(Ok, this must be the very first time I feel like writing about local cuisine, I guess because I’m hungry or something.)
(random image of the internet of shushbarak)
Today, my grandmother made one of very favorite dishes in the world, Shushbarak, also called “Taeyet il Yahoodi” which literally translates to “the helmet of the Jew” (the little stuffed pies really do look like helmets). It is basically some sort of pasta stuffed with minced meat (exactly like ravioli) and soaked in garlicy, cilantro-filled laban (yogurt sauce). It’s quite yum.
I’m not exactly sure of the extent of how local it is, according to Wikipedia, it’s a Lebanese-Palestinian dish, but I will assume that it is Levantine/Turkish (does anyone know more on that?)
I think that studying cuisine is the one of the most amusing ways of studying a culture. For example, after quick Googling, I realized that shushbarak is not only Levantine/Turkish, it’s actually Southern Midetteranean. In Greece it’s made with halloumi cheese rather than yogurt, in France it’s made with goat cheese, in Italy it’s ravioli. Interestingly enough, according to food historians, ravioli-style dishes are a Medieval invention, where in Christian cultures they were often served with cheese during Christian Lent and other meat-abstaining days. Keeping in mind that in terms of Arab cuisine, the dish is only known in the Levant, could Shushbarak be a remnant of what was a Byzantine influence?
The other thing that popped into my head while Googling Shushbarak is how no one really understands how different the various Arab regions are, sometimes assigning the term “Arab” to only one region and ignoring the rest. For example, the Wikipedia entry under “Arab Cuisine” says the following, “Arabian cuisine today is the result of a combination of richly diverse cuisines, incorporating Lebanese cooking, Indian cooking…” I mean, last I’ve heard, Lebanese cooking, which I will refer to as Levantine, is Arab. Similarly, cuisine in our part of the world doesn’t have much or even any Indian influences.
Ok. Enough about that. I’m anxious about tomorrow. I can’t imagine travelling without reservations and I really have a feeling that it won’t work…