Published: August 12th 2011August 12th 2011
I made it after I wrote this blog...
Shame on me for waiting this long to write about such an important topic. The cuisine in Syria is absolutely delicious as it is diverse and satisfying. One of the best ways to get a taste (literally) of Arab culture is through its food. The food holds a deep representation of the traditions, history, and culture of Arab society. It borrows and shares its flavors with the Greeks, Turks, North Africans, and dare I say, Romans, because after centuries of conquest and civilization, food from around the Mediterranean hold similar flavors and bases.
The flavor around Syrian cuisine is based off olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper. The staples in every lunch table are grains like bulghar wheat, rice, and bread. A typical meal will consist of salad, beef or chicken, and some “focal point” (or main dish) of the table. At times this could include kibeh, little football shaped things made of wheat and stuffed with meat and nuts. Other times it could be grape leaves , which are cooked grape leaves wrapped around rice and meat. Still other times it could simply be kabob or kafta. Lunch is the central meal of the day in Syria, which is
From our family house in the village
typically followed by a few hours of sleep and relaxation.
Nearly everything on the lunch table is fresh and brought in from the villages daily. Unlike the West where we tend to take a weekly trip for groceries, my grandmother usually sends for produce from the local market almost daily. Nothing is ever doused in preservatives or hormones, and the vegetables are the freshest I have ever tasted. Tomatoes are bloody red, cucumbers are deep green, and the lettuce was picked within the week. I can even taste the difference in eggs- the eggs here are small and taste as smooth as butter. My grandmother is quite particular about where she buys her butter from and refuses to purchase it from the market; she gets it mailed to her house from the village, and it is yellow and hand-churned. Also, she pasteurizes milk herself every morning by boiling it, and makes yoghurt and lebneh (solid yoghurt) out of it. White cheese and yoghurt are also staples in the Syrian diet.
So here we have the Shami diet consisting of whole grains, fresh vegetables, fresh milk and yoghurt, and loads of meats from the local butcher. Needless to add,
though I have not seen the gym in over two months, I have lost a few kilos. It’s all in the food- the food fuels Arab society and carries on traditions. And it just feeds the soul.
Recipe for fatoush (popular salad)
Chopped head of lettuce
2 chopped tomatoes
4 chopped cucumbers
1 chopped bell pepper (green or red)
A small bunch of chopped parsley
One part olive oil to one part lemon juice
Oven toasted Arabic (pita) bread, brushed with olive oil and broken into bits
When you pour the olive oil dressing over the salad, be sure to salt it as well. My grandmother likes to sprinkle a bit of coarse red pepper, which really brings out the tart flavor of the lemon and the tomatoes.