As a warm welcome to all of our new readers, the photos here (they’re linked to stories and recipes) are meant to give you, and all of us, a little taste of the Lebanese table we love to gather around….
Being recognized by Saveur means a lot to me for a whole slew of reasons.
Food magazines like Saveur have been a staple of my reading diet for a lot of years. As long as I can remember, really, since my mom always had them around when we were kids. I remember sitting behind the family room door (the only place the fourth of five kids could find some privacy) to dive into Bon Appetit and, for good measure, Ladies Home Journal. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t meant to be reading the “Can This Marriage Be Saved” column so religiously at 10 years old, and I don’t think it did much for me after all (this happened), but the food stuff—that stuck with me.
As soon as I had my own address, my mama started me on my own magazine subscriptions. I signed on for others whenever I found a magazine I didn’t want to miss a single issue of, which included the then-brand-new Saveur magazine (launched in 1994). Saveur’s way with story, with history, and above all with culture and cuisine was completely unique and riveting.
From the start I thought This is my food! These are my people! I remember telling a guy I was dating that if I could do anything at all, it would be to have Lebanese food, written by me, published in Saveur. That I might even like to write books about it. He kinda laughed, and not in a way you’d approve of. He, also a writer, thought I was reaching a little too high. Good thing that one ended when grad school did.
Then, when I was living in Chicago working on everything but my food writing, I could see the eyes of the culinary world turning its gaze and palate toward Middle Eastern ingredients and recipes and culture. I was anxious that I wasn’t in the mix. I was living with my sister, and every month when the magazines arrived, we’d scan for traces of our food. Each time we saw a tidbit, Peg would wait for my reaction, which was not pretty. Yes, happy for Lebanese and other Middle Eastern cuisines, happy for the world to get to know how special, delicious, and interesting it is. But not happy, not happy at all, that I wasn’t the author of any of it.
One day I walked in and Peg said: Ummmm, go in the kitchen?
Saveur was on the kitchen table, opened to a full-on spread about hummus. I stared at the thing viciously. Tears burned my face. I grabbed it and tore the story out of the magazine. Peg thought I was going to trash it in the alley before she could even read it.
Instead, I marched to my desk and taped the ripped pages to the wall above it, directly in my daily line of vision.
Not too long after that, I did publish a short piece in Saveur, about learning to make laban, yogurt, with Sitto. And then some other stories, here and there, inspired by the beauty and love of Lebanese cuisine.
I started taking the (not always obvious, not always easy) leaps from one stone in the path to the next: leaving my corporate job in the city, going to culinary school out west, moving back to my hometown in Michigan, launching the Rose Water & Orange Blossoms blog, and now, publishing a Lebanese cookbook.
Do I still freak out whenever I see our food authored by other writers in all kinds of places? A little (okay, sometimes a lot; just ask Peg). Do I struggle not to laugh away my own big dreams? The “yes” to that has an expletive before it, it’s such a big yes. But above all, I’m so very glad the stories and the writers of the Lebanese way in the kitchen, and the wonderful magazines that publish them, are out there shining the light. And I’m grateful to be right there with them, sharing the love.