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Lebanon In Your Kitchen



Boomer ethnic food once meant warming a can of spaghetti-Os.

Or a small town Chinese restaurant that sold more hamburgers than spicy chicken and rice.

Then we grew up and found another way. Books. About cooking.

Invite friends to join a cooking class in your home and learn about a culture without the travel.

I invited a dozen people and the author of a Lebanese cookbook to dinner.

Linda Dalal Sawaya taught class with recipes from her book, ALICES’S KITCHEN.

We bought everything on Linda’s list from a world food grocery store.  Every ingredient was the freshest on the market.

I came out feeling like I’d been on vacation. Lithuanian Beer? Polish beans? The United Nations could lunch there and all find something from home.

Lebanese wine?  No problem.  Lebanese cheese? Check. Mechaalany (Lebanese pickled thyme?)  Huh?

“How do you eat that?”

It’s a fair question about a jar of stems and roots.

“Like a pickle. Put it on a plate and use as the finishing touch on a cracker.”

The first rule in class was a ban on alcohol during food preparation. Maybe it’s a Lebanese custom ingrained AliceCounterTopthrough centuries of chopping ingredients with sharp knives, maybe a modern safety issue.

I switched from cooking student to documentary photographer and Lebanese beer taster.

Calling the results the best food of my life wouldn’t be fair to my Dad’s SOS, but that’s what it was. The chicken, a cross-cultural standard, was more than chicken.

The stuffed eggplant linked my fork-hand to my autonomic nervous system. I couldn’t make it stop.

After the party a few friends lingered at the kitchen table. I washed dishes and listened to the familiar words of every civilization worth remembering; the post-party action report.

Linda Dalal Sawaya had roasted peppers and eggplant on the rack above a gas range on full power. No one had seen that before. They turned out perfect.

Final verdict?

Alice Ganamey Sawaya, Linda’s mother, says it best,

“Dear, if you make it with love, it will be delicious.”

Thank you Linda, and thank you Alice.


 Boomerpdx Lesson: Eating well doesn’t mean going out. But if you do, try Al-Amir.

Better Boomer says be adventurous, you only go around once. After eating from Alice’s Kitchen, you’ll want to go again.

About David Gillaspie
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