Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Old Country in My Home

My grandmother cooked fresh food for us every day, recipes learned in her village home in the mountains of Lebanon. Every day she showered us, meal after meal, with her skill and her love – dense and chewy round flat breads, creamy yoghurt with salt and cucumber, pans of ground meat with herbs and pine nuts (eaten both cooked and raw!). We had stuffed grape leaves, tomatoes and green beans with chunks of roasted meat, stuffed eggplant and zucchini, lamb chunks flavored with garlic, oregano and lemon cooked on skewers on burners on top of the gas stove, savory pastry triangles filled with ground meat or lemon-scented spinach and feta.

I can still see my grandmother picking from the clusters of mint and tomatoes that she grew right outside our back door, using her mortar and pestle to grind the spices that filled the air always. I see her surveying the kitchen tabletop filled with pans of baklava, the yield of hours and hours of work, now golden and redolent with the fragrance of crushed nuts, honey, rose and orange flower waters

When I was in college I would get selectively diligent and try to learn how to make some of these dishes that my grandmother brought so faithfully from her home in “the old country,” as a young bride in the early 1900s. But the school breaks were short, and I began to create my own life, away from home…

My grandmother has been gone for a long time now, and I wish I had been able to spend that time with her ~ to record even just a little of the information that was in her head and heart and hands. I so wish I could make that food today. And even if I had never learned how to make even one dish, it would mean the world to me just to feel like my grandmother was back, pouring her love and that humble mastery into the food we ate.

Diane J.

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