There are many roles in which food could play in our social lives. Food has a certain power beyond its physical purposes; not only can it satisfy, but it can inspire, inform and unify people. It evokes creativity and grounds us to our culinary heritage and our land.
He gets up early, 5:30 sharp to be exact. At 6:00 he opens the doors to his sweet shop in Basta el faw’a to get that fresh air from the slow-waking city. For just a little while, time stands still and he starts his preparation for a day of stirring and cooking allowing him to take in this life with a deep inhale and appreciation of this skill he has perfected over he years.
There are places that you remember, not particularly because they have a lavish décor but because there is something quite humane about them.
“Lebanon’s exceptional location and its singular morphology have contributed to making it a hub of botanic biodiversity. It is one of the nuclear centers of genetic species of wheat, barley, lentils and vetch, their cultivation dating back more than 5,000 years. Other agricultural species originating from Lebanon include olives, figs, grapes, pomegranates and carob. Foods made from these plants lie at the basis of the local culinary traditions.
Some products have withstood the test of time because they are simply beautiful products. Molasses, dark, golden brown or velvety red colored, heavily textured is one such ingredient. The way it flows and glides along the spoon into a dish is a vision for food lovers and enthusiasts.
There is something quiet exceptional about ka’ak bi halib, or milk cookies. The mahleb and the anise echo the flavors and fragrances of home. Soft, chewy, buttery, sweet, fragrant, and comforting, they melt in your mouth, leaving behind the after taste of aromatic spices.
“Let thy greens be thy medicine, and they medicine be thy greens”
We watched the wild flowers grow on the mountain and plains of Lebanon. The flowers grew, as did we. As years passed we grew apart. The flowers left to wither, we both planted timid seeds. New soil in different weather, somehow we both found our way back home. As winter passes by, I watch them bloom with power, only to be detached from the earth they grew strong from.
Shankleesh is the only mold ripened cheese native to the Middle East. It is believed to have originated among the Kurdhish al Zankieen tribes. It is essentially yogurt whey that is shaped into smooth balls by hand, then either ripened for a few days and consumed (green shankleesh) or aged for up to 16 weeks, traditionally in clay jars called baresh.
Labneh (strained yogurt) is a daily food in the Lebanese diet and known by everyone and mainly eaten at breakfast. Go deeper in the country, into the Bekaa Valley or the Shouf Mountains, and another delicacy will unfold made in a terra-cotta bowl (labnet al jarra), where baladi and shami goats are respectively the main grazing animals that produce it.