Showing posts with label Meditation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Meditation. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

100th Post {!}: Reflection on the Journey

One hundred posts, three years of researching, writing, cooking, photographing, eating, remembering and learning, and I have gained so much.  I am stronger than ever before, both in my sense of cultural self and in my confidence in the kitchen.  I am so grateful.

Today, I am pausing to reflect on this blog, this little experiment of mine.  When I started this blog, as  a way of recording my journey into traditional Palestinian cuisine, I never really expected anyone to read or follow this blog.  After all, I laughed to myself, how many people are interested in traditional food, let alone Palestinian traditional food.

As it turns out, far more than I could have imagined.  What a curious world.

But for me, this return to Arabic cooking became more than a culinary experiment, or even a health experiment.  It quickly also became a meditation on my own criss-crossed cultural identity, and the emerging cultural identity of my own children.  I found myself re-asking all of the painful questions that I had avoided for most of my life:  Since I am both Arab and American, can I ever really be either?  Am I even Arab enough to engage in this experiment - can I ever be authentic enough to cook authentically?

In the early dawn hours of reflections, here is what has come to me.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Bone Broth: My Two Secrets for Making Beautiful, Abundant and Affordable Bone Broth

So, in my last post, I confessed my bone broth craze.

I've put into baby's cups.  I make soups and stews with my homemade broths all winter long.  I cook it into my rices and my noodles, I cook it into rice porridge.  Bone broth is a staple in my kitchen.

Here in the United States, Thanksgiving is around the corner and everyone is  comparing notes on their turkeys, whether they are going to deep fry or roast them, and whether they are buying frozen or fresh, local or organic.  Whatever you choose to buy, I'm begging you:


Don't throw away those bones.

Nothing breaks my heart like the sight of bones in the trash.  It makes me cringe to think of all of the beautiful soups and broths that could. have. been. 

So, today, I'm going to give you a step-by-step plan so simple that it will take just a few minutes, and you will be rewarded with days of delicious brothy soups in December.  So do yourself a favor and put aside that turkey frame, and after the festivities have died down, and everyone has recovered from their pie-and-turkey coma, come back here and follow my steps to making easy and delicious bone broth.

Over the years of making broth, I have been able to save time and money using two simple broth "secrets." I have shared these tips with many of my friends and even my mother! Here is how I streamline this practice in my kitchen so that I have a steady and simple way to keep an abundant supply of beautiful bone broth.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Making "Fawaffles": An Experiment with Arab and American Cultural Identity

Last week, I ran across this post from the blog Food Republic, describing a collision of two of my favorite foods:  waffles and falafels.   

Enter the fawaffle.  


Really?  Fawaffle?  Make falafels in your waffle iron?  

I jumped right up on my soapbox, and began to mentally enumerate all of the ways that this dish was just.  plain. wrong.  Leave it to Americans, I thought to myself, to take a perfectly good falafel and squish it into a waffle iron.  Always innovating.  Always trying to change things up.  Always trying to improve on perfection.   


But.  I kinda wanted to do it.  My leftover falafel mix in the fridge beckoned me.  It would be so easy, I thought, so fast.  And who knows?  Maybe it will also taste all right.  Even if it doesn't, won't it be fun?

I walked around the house for a while, taking care of this and that, and listened to the two competing voices in my head.  One voice, calling for tradition and authenticity.  The other voice, calling for playful innovation.  And as I listened, I really heard these two voices clearly, maybe for the first time.  One, the collective voice of the neighbors, relatives and friends from my childhood in Palestine, extolling the virtue of authenticity, the beauty of tradition, vying between them to produce the best versions of classic dishes, laughing at strange variations. The other voice a quieter one, Western and pragmatic, but just as compelling.  It just shrugged and said, seductively:  what if it's great?  

What if?

I can't believe I'm about to do this.  

Thursday, November 21, 2013

On Thanksgiving: Food as Identity-Forming Story

All morning long, the family cooks work in the kitchen -- trussing the turkey, tearing bread for stuffing, rolling out pie crusts -- and the familiar scents of Thanksgiving begin to drift out of the oven: sage and pumpkin, turkey and yeasty bread.  Thanksgiving is not like any other meal that we enjoy throughout the year, is it?  We have set aside this day to enjoy eating particular foods, foods that we sometimes reserve to eat only at this time of the year, or at least, that is the only day when we eat all of those dishes with our family.

Thanksgiving is probably the one holiday in America that focuses exclusively on food:  on creating a table of bountiful, delicious food, and then enjoying it wholeheartedly. You don't have to buy cards or wrap presents, you don't have to churn through a bunch of holiday-themed activities or try to create and then sustain family traditions.  The goal is simple:  gather around the table with loved ones, give thanks, and then feast. 

Is this our culture's last ceremonial meal?  Perhaps. There is something about it that reminds me of Pasach, of the Passover meal shared in Jewish homes, to mark the great exodus.  Like the Jews who celebrate with Passover, we eat particular foods, on a particular day, to remember a time of  great need and great redemption.  We eat the foods, and we remember, and we explain them to our children. 

On Thanksgiving, the foods that we eat tell a story - a story of where we came from, and who we are.  This is an identity-forming meal, and one that certainly shaped my own sense of cultural identity when I was growing up.


Friday, October 25, 2013

When We Share Our Bread

When I was a new teacher and on the brink of nervous exhaustion, another more seasoned teacher presented me with a bowl of lentil sausage spinach soup and a hunk of homemade bread to get me through a particularly hard evening (my first back-to-school night).  I remember sitting in the dark, empty classroom eating the warm soup and bread and being brought to tears.  This was a small kindness, perhaps, but it pierced me deeply.  How could someone who was just like me - a teacher, also preparing for her next day's classes - be so generous to share her dinner with me?  She owed me nothing, and yet, she offered me this kindness?  This very busy teacher could have saved that soup for another day.  But she chose to give it way, almost recklessly, without thought for herself.  I ate the soup, humbled and grateful.  And I have not forgotten. 

There is something about breaking off a piece of your bread and giving it to another.  There is something in taking a piece of your allotment, your sustenance, and giving it to another.  Here you go, have mine.  Tomorrow, I have faith, I will find more.  In the meantime, take this.  You need it. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

When the Rain Falls, and a Recipe for Sugared Spelt Cut-Out Cookies

I sent my baby to kindergarten today. 

We woke up to rain falling, softly.  A dark, grey morning, the sun seemed unwilling to get up.  But we all brushed, dressed, pulled on new socks, shoes. 

We kissed.  We said the important things, the I-love-yous, and God-loves-you and always-remember-that.  And then I watched her proudly lead the line of kindergartners upstairs, her backpack slung high.  She was ready to go.

And still, the rain fell, softly, down my cheeks.

There are moments in life where deep joy and deep grief are twisted together, forming a braid that is as strong as it is beautiful.  Allowing both to pierce your hearts is what keeps your heart soft enough to open, soft enough to love, soft enough to break.

I know this because I know a little something about saying goodbye.  I have said goodbye enough times, to enough people, to enough worlds, to know.  I know that life is full of these moments, when a door shuts, when an airplane takes off, when a mother kisses you goodbye. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Praying for Nourishment

My father used to pray the same prayer every day, as we sat down to eat:

        Father, bless this food, and let it nourish our bodies.

It was a simple prayer, but a good one.  My busy childish mind didn't linger too long on it, but I heard it every day, at every meal:  Bless this food, Father.  Allow it to nourish our bodies.  Now a mother herself, my wonderful sister turned it into a little song for her children to sing as a mealtime prayer:

          Thank you, Lord, for this food
          You always provide for us
          Bless this food to our bodies
          Let our bodies do your work.

Whether I was sitting at the family table, or in a school cafeteria, or feeding my baby mashed avocado, I prayed this prayer.  It was part of our ritual of eating, this song of joy and thanksgiving before meals.  Some days my mind did not rest fully in the words, like a pebble skimming over a pond. Other days, I plunged more deeply.  I regarded this prayer as a pointing-to my greater sense of thankfulness, for all of the many provisions I have received from the Father, from my shoe laces to forgiveness and grace.

I remember the first time I prepared a traditional nourishing meal for my children and sat down with them to eat it and prayed this prayer, once again: Father, let this food nourish our bodies.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Am I a "Beginner Arab" and Other Questions of Cultural Identity

A few weeks ago, my five-year-old daughter was comparing the color of my skin to hers and noticed that mine is slightly darker.

Mommy, she said, my skin is lighter than yours, because I am just a beginner Arab.

Later, she added: You are a middle Arab and Teta is an advanced Arab.

I laughed, and we have joked about it since then. But I can't stop thinking about it. I am haunted by this sentence: I am a beginner Arab.

Teaching my daughter to roll out Arabic bread.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

An Evening Blessing for Your Kitchen

My kitchen has a rhythm to it.  Some days are baking days, some are cooking days.  Some are rest days.  Every evening, I look ahead to the next day and begin the preparations - the soaking, or feeding my sourdough starter, or refreshing my kombucha, tending my broth, or preparing my yogurt.

Those of us who cook real food, find ourselves working in the kitchen. We believe in food, and that the preparations of real food is good work, valuable work for us and for those we feed.  We are willing to put in the hours, and soon this becomes natural and normal.  But it is work. 

Sometimes I get to end of a day, even a lovely day in which we have had lots of giggles, played hard, cooked hard, read books and had bubble baths and everyone is tucked into bed and I have finally finished cleaning up and preparing for the next day, I look at the kitchen and think:  tomorrow I have to do this all over again.  Or I count all of the tasts that I didn't accomplish, ignoring the ones that I did. 

To work is human.  To dread work, or to overwork is more human. 

But to work, to create out of the gifts that you have, and then to stop, and recognize the work that you have done and to call it good -- that is divine

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Hunger: A Benediction

As a mother of two little ones, I have a lot to say about hunger.

About how hunger can be a crisis, if we are delayed somewhere and the little one is suddenly hungry and I don't have something to give him.

About how hunger is a gift, because it allows my children to sit down at mealtimes and diligently eat the food that I worked so hard to prepare for them.

About how hunger can seem to be a curse, because no matter how many meals I prepare, serve, and clean up afterwards, there is still another meal coming, and another, and other. 

Why can't we survive on one meal a day?  Or one meal a week?  Why this constant emptying and filling?  It is exhausting.  It is annoying.  And it is unrelenting. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Salt of the Earth

You are the salt of the earth.
But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?
It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

                                                                                            -Matthew 5:13

I take carrots, shred them, sprinkle them with salt, and mash them into a jar. 
I take lemons, cut them, sprinkle them with salt, and mash them into a jar.
I take cabbage, shred it, sprinkle with salt, and mash it into a jar.

And then I wait.  It takes a few days.  I check it, looking for signs of fermentation.  After a few days, I see the magic, the bubbles forming at the bottom of the jar, between the leaves of cabbage.  I see them slowly floating up to the surface.  And when I open the lid and finally taste, I can see and taste the transformation.  What was cabbage, firm and peppery is now sauercraut, soft and sour.  What was once lemon rind, hard and bitter is now a delicacy, soft and citrusy.  What once was carrot, crunchy and bland is now a relish. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Where we begin

It was about a year ago, when I saw my picture with my new family and saw that I was more than just tired.  I saw it in the eyes of the woman smiling back at me, in the dark circles below and the faded skin.  I felt it in the way I moved about, that there was something missing inside, that no matter how much I rested or tried to care for myself, something was missing.

This past year was a journey into wholeness, into health, and not in the lose-ten-pounds-so-that-you'll-look-awesome-this-summer kind of way.  Through it all, as I read and learned and experimented in the kitchen, I found peace.  Peace with my own body, as my strength started to return.  Peace with my world, as I could say something about the food industry in the way I spent my food budget.  Peace with my roots, as I found myself eating the same foods that my mother and my grandmother fed me.

Peace, as I bowed my head to thank God for my food.  And when I asked Him to bless it and to allow it to nourish our bodies, I was finally asking for this sincerely. 

I believe in nourishment.  I believe that nourishment is about feeding the soul as much as it is about feeding the body.

I believe that the foods that nourish our bodies are the foods that have have grown generation upon generation of peoples into strong healthy nations, not the food that our grocery stores are trying to sell us. 

I believe that there is something mysterious about the way food sustains and feeds us.  As much information as you can find about food (and there is a lot!), I think that we still eat by faith, much like the Israelites did in the desert, when they ate the bread of heaven and called it "manna," or "what is it?" 

I know so very little.  I have so much to learn.  I hope that you will join me, teach me, nourish me as I walk down this path.  I could use the company.