Ramadan Home Recipes: A Dying Tradition?

Al-Akhbar is currently going through a transitional phase whereby the English website is available for Archival purposes only. All new content will be published in Arabic on the main website (www.al-akhbar.com).

Al-Akhbar Management

Culinary traditions tied to religious holidays in Lebanon have changed dramatically in years past. Long gone are the days of homemade deserts during the Muslim holiday of Eid-al-Fitr marking the end of Ramadan. (Marwan Bu Haidar)

By: Amal al-Khalil

Published Sunday, August 28, 2011

Culinary traditions tied to religious holidays in Lebanon have changed dramatically in years past. Long gone are the days of homemade deserts during the Muslim holiday of Eid-al-Fitr marking the end of Ramadan.The older generation from the southern Lebanese town of al-Dawudiyyah reminisces on a culinary heritage tied to their youth.

The town of al-Dawudiyyeh in South Lebanon was once a pastoral area surrounded by orchards and barns. Some features of this landscape remain unchanged, such as its old stone houses with large, spacious rooms, courtyards, and divans. Even the village pine trees bear the mark of age. Yet other hallmarks of al-Dawudiyyah’s vibrant history have begun to fade. Many culinary traditions are no longer practiced as they once were during Eid al-Fitr, also referred to as Eid, the three-day Muslim holiday marking the end of Ramadan.

Eighty-seven year-old resident Mohammad Diab reminisces of his youth when his siblings, his friends, and he would wait for their holiday gifts. Gift receiving rituals varied with age. When Mohammad was little, he would use any money given to him to purchase al-Mu’alal sweets — fruits covered with colored syrup al-Droubess — other sweet and sour candies, pistachio candies, sesame candies, and malban, a flavored fruit molasses often stuffed with pistachios. When he was a little older, Mohammad started saving his Eid gifts for the last day. He would walk with his friends to the main road, where they would wait a long time for a bus or a train to take them to the southern Lebanese city of Saida. The city was festive during the holiday and preparations for the occasion in the city began three days in advance. Men took their sons to the barber and women bought new clothes and shoes for their children.

The first meal following a month-long fast deserved special attention. Back then, women prepared days in advance, planning rich and savory holiday foods. The more savory and filling were mudammas and hummus, fava beans and chickpeas with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and chopped vegetables.

The first meal following a month-long fast deserved special attention. Back then, women prepared days in advance, planning rich and savory holiday foods. (Marwan Bu Haidar)

There were many customs tied to food preparation. For example, few households in al-Dawudiyyah still follow the tradition of slaughtering an animal for Eid. In times past, those who owned livestock would slaughter a goat or sheep, while those who didn’t would kill a rooster or chicken. These animals were then prepared in main dishes such as moghrabieh, Lebanese couscous, stews of beans, potato, and Jew’s mallow, as well as fried kibbeh, a mash of bulgar and chopped meat, with yogurt and rice dishes. Many people also drank balila, made of bulgar soaked in milk and melted and diluted in yogurt and salt.

The 'corn tray' was also an important Eid snack and was either prepared at home or bought as 'mixed kadami,' an often salted batch of white or yellow chickpeas roasted in a big round copper pot. But the star of the Eid banquet was an assortment of pounded meat placed a slab and then baked. Diab said that the women would spend hours pounding raw meat in stone mortars or on slabs until it became a smooth paste. As for the men, they prepared the saj, a convex disc-shaped griddle, to grill the meats once they were prepared.

Hosts for the day’s festivities would prepare desserts for their guests between breakfast and lunch on every day of the Eid. Mohammad’s mother used to spread a table full of homemade sweets. There was 'Eid pastry,' known as Ka’k al-Eid, made with high quality flour, homemade ghee, sugar, anise, black seeds, sesame seeds, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, tumeric, and mahlab, a spice made from the pit of sour cherry. Mohammad’s mother would mix these ingredients to form the pastry dough. She would then cut the dough into small balls and squeeze them into a carved wooden mold before baking them in a traditional wood-fired oven. Once baked, his mother drizzled milk on the pastries and served them to guests.

Several other deserts featured during Eid. Marzipan sweets were often prepared and placed beside delicacies such as mujammara, made from boiled rice, milk, and sugar baked in an over, or mahalabia, a boiled combination of milk, starch, and orange blossom water. A number of fried pastries were also served. The pastry zalabia is shaped into thick strands, fried, and covered with syrup and grape or carob molasses. A sweet similar to zalabia is maakaroun zallit, or umm khalil as some call it. This treat is made of flour, ground cinnamon, baking soda, oil, carob molasses, and warm water. This combination is fried golden and then served. Another desert, awwamat with yogurt (fried doughnut balls), is a mix of baking soda, yogurt, and flour scooped into small balls and fried, drained, and dipped in syrup.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Comments

Shukran.

Maqal jameel.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd><img><h1><h2><h3><h4><h5><h6><blockquote><span><aside>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

^ Back to Top