Arabic cooking is like Arabic dancing—vivid, exotic, enchanting. Seasoned with herbs and spices, moistened with olive oil and butter, rolled in cabbage and grape leaves, food no longer merely abates hunger but becomes a picture of fragrance and charm to satisfy sight, smell, and taste.
There is no difference between Syrian and Lebanese foods. In America these foods are most popularly known as Syrian foods. However, since Syria was under the rule of Turkey for centuries, some of the drinks and foods are Turkish. This is why the coffee served in Syria and Lebanon is called Turkish coffee.
A part of my heritage, these recipes have been handed down from mother to daughter for generations and followed by instinct—a little of this, a pinch of that—and flavored to please the palate, though the ingredients were never accurately measured.
As my sister and I gathered these recipes from my mother, Maheeba (Mabel), she recalled many scenes of her native land; of certain haflis (parties), of friends, of the rich aroma of Turkish coffee poured into a demitasse, of the historical background of Arabic script and the makings of exquisite damask cloth.
When we lived in Canton, Ohio, as children, my sister, brother, and I used to get a great deal of pleasure watching my father and his friends take turns smoking the narghileh (Turkish water pipe) as they relaxed during the evenings, exchanging stories of their journey to this country. The narghileh had the sound of bubbling water and an incense aroma filled the house from the Persian tobacco that was used. Our narghileh was made of beautiful cut glass with an oriental brass stem, and the smoking pipe that was attached had an almost cobra look with its many variegated colors. The smoke was being drawn through cold water to reduce the strength of the nicotine. The guests were served Turkish coffee and the hostess was ready to play the part of a fortuneteller. The cups were inverted and left to stand so that the coffee sediment formed a pattern on the inside of the cup. Then the cups were turned up again and the hostess interpreted the future of each guest from the pattern in his cup.
I have included in the book features on the religious significance of foods, Syrian-Lebanese festivals, weddings, Easter, Epiphany, the preparation of wine and bread for Holy Communion, and a complete Lenten section.
This is an adventure in foods you will want to repeat over and over again. While these customs and traditions still prevail in the land of my ancestors, I felt that you would enjoy opening a few doors to this ancient land, reflecting the mingling of traditions between those days and modern times.
This illustrated classic includes the following sections:
Spices and Herbs
Game, Poultry, and Dressings
Meats and Outdoor Festivals
Wheat and Kibby
Pancakes and Omelets
Bread and Pies
Candied Fruits and Preserves
Pastries and Desserts
Lenten Foods and Menus
Wheat and Vegetable Dishes
Traditions and Foods of the Orthodox Catholic Church