Eating goes beyond satiating hunger. It is savoring taste, colors, and aromas. Eating is a pleasure which speaks to the soul.
South Lebanon has a unique cuisine characterized by fresh vegetables and grains and is perfumed with pungent wild herbs like oregano and thyme. The mountains, hills, and fields of Lebanon are covered with wild thyme and oregano. Their scents permeate the clear unpolluted air.
Whenever I run my hands through the thyme and oregano growing in my own back yard, my smeller memory takes me back to summer days spent with friends in their home villages of South Lebanon. One stand out memory is of herding goats in the wilderness surrounding the village of Aychieh in the Jezzine District.
In the morning, we would pack our pockets with hard goat cheese and bread for our lunches. For water, we drank out of the cool mountain springs. Out on the hillsides, I learned to recognize wild herbs, especially oregano, thyme, and field onions. That was our “salad” accompanying our lunch of cheese and bread. My mouth still waters thinking about it!
We would then refill our empty pockets with more herbs to take home to add to our salad which was for sure to be served at supper. One extra special supper I remember was eggplant stuffed with a vegetarian filling of burghul (cracked wheat), garbanzo beans, tomatoes, and spices, including allspice and cinnamon. Our previously gathered herbs were the main leafy green part of a salad with tomatoes, sliced onions, and optional cucumbers. To this day, that meal of stuffed eggplant and wild herb salad is my favorite meal!
What is your favorite meal memory?
Five tomatoes cut in wedges or whole if bite-size
3-4 sliced cucumbers (optional)
1 cup chopped fresh oregano and thyme
1 tsp sumac
1 thinly sliced onion
Toss with Dressing
2 cloves garlic smashed with 2 tsp salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar or lemon juice
pepper to taste