My non Middle-Eastern friends often ask me how to make typical Middle-Eastern dishes. While I am no expert at this, I am slowly picking up the art of Middle Eastern cooking, and I am always happy to share what I learn. This recipe come straight from my Mama. Growing up, we would often eat ‘Ads’ (pronounced ‘Atz’) during Coptic fasting season (in which we were to abstain from all animal products, and basically become vegan for a certain period of time). While I still associate ‘ads’ with fasting, I have come to make this soup often simply because it is healthy, tasty, filling and easy to make. Hope you enjoy as much as I do!
Mom’s Lentil Soup (adz):
1 cup red (which are really orange) lentils
3 cups water
1 small yellow onion (cut in quarters)
2 cloves of garlic
1 carrot cut into small pieces
A few sticks of celery cut into small pieces (optional)
Salt, pepper and cumin to taste
1/2 – 1 lemon
Combine all ingredients (except for the lemon) together in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for about 45 minutes (or until carrots are soft).
Using a blender, or food processor, purée the mixture to desired consistency (you can add water if you find the soup to be too thick). Add freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste and enjoy.
A little while ago I mentioned that I was reading the book “Teta, Mother and Me”. It is a wonderful memoir in which the author explores her life growing up in the Middle East while also looking back at the lives of past generations of women in her family. As I was reading the other day, I found one of the stories that she recounted to be particularly powerful. I couldn’t resist sharing it with you.
This week the world looked back 10 years ago to a day which many people believe proves the theory that the major source of conflict in our post-Cold War world is the “clash of civilizations.” This story is highlights how easily and tragically cultures and civilizations can and do indeed clash. As I read this story I could not help but be amazed at the ways in which we as people can be so the same and yet so different. I find it fascinating how different cultures place value on such different things. As a result of these differing views such huge yet simple misunderstandings arise.
Here is the excerpt:
In Marjeyoun, Youssef Badr [the author’s grandfather, who was a pastor] had a helper, a sort of deacon who had a large family. As time passed, this man found it increasingly difficult to live on the meagre salary paid him by the mission, and one day in desperation requested the pastor to intervene urgently with headquarters on his behalf. Seeing the fairness of the man’s request, Rev. Youssef agreed to do what he could. He wrote a letter to the mission [which was composed of Americans] headquarters in Beirut, explaining his helper’s problem. He received a positive response from the mission: on their next trip to Marjeyoun, they would visit the deacon and discuss his financial needs.
Elated, and overcome with anticipation, the deacon insisted that the visitors should lunch at his house on the forthcoming trip. Admonishing his wife to honour the visitors properly, together they made preparations for the traditional hospitality. To make their poor house fit to receive the great men from Beirut, she sold the gold bracelets and earrings that had been her dowry, and with the money bought the necessary furnishings and food. When the time came, they slaughtered the goat from whose milk they made their cheese and yoghurt, and with the meat made kibbeh and other delicacies. When the great day arrived, they slaughtered the chickens whose eggs had been a mainstay of their diet. The meal was a triumph of Arab generosity and hospitality; they had sacrificed their living to honour their guests.
The Americans, having eaten and drunk plentifully, and having given the matter some consideration, wrote from Beirut that the man seemed comfortable enough and in no need of financial improvement. ‘We should have fed them olives, onions and lentils instead of honouring them as we did,’ cried the man, beating his forehead with his fist when he heard the news. ‘We should have fed them what we ourselves eat instead of treating them as honoured guests.’
The author then adds “I have always remembered this little story as it shows the difference between two world visions, and the boundary between the imperatives of that world in which hospitality defined human relations, and the more practical, but crueller, imperatives of modern economic relationships”. So true.