriental pastries with an innovative twist for today's customers. Crowds stretched out their arms for a small bite, as the Baba Sweets employees frantically worked hard to serve everyone. The portions were very generous. I particularly enjoyed eating the aashet el saraya with the misk ice cream.