I love Lebanese food for many reasons. Strange as it may sound at first, it reminds me of home. It is amazing to think how cultures and customs travel and mix, especially cuisines. Maybe it is not particularly common to have Mediterranean diet in the continental part of the country, which has no access to the Adriatic coast and therefore, no connection with Mediterranean, but our family was different. My mom has always been an excellent cook and never scared to try to make something new and tasty. She was born in Macedonia and grew up with tomatoes, eggplants, cheese, olives, basil and mint, sometimes lamb… Pastry is what she could best “feel” in her hands, so we had variations of bread, pies, doughnuts and other delicious bites. Occupied by Turks for centuries, close to Greece – the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean influences were inevitable.
I was happy to make manakish, as it very much reminded me of Turkish pide, or, how I experienced it, of Macedonian pastrmalija. Pastrmalija was not served at restaurants like today and it was primarily made in winter. As my visits to Macedonia were usually over summer school break, being there in January and having pastrmalija was even more special. My aunt would make a dough and prepare the meat that was on the top, but she would take it to a baker to bake it in the brick or stone oven. Nothing can beat the dough baked in those ovens! With snow outside on cold winter days, someone would bring the steaming hot pastrmalijas and we would soon all be gathered around the table, breaking it, sharing and diving into it.
Although I used some of the ingredients I didn’t eat as a child, such as sumac, for example, when I closed my eyes, I was closer to home.
It defines us, changes us, moves us.
What are we willing to do for it?
How many times are we ready to die for it?
How to live without it?
When I lost you,
the void was so enormous,
I thought I would never be able to
find a bridge across,
and make a step forward.
There were other loves.
I was blessed.
But no one as permanent
as your non-existence.
Friendships, blood lines, children…
lots to give and receive.
when I reach out over the bed sheets
I catch only air.
I thought I would wither without love,
but I am still walking.
Maybe when I fall one day,
and they open my heart,
there will be a dry leaf inside.