Feel like creating a wonderful Lebanese dish for dinner tonight? Before you begin, don’t forget this crucial element to your dish.
Any grandmother will tell you, every Lebanese or Middle Eastern dish requires a level of skill, and that particular skill is passed on from generation to generation in a Lebanese home.
This is particularly notable when you ask a person skilled at Lebanese cuisine for a recipe.
The response is often ‘a pinch of this’, or ‘you add an ingredient through feeling’. Not particularly helpful advice to a novice who needs exact grams or spoons to pull off a dish.
Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean that Lebanese and Middle Eastern cooking cannot be an acquired skill. It just takes one crucial element to begin creating any Lebanese dish.
That vital ingredient is love.
While that may seem like a lofty response, all it takes is a consideration of the design of Lebanese cuisine to understand the relevance of love to its creation.
Most Lebanese dishes are designed to share, and the art of eating is more of a ritual rather than a need. Lebanese families gather together, at the dining table, for the main meal. They pass each other plates, unwind from a long day, dipping fresh bread into home-made dips, and sharing their experiences through food.
Lebanese food is also created as a show of love. You’ll often hear a mother pester and prod their child to eat, as eating the food binds them.
In that vein, recipes are also kept in the family. Techniques and secret ingredients are passed on from mother to daughter, from daughter to grandchild. This adds a particular individual stamp on a dish and the guarded secret bonds families through the art of food.
Most of all, Lebanese cuisine is hospitable. At any given time, you can walk into a Lebanese home and be offered a bowl of nuts and vegetables to enjoy with your dipping plate, a sticky and sweet square of Turkish delight with your coffee, pastries spiked with spicy za’atar. This is the Lebanese way of welcoming friends and strangers into their home. Through food, they create new bonds and fortify existing ones.
And so, before you embark on your next bowl of tabouli or kafta, don’t forget to add an extra dose of love to your dish. Cook with intent – to bring together friends and loved ones through the wonderment of food.