and her 16 year old son.
IS About the Food!"
"It's NOT about the food, Mom," was my lament,
as each holiday would loom on the horizon. My Mom would begin
planning the menu months in advance, while I tried to convince
her that the priority should be enjoying each other's company,
not toiling in the kitchen. She would fret about where she should
buy the lamb, or if the vegetables would be fresh enough, or knowing
exactly how many people would be coming for dinner, or some other
hostess-related issue. I would usually roll my eyes, because food
preparation was the least of my interests. She would call me on
the phone numerous times as she weighed the benefits of preparing
one entree over another. She was oblivious to my disinterest.
She enjoyed the deliberation so much that she talked over my silences.
it was Grandmother or Mother preparing the meal, it was a ritual,
a well-established tradition.
was taken in the planning of the meal, the selection of the ingredients,
the preparation of the food, and the presentation on the special
white linen tablecloth. Before I was born, my Grandfather owned
a small grocery store and the eleven-member family lived above
it. Food selection was an intimate experience in those days; a
far cry from the impersonal mega-grocery stores of today. And
Mom and Grandma missed those old days. Although I was less than
enthusiastic regarding the pre-holiday details, on the day of
the festivities, I was a diligent helper. But I still didn't see
what was right in front of me.
matriarchs were teaching me about a cultural art from my Lebanese
heritage. In those days, I would have been just as happy eating
a cheeseburger. Now, I would give anything for one of their
fabulous spreads of Middle Eastern delicacies.
the talents of my elders wasn't a priority in my self-centered
youthful days. If it were, I would have recognized those culinary
skills as one of Mom's many creative outlets. Another of Mom's
talents was her musicality. Her beautiful singing voice was accompanied
by the cacophony of sounds in the kitchen. Along with the clanging
of pots, the sizzling of sauteing and the pounding of garlic was
a tremendous song selection ranging from English to Arabic to
French lyrics. No matter what the kitchen conversation was about,
she could sing a tune that somehow related to the topic.
Like too many
things in life, you don't appreciate what you have until it's
gone. The handwritten recipes of these two wonderful women rest
in my kitchen cupboard; possessing the same significance as framed
photos or favored treasures. Although my Lebanese Grandma never
learned to read or write English, we made sure her recipes from
the old country were not lost.
Maybe the cooking gene skips a generation here and there, because
my 14-year-old son exhibits all the signs of having inherited
this special flair in the kitchen. If you asked him, he would
say he learned to cook for pure survival! But I suspect there
is more to it. The following recipe is a family favorite and was
recently prepared to perfection by this next generation chef.
He loves the fact that you don't measure the spices - just add
and taste, as you go - like his Grandmother and Great-Grandmother
before him. Through his interest in the tastes of the Middle East,
I have learned late in the game that "It IS about the food."
Style Green Beans & Lamb
1 pound of green beans
1 pound lamb (cubed or stew meat)
1 large onion sliced into half moons
1 carrot (optional)
1 green pepper (optional)
2 cups fresh cooked tomatoes or 8 ounce can tomato sauce
Mint, allspice, and cinnamon
Brown the meat until the pink disappears while boiling 4 cups
of water in a saucepan with the seasonings. Add the meat to
the boiling water and turn the heat down to low. Cook the meat
on low heat until done. Add and brown the garlic, onion, carrot,
then add the green beans and cover. Turn heat off. Then add
to the meat. The tomatoes go in 10-15 minutes before all is
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Much, Much More
by Margo Abdo O'Dell
do not call me a belly dancer. Because for me, it is not just
a flip of the hip, the wink of an eye. It is not just the sparkle
of jewels, the want of applause.
The Magnificent Fundraiser
Part Three: Acts I and II by Najia Marlyz
...today’s dancers and producers sometimes write
that they believe that large stage shows with good sound and lighting,
a Master of Ceremonies, and live music are only now starting production
Belly Dancer of the Year
2006 Photos by Susie Poulelis
Danville, Ca, Sunday May 28, 2006 BD of the Year - Finals,
more photos coming!
Weird Rituals and Beyond:
Exploring Current Controversies in Middle Eastern Dance by
If you are like me, (I know that many are not) you first
responded viscerally and negatively to both situations. Then,
as the shock wore off, perhaps you tried to make sense of it all.