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Friday, May 9, 2008


Its so weird how shit happens.

Just last week, I swear, I was overcome by a somewhat inexplicable surge of anxiety about my Lebanese-ness. There was a time in my life [like, last year], where obsessing about my Arab identity was how I spent most of my mental energy, but these days, I would like to think I'm a little more grounded. But, out of nowhere, I am suddenly wishing I had been more proactive about making plans to visit over the summer, regretting dropping out of Arabic class, missing my aunties and cousins, and wondering why it had been so long since I ate foul beans for breakfast.

And then I wake up yesterday morning and gunmen are roaming Beirut. And fighting on the Cornish Mazraa, the street where noor and mahar sleep at night, where 3 generations of my family have lived and watched war through their windows. What the hell is going on?

Its 2006 all over again, and I'm having the same existential crisis that I did then. Halfway across the world, people I love are stuck in their homes and afraid to leave. And I am here, playing pool and drinking beer with my friends, half glad that the tv is playing Rocky 3 and not the news, but unable to dissolve the pit of worry and in my stomach.

And my inexplicable surge of Lebanese-ness suddenly makes more sense.

I'm normally not so esoteric, but I totally believe that families find a way to communicate. If we don't have the luxury of words, some other way will have to do. What else can I do in these situations but send positive and optimistic thoughts their way?

First things first, I'm gonna make a batch of kibbeh.

I haven't made it yet, so I will post the vegetarian recipe once I've cooked it. In the meantime, here is an adorable recipe for kibbeh from my adorable arabic cookbook [the one my mom bought in Oman when she was in the Peace Corp in the 70's].

Also, check out The Kibbeh Equation over at Desert Candy...its a very good post about what makes Kibbeh kibbeh.


        2 1/2 cups cubed tender lamb
        2 cups burghul (crushed wheat)
        2 medium sized onions
        2 tsp. salt (or to taste)
        1/2 tsp. pepper
        Ice water

Kibbeh is virtually the national dish of Lebanon and to call it a meat loaf does not quite raise it to the heights it deserves. Its traditional preparation is dramatic. It requires a stone mortar and a heavy pestle called the jorn and modaqqa. The meat is pounded with rhythmic motions until it is smooth and pasty. All the neighborhood knows the sound of kibbeh in the making.

Select lamb from loin of the animal. Pound the cubed meat with a teaspoon of salt in a stone mortar with a wooden mallet. Remove meat from mortar when it becomes pasty. Now pound onion with a teaspoon of salt and the pepper until it is reduced to a pulp. Combine meat and onion and pound together until very smooth. Wash burghul well in running water but do this quickly so that it does not soften. Press to remove water. Knead burghul and meat with the hands. Pound together in mortar. Add salt to taste. Dip mallet in ice water occasionally to keep meat moist and smooth. Properly prepared kibbeh must be pounded at least an hour. Then it is ready to be eaten as it is, or cooked in a variety of ways.

Preparation time may be shortened considerably by grinding meat several times through fine blade of meat grinder. Grind onion twice. Grind onions with meat once. Combine washed burghul with meat-onion mixture. Knead well, seasoning with salt and pepper. Grind this mixture three times adding a tablespoon of ice water to keep it smooth.

(From Food from the Arab World Marie Karam Khayat and Margaret Clark Keatinge, Khayat's, Beirut 1959)


jen said...


I just wanted to tell you: right on! i read your blog for the first time and said out loud: "if I were to write a blog, it would say just that!"
From one Lebanese woman to another, thank you for just being true.
p.s. have you ever read: Food for Our Grandmothers. I highly recommend it. It is an amazing read about discovering Arab identity through the culture of the kitchen, and so much more!

Wild Thyme Kitchen said...

Hey! Thanks for the comment...I'm glad to hear that things have settled down a bit, at least in Beirut. Food for our Grandmothers has been sitting on my nightstand last summer. I've read the first few essays but really want to finish it! I came across this bood called Saha: A Chef's Journey Through Lebanon and Syria. Have you ever heard of it? I almost bought it online, but wanted to see it in a bookstore or something first.