Thursday, January 04, 2007

You Eat As Much As You Love

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…

19 comments:

The Syrian Brit said...

Abu Fares,
I can almost smell and taste those delightful dishes you describe.. Partly, I hasten to add, because two days ago (the very day after we arrived back from Rome!..) we had friends visiting from Damascus (two families, ten people in all!..), and we had a very similar feast prepared by my wife, the best cook in the Galaxy.. and I fully support all your arguments.. (You cannot stop eating before the guests.. that would be bad manners!..)
Although I am still suffering from the after-effects, your post made me want more!!..
Sahtayn wa hana...

abufares said...

Welcome Back Syrian Brit
After what you've done in Rome (with the young girl you thought she's somebody else, blablabla...) it wouldn't be enough to just say your wife is the best cook in the galaxy. That was a close call and I have the feeling that you will, or probably "should" not get off the hook that easily.
May be one of these days, we get the chance to نوجب each other over a 4 or 5 course lunch or dinner.
Ciao

Anonymous said...

ولك شو قصتك يا زلمي
جوعتنا بنص الليل وفتحت لنا الشهية... وهلأ ؟

abufares said...

عزيزي أنونيموس
ولا على بالك، كول وتهنى
ما بتاكل الا العافية.

Dubai Jazz said...

Abu Fares, what can I say? I can't but recall Yaser Al Azmeh in one of his 80's Marayas:
كبة بلبنية جاية عبالي , كبة بدراويش
يا امي طبخك يحلالي و بالغربة مافيش
Not that there is a lack of authentic Syrian restaurant in Dubai, but you know what they say: The difference between Mom's cooking and the best chef in town is that Mom cooks with love, she even massages the food with her spatula!
I think that Company (in addition to quality and quantity) is equally important when it comes to the perfect meal...
Regards

Shannon said...

I do believe I just gained weight by reading this post. My mouth just waters thinking of those sweets. How do you possibly save room for those?

abufares said...

Hello Dubai Jazz
Indeed company makes for a perfect meal.
Inshallah, hopefully one day, we get to enjoy such delicious food together.

abufares said...

Hi Shannon
I have showed a preference for Abdul Rahman Hallab of Tripoli, Lebanon. However, the entire Hallab family in Tripoli is engaged in the sweets business. The cousin of Abdul Rahman is Rifaat Hallab. The reason I'm telling you all of this is because Rifaat has international deliveries (to the US). Many of my friends and family in the US always order through the website:

http://www.hallab.com

If you can get some friends to share the order with you or if you are in the market for some gifts (for a total of 5 kg, about 11 lbs, 5 boxes) then you'll be in for a very good deal, less than US$9.00 per lb.

Check the website above and let me know if you need any guidance in choosing what's best. If you've never tried these sweets before, you'll be in for one huge and delicious surprise.

Rime said...

Akh minnak ya Abu Fares! Yani the least, the LEAST, you could do is not show us the photos! I love the part where you explain the hosts have to eat more than the guests! How convenient, right? :)

I'm sure the food and the whole lunch gathering was as wonderful as the writing describing it. Alf sahha!

I love Munich said...

THAT IS SHEER TORTURE!!!!!!!! I am sitting here with my tastebuds going haywire - what YUMMY dishes Maha cooked!! I totally agree to Shannon with her statement, she gains weight alone by LOOKING at the pictures ...
About the myth of salad though I need to enlighten you ... according to newest research, salad isn't more healthy that a blank piece of paper! I hope I don't step on anyones toes with that as I am a salad-lover myself but, *SIGH*, that's the way it indeed seems to be!
GREAT post dear friend!!!

abufares said...

Hello Rime
Well a picture is worth a thousand word, right!?
I'm glad you understand that I had to eat as a gesture of good manners.

abufares said...

Hi Karin
Thank you for clarifying the myth behind the salad. Whenever someone wants to talk wise to me, he or she gives me a lecture on the virtue of salad and the vise of red meat and carbohydrates.
Now, I know that I was right all along.
If it taste so damn good then it must be good for you:)

Anonymous said...

Ahhhh! I almost dropped on the ground just from reading. I am at the shop reading and hoping that no customers would come in so I can finish. Not that I miss these meals, (my wife is a very good cook and we always have such gatherings), but still, the description is "intimidating"! The only thing I miss is the Hallab sweets.
Abu Abdo

abufares said...

Hi Abu Abdo
How are the kangaroos down there?
It must be hard for a real Trabulsi (Tripolitan) to abstain from Hallab Sweets. I'm sure that Om Abdo is keeping you well fed and well taken care of.
Hope to be together again.

Angel said...

Both quality and quantity!!! This is HEAVEN ON EARTH…
Two more of these great “food” posts and you will see me in Tartous...at your door steps!! Kncok kncok?! anybody there :-)
Thank you for the DELICIOUS post :-)

abufares said...

Hi Angel
You're welcome anytime...
Just let me know so that you don't come and your duty is not ready.
ليحضر واجبك... أكيد

Naji said...

Dear Abu Fares,

I am constantly humbled by your skill with the language, but your use of "consummating" in this post is simply genius my friend...!!

Since we are dealing with a "Love Fest" and not some ugly feast of consumption, one makes love to the food (and the company, by extension!) and does not simply "consume" it...!!

Beautiful... again...!!

Naji said...

...this reminds me of what we say few miles up the coast from where you live... "A fish weeps if you eat it without Arak"...!

abufares said...

Hi Naji
Thanks for the compliment, really.
I'm usually spontaneous about the use of vocabulary. However, I have to admit that my choice of the word "consummating" was a very conscious one. I wanted to express the exact same meaning you deducted while reading.
As for our mutual affection for Arak my friend, it's part of our lives in coastal Syria, luckily, very luckily indeed.