Many habitual readers of this blog, if I permit myself to admit that there are actually people who come again, are not after my political, social or religious insights. They follow along grudgingly and allow themselves to read my boring outlook on the local and international scenes in the safe knowledge that I will come out of this mode eventually and get back to one of the few fields at which I am better at. Food for instance!
Shall I talk about quality versus quantity? What about if both were present on the same table? Wouldn’t that be the perfect gastronomic dream? Indeed, and I have proof this time that gaining a few kilos during the festive season on both sides of the new year isn’t that bad after all. You know what I truly think [sometimes]. OK, I am already married with children [my looks aren’t that important anymore, not that I have any intentions of wagging my tail in the first place]. My wife is doing most of the cooking herself, so I can always blame it on her. My health, relatively speaking, can handle the delicious calories as well as the bland ones. We live only once, to the best of my knowledge. The extended family meets but a few times per year. And, one cannot stop eating before the guests, it’s just not appropriate. As a matter of fact, one needs to eat more than the guests, just to show them what a jovial generous fellow he is [besides we really don’t eat like this everyday]. Need I bring up any further points to support my argument? Well may be a couple of pictures showing some of the stuff, I along with the guests, had the pleasure of consummating during the course of one happy lunch very recently.
The main attraction was the turkey. Stuffed with rice, pistachios, almonds, pine nuts and minced meat on the inside. Rubbed with wholesome butter and exotic spices on the outside. And, served with love and affection without any consideration to the protests of the guest(s) begging to “please stop… this is enough”.
Fattouch is an omni present salad in Tartous and it has something called “fibers” which is supposed to be good for you. We love Fattouch and eat it with everything because all diet plans encourage the consumption of salad and green stuff (very health conscious we are).
Let’s get back to serious food again, after you had your share of turkey, stuffing and salted yogurt (see small bowls), you resume your euphoric feasting with some Kobbeh Bil Saynieh and Kobbeh Meshwieh. It’s not a matter of either or, come on… You got to have just a little tiny bit of both, three to four pieces Bil Saynieh and at least two hot (filled with minced meat, pine nuts and fat) Kobbeh Meshwieh. Wait, some red beans with lamb and rice. They were made especially because they go along so nicely with the Kobbeh.
By God ( منشان الله) change your plate. This is real good Kamayeh = Tuber Truffles ( كمأة ) from the countryside of Homs. No don’t worry, it’s very light and good for you. It’s just been fried in butter with lamb chunks the size of a small bird’s head ( راس العصفور ). What do you mean you’ve had enough rice, here’s some more (you eat as much as you love = الأكل على قد المحبة ).
You know what, next time you invite us over, I am going to eat as little as you did. Are you sick God forbids? OK, that’s better.
I wouldn’t have any of it, by Gody ( واللهَّ بكسر الهاء ) you’re going to try this Lahme Bi Ajin (Meat Pies) they are prepared with grenadine molasses ( دبس رمان ) , we only prepared them this morning because we heard that you like them. Nobody tries just one. OK, fine, have it your way, just two pieces. You are so stubborn.
How about a second serving of turkey? Are you sure? Don’t make me swear.
Let’s move to the living room for some sweets and tea.
In Tartous, there’s only one origin for real sweets to swear by. Nah, it’s not from Damascus, Aleppo or Homs. It’s from Tripoli, Lebanon and it’s called Abdul Rahman Hallab Sweets. Anything else and you’d be better off eating donuts. We have a love affair with oriental sweets, as they’ve come to be known. Tartoussi scouts of old would travel to distant cities if they ever heard that there is a new place that’s supposed to have good sweets. They will return with the verdict, always, not as good as Hallab. Not even close. Over the years, Tripoli has become the number one destination for Tartoussi enthusiast sweet epicures. We go there in the morning, eat sweets at Hallab, order a few 2 kilo boxes to go for “hospitality” ( ضيافة ) and return in the early afternoon in time for lunch.
So after lunch, while waiting for the Green tea (great and always recommended in diet plans because of its antioxidants and positive digestive attributes or whatever), the Lebanese culinary objets d’art are brought forward and placed in the middle of the coffee table with reverence and affection. Diabetes my ass, you’re going to have one of each like God created you ( متل ما الله خلقك ). Do you really believe that sweets are bad for you? Well, actually, not oriental sweets. They are prepared with Hamwi shortening ( سمنة حموية ) and that will nullify the negative effects of sugar and lubricate your arteries and veins.
Sahha Wa Hana (health & enjoyment), we don’t want to swear on you ( ما بدنا نحلف عليكم ), but please have some more of this, that and those. You didn’t even try this little round one “the bracelet of the bride” ( اسوارة العروس ) It’s very light, stuffed with delightful petite pistachios and soaked in flower water ( ماء زهر ) and sugar syrup ( قطر ).
Ahlan Wa Sahlan (Welcome). Would you like to wash your hands now? Or after the fruits, may be?
Ya Mit Ahla Wa Sahla (a hundred welcome), you came but your duty did not ( حضرتوا وما حضر واجبكم).
Would you like a banana? It’s better than Rolaids believe me…