As a Lebanese American, preserving culture has been a high priority in my life. My respect for my heritage and it’s traditions has brought along a mutual interest and respect for other cultures. Through this blog, my goal is learn something new about the people around us while also partaking and creating delicious dishes that represents their cultural identities.
To start, I am going to give you a glimpse into my world. I’ll be showing you what my family eats, and how we as american immigrants fuse the old and new country in our daily lives. Then I will start to branch from my world into yours. What will be a crucial necessity for me is to hear from you!
To start with my story: I was born in Lawrence Massachusetts to my father Khalil, and my mother Cathy. My father came from Lebanon in the 70’s and my mother’s family emigrated to the US from Ireland and Germany long before she was born. I remember feeling conflicted about my cultural identity as a kid. Best example of this is when classmates would laugh at me for having a peanut butter sandwich on pita bread(they’re missing out). At that time I didn’t quite realize that there is nothing wrong with doing something differently from others.
When I moved to Saudi Arabia was really when I started seeing the world in a more diverse light. Firstly my family and I went from living in New England to living in the desert, yet near the coast. Secondly, Saudi Arabia is a strictly Muslim country, unlike Lawrence Massachusetts. Last b ut not least, once we started school, my sisters and I found ourselves amongst people from all over the world. Throughout our time living there we not only got to experience the culture of Saudi Arabia, but also had a glimpse into the cultures and traditions of our peers.
The best thing that i think my parents did for my sisters and I was not keep us cooped up behind our compound walls. We would go into the Markets together and my father would encourage us to haggle for anything we wanted. As a family we’d also go camping in the Saudi Mountains and snorkeling in the Red Sea. One trip we even went from the city we lived in, Jeddah, all the way to the Yemeni Border. What made an impression on me the most were the people we met along the way. Always just as curious about us, but extremely generous. We’d even been invited on several occasions into people’s homes. If we went, they would give us something to eat and drink. What I recall the most was coffee, tea and dates. My parent’s also took the opportunity and brought us on trips to places such as Egypt, Italy, Greece, Malta, Lebanon, and Paris. If will be indulging more on those trips in another entry though. I will say the hardest thing for me was going from a life full of culture and excitement back to the States; it was a place that as a teenager, I thought had no culture at all.
My connection with food starts from an early age. My Father worked in Lebanese restaurants before he started his career after college. My Mother had to learn to cook Lebanese food when she married him and my grandmother taught her. While as a kid we enjoyed some american dinners we ate mostly lebanese dishes. By the time I was in Elementary School I was helping prepare breakfast on sundays with the rest of my family. One of my earliest memories was when I was maybe five years old and we helped my father cater a sweet sixteen. I got to give people rolls. Pretty sure I was there to act as the cute factor because i could barely see over the table!
As I got older I began helping my mom prep and cook our Thanksgiving meal. I found that I really enjoyed this time to learn my family's take on the tradition and spend time with her. Once I moved out of my parent’s house, however, was when I began to understand the importance of preserving my family’s culture through food to pass on to our younger generation. I realized I didn't know all the recipes! I began asking more questions and requesting recipes so i could learn and replicate them. I’ve also started to branch out to other cultures cuisine that I enjoy. I find myself longing to know the history behind some of these recipes, but from the mouths of the people making them.