Hello and welcome!

Since this blog is named for two of my favorite flavors in Lebanese cuisine—the essence of roses and orange blossoms, distilled in water—it seems only fitting that we kick things off with a recipe using one of them. I do understand that a tall glass of strawberry rose lemonade is not your first thought when you want to eat Lebanese food (which you do, often, if you’ve ever eaten it). But summer is here, and lemonade is essential, sipped on the front porch if you have one, or in the front porch of your heart if you don’t (at the kitchen table or, if you’re my brother, standing in front of the refrigerator with the door open while you drink, will do). And strawberry with fragrant rose is like one of those marriages that you openly admire, attempting to understand what makes it tick so perfectly, but ultimately just drinking it in and hoping it infuses you with its goodness.

This lemonade is based on a rosewater drink that my mother and my sister-in-law, Ruth, recalled for me after their trip to Lebanon in the summer of 2006. It was a memorable trip for lots of reasons, not the least of which was that they were there to meet the newborn baby boy who Ruth and my brother Chris were about to adopt. When they arrived at the orphanage in Beirut (well, more of a house where a woman was caring for three babies awaiting adoption), the caregiver welcomed them with glasses of rose-scented lemonade. Doesn’t that sound lovely? Long-awaited baby—all fingers and toes accounted for—in open arms, tears of joy, refreshing lemonade in hand, and the land of our ancestors experienced for the first time.

And it was lovely, except that the rose water lemonade was…undrinkable. My mother’s sheer force of will, and the unspoken laws that govern respect for another woman’s hospitality, got her through half of a glass. It tasted more, much more, like a bottle of perfume than something you’d drink, Ruth said. This bothered me, and stuck with me, because I wanted rose-scented lemonade in Lebanon to taste really good, exotic, unlike any lemonade any of us had ever tasted (ok, at this point in life I’m well aware of my inclination toward the romantic, the dramatic, but don’t stop reading here, because what’s to follow truly is dramatic, if not romantic).

Turns out that the trip went from joyous baby-oogling to Middle Eastern war virtually overnight. My brother and mother had left Ruth in Lebanon, where she was to keep baby John with her for a couple of weeks until my brother would return to finalize the adoption. Instead, she found herself sweating it out for hours on a Beirut beach in 110-degree heat with a newborn in her arms, waiting to board a U.S. military boat taking American citizens there out of harm’s way, to Cyprus. And that was considered a whopping success after a week of harrowing attempts to determine how to get Ruth home with a baby that was not legally hers yet. The answer, with the herculean efforts of many relatives and friends (Geralyn, all of you, you know who you are) was a “humanitarian visa” for my nephew John, secured just hours before the last American boat taking U.S. citizens to safety left harbor.

What happened next is hardly speakable, but it must be said. Come back and see me tomorrow and we’ll sit down to talk about the rest of the story, and a recipe you will love for strawberry rose lemonade.

 

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17 Responses to "Strawberry Rose Lemonade"
  1. Maria Bill says:

    Maureen, Congratulations on the beginning of a beautiful food blog! Your photography is fabulous and your writing is exquisite. I look forward to many informative posts and new recipes to add to my collection.

  2. Tara Mataraza Desmond says:

    Tactics of a master storyteller: leave us hanging and anxious for more! Cheers to you as you embark on this new journey. I love that I get to read your words as you go.

  3. Tony Troup says:

    Great layout and info on your blog Maureen! I look forward to some great recipe’s that Dianne and I can try!
    Tony

  4. Maureen –

    So great that you started your own blog! Thanks for letting me know about it on Facebook. I love the family connection. What a blessing that you are cooking and writing alongside your mom. And what a treat to have had your grandma’s cooking – I’m jealous! I wish you all the best on your soulful journey. Your food looks DELICIOUS – and as beautiful as the pictures are I’m sure they don’t give justice to the flavor.

    All the best,
    Sandra

  5. Love it, Maureen-y!!! As a girl who hardly even cooks, I can’t wait to follow your scrumptious blog…love your storytelling!!

  6. Celine says:

    Cousin,
    I’m thirsty for the recipe of the Strawberry Rose Lemonade!! Did I miss it or will it be in your next installment?
    Celine 🙂

  7. Maureen,

    Lovely site, lovely writing, lovely message, but now I’m hungry and want rose water lemonade in midtown … Where’s a refrigerator I can stand in front of?

    Kevin

  8. Kate Brueckman says:

    Just beautiful – look forward to reading more! Have you heard a new Lebanese restaurant just opened in Royal Oak? I’ll have to go and check it out for you! Love, love! Kate

  9. Laure Agbay says:

    I came across your site while searching for proper grape leaves to pick. It made me laugh remembering my mother and my aunt dragging me along as well! Great writing and love the stories. Good luck with your blog!

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