It's been over 20 years since I have made a trip to Lebanon to visit family. Yikes! I didn't realize how long it had been until I calculated the years. Kind of like me thinking 30 years ago was in the 70s, but actually it was the 90s...how did this happen??? Anyway, my last trip to Lebanon I was 17 years old. Young, excited, rebellious! My grandfather, may he rest in peace, I'm sure had a blast with the shenanigans I pulled. Even though I was young(er), the sense of livelihood and excitement was there for everyone. Huge gatherings with friends and family that occurred regularly, always centered around food.
In Middle Eastern countries, we celebrate everything with food! Mezze, is the equivalent to a MASSIVE charcuterie board here in the United States. When you walk into a home, food is immediately offered and you are expected to eat. Mezze is a spread of many different appetizers and usually enjoyed with a drink such as arak. Some common dishes include hummus, labneh, fresh pita bread, olives, baba ganoush, chicken, grape leaves, cheeses, veggies and more. A table is spread with endless food options but yet, no one eats a large meal. It's just small bites you can enjoy leisurely. That's the thing, everything is slower and not rushed in Lebanon. People take the time to enjoy each other's company, enjoy the food, dance, talk and spend hours enjoying the afternoon or evening.
I read this article a while back in the NY Times, it was titled, How to Throw a Relaxed Parisian Dinner Party. As I read it, I thought to myself, this was what life was like in Lebanon. Dining with friends and family and enjoying every moment. Being in the moment. Talking, eating, enjoying life and the company of friends and family. The best conversations and friends come around a table to enjoy food.
Now in my 30s, full family, lots of friends, one of my favorite things to do is entertain. I love to feed people, just like my parents do, just like their parents did and all my aunts and uncles still do. It's not me, it's cultural. It's a way of a life, a way we grew up learning to share what we have, especially food. For me, being Lebanese is not just where my parents came from, it's a link to my culture, my history, my family.
As I continue to grow and learn about food, culture and the art of entertaining, I continue to circle back to my amazing heritage. This month, a group of amazing bloggers are celebrating the art of Arab food by using the hashtag #AprilisforArabFood . Follow along to see all the amazing creations from various Arab countries all over the world. The most amazing part is each post not only shares food, but stories and memories.
Today I'm sharing my recipe for baba ganoush and pita bread that you can add to your OWN mezze platter. Baba Ganoush, is an eggplant dip with many variations similar to hummus. I personally like my baba ganoush very smooth and creamy versus the traditional thick style. Running the eggplant through a food processor helps to get it silky and smooth. This easy recipe will have you making it weekly along with amazing fresh from the oven pita bread! You can click to find other Lebanese Recipes on the blog to add to your mezze platter. Find the recipes for baba ganoush and fresh pita bread below.