Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Labneh, loubieh and mana'eesh

Since the end of June, I have been at the University of New Hampshire teaching a course in the Ecogastronomy Program. My students are from the Slow Food University in Pollenzo, Italy, and are here on an exchange program. I am teaching about the role media and advertising play in shaping global food choices. But I am also teaching about food from the Mashriq (Levant), and I am learning from my co-teacher Amy Winans, who is a great chef/cook about food of the US. Yesterday, Amy introduced the students (and me) to southern food, and we also made a dish of loubieh bi zeit, which I cooked from memory as I do not have recipes and anyways, cooking is not an exact science. Today we made mana'eesh and cheese sambousek in the cafeteria's oven. I had brought the zaatar, and Amy made labneh at home from some excellent organic raw milk yogurt. She also brought parsley from her garden for the sambousek, for which she also prepared the dough. The students, who are a great bunch and are so passionate about food, made their own mana'eesh in 2 varieties, with or without onions (the onions are so sweet here). Then we had a session during which we talked about the history of food in the Mashreq, and I gave them the recipe for loubieh bi zeit using my own units (such as about half a cm of olive oil in a deep pan...) Tomorrow am back to teaching about advertising and food, but next Wednesday we're cooking sheesh barak. I love sheesh barak.

I will have more to say about the US and about my stay there. But I need to fully take it in first. It takes a while. One quick note though: for my kids, this was a kind of homecoming. which is weird because they have never been here. But they know everything already: the supermarket aisles contain almost the same products in Lebanon. The street signs they know from the tv channels. It struck me that this is exactly how I felt when I visited France for the first time at 15. I was in a French school, and Lebanon had been under French mandate for 3 decades. Has Lebanon moved to the US cultural mandate since?

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