Yesterday, I cooked for MC and Kishan, and the week before that I cooked for Kytzia. Besides Thanksgiving, my favorite and annual tradition, it’s been 2+ years since I’ve cooked for others. My love of entertaining/ hosting/ cooking began to fade during grad school. Though there were a few occasions I got back in the kitchen while living in Milan, I virtually stopped cooking altogether. The tedium of going grocery shopping, washing produce, cleaning meat and chopping was just too much for me. But now, I can’t imagine a day going by without having something made by my hands. And I owe a huge thanks to Beirut for this new-found inspiration.
There’s absolute pride and pleasure in the Lebanese kitchen, unlike anything I’ve seen in other cultures. In Italy, the focus is more on the enjoyment of the food at the dining table—not so much the kitchen. In Korea, the focus is more on how the meal is served and eaten. In Mexico, the food experience is in enjoying the company of others who are in the kitchen whilst making the food. In America, it’s about how many likes one can garner from posting an image of a meal at a restaurant made by someone else. In Lebanon, though, you get a taste of tradition, a mother’s love for her family, generosity from the hands that prepared the meal, community and pride in a perfected meal. Put all these things together, and voila- magic
One of my intentions while in Beirut was to get back into the kitchen and start cooking again. There’s no other place more suited to doing so than Beirut. Easy access to produce, new spices/ ingredients to experiment with, inspiration abound with different flavor palettes and wonderful cooks left and right— especially my two "teachers" Ramia and Ziad, who both let me watch them cook while I simply sat and watched (and obviously tasted). And now that I am back in New York, Dala is adding to my repertoire of dishes and flavors. All three have reminded me why I loved being in the kitchen in the first place—to savor life.