In Lebanon, we practically have a different kind of dessert for every occasion. Meghleh to celebrate the birth of a child, Snayniyeh for teething, Maamoul for Easter, Awwamat for Ghtas, killaj for Ramadan, a’mhiye for Barbara, and. Every dessert’s name hides a little story behind it. Snayniyeh is derived from “snan”, which means teeth and this scrumptious dessert is usually prepared to celebrate the appearance of a child’s first tooth.
Immediately after the birth, the women in the family (excluding the new mother) boil huge batches of Meghleh and scoop it into small bowls to be offered to guests and family. Snayniyeh, on the other hand, is the first dessert that the mother herself cooks in celebration of the baby’s first tooth.
Cooking Snayniyeh is said to improve the appearance of the child’s teeth. This dessert consists of strained wheat put on dishes, garnished with sugar, with grilled and colored chickpeas, almonds, walnuts, pistachios and raisins. The grains of wheat when soaked in rose- and orange-blossom water resemble little teeth. The addition of sugar and nuts makes this a popular dish.
Traditionally, the mother sends it to relatives and neighbors once the baby’s first tooth appears. The empty dish is returned with a gift. Previously, the gift was either a sewn or knitted piece of garment, or a piece of gold or money, or fruits or other sweets put in the cleaned dish and sent back to the baby’s family. Nowadays the gift is usually a toy, or clothing.
I love that food is such an integral part of our culture and everyday life, to such an extent that every occasion has its own special dessert. It’s so reflective of our joyous nature of celebrating and sharing the joy with the people that we love. Good food is all the sweeter when shared with good friends and family. It may be a very good reason for happiness in general, to love each other and eat each other’s food and celebrate the happy moments in life and the sad ones. In Lebanon, traditionally there isn’t a tooth fairy and that’s because all the friends and family play that role. Who needs a fairy, when you have a whole crew of people wishing you well and giving you gifts?
Because what we choose to share defines who we are, this little country of ours is based on love, human interactions, and the pleasure of sharing our joys. To my Lebanon…
picture by Maya Oryan