Holidays with my family require a few signature dishes. Every family has their own traditions and at my house our traditional holiday dishes revolve around meat and protein. Of course there is the common turkey at Thanksgiving, and spiral ham, or beef roast at other occasions, but we also have other requirements. Often, before Christmas or especially Easter (the big Christian holidays), many people give something up as a sacrifice. My family and I typically give up meat and/or animal products, so when it comes time to break our fast and celebrate, we chow down on all of the foods we missed out on.
Even if we don’t always give something up by fasting, certain foods have now found a place at our table for more than just their delicious taste. These foods have come to represent sitting around the table together and being thankful for who and what we have (sentiments we don’t only reserve for Thanksgiving). The flavors represent years of tradition, togetherness, and loving preparation that goes into the meals. While all of these foods may be eaten throughout the year, my family typically saves them for occasions so that they remain special.
Over the next few weeks, I will reveal the secrets to some of my mother’s best recipes. Despite the many many times I’ve begged her over the years to write down her recipes, she never did. When I asked her why she wouldn’t, we had the following conversation:
Me: It’s not hard! Can’t you just write down what you do, when you do it, and how much you added?
Mom: But there is no recipe! You just make it!
Me: An apple has no recipe! If it has ingredients and a process, then it has a recipe!
Finally, with pen and paper in hand, I watched (and helped) my mother work while I wrote down everything I could to capture her recipes. When she opened a package of meat, I asked her how much it weighed by reading the label. When she would pour salt out into her hand, I would grab her hand and dump the salt into a teaspoon measurement to figure out how much she used. When she added pureed onion, I placed a 1/3 cup measuring scoop in her hand and told her to use it. She looked at me like I was crazy, but also like it had never occurred to her that it was possible to measure her ingredients.
I have no problem at all with people eye-balling their ingredients because that’s just normal cooking, but you need to measure things out at least once so that you can pass on those recipes to people you care about. After this ordeal, with far fewer verbal snaps at one another than I would have imagined, I told my mother that she could go back to business as usual. I got what I needed.
Over the next few weeks, I will share the following recipes:
- Baid Mez3lil (yes that is a 3 in the middle of the word to represent a sound we don’t have in English!) or Baid Mezaghlil (Fried Hard Boiled Eggs);
- Grilled Lamb with a Middle Eastern Marinade;
- Grilled Kofta (Ground beef with spices);
- Fried Chicken Tenderloins (you won’t find this recipe anywhere else because my mother made it up!); and
- Cucumber Yogurt Sauce (similar to Tzatziki)