Reine is from a village in Mount Lebanon called “Bolognia”. In her opinion, the best thing about Lebanon is the short distance between high mountain skiing and seashore swimming. Besides, she loves the Lebanese hospitality. She tells us more about traditional food and drinking traditions.
When we ask her how she would describe Lebanese food culture, Reine explains that Lebanon is located on the Mediterranean Sea which historically has been a focal point between Asia, Europe, and Africa. This has influenced the types of food they eat and prepare in Lebanon. “We have been exposed to many cultures which have enriched and diversified both our culture and our cuisine. In general, Lebanese cooking combines the sophisticated European cuisines with exotic aromas of middle eastern spices.”, she tells.
This is reflected in the ingredients they use in Lebanon. Olive oil, onion and garlic are used in abundance, but also fresh vegetables, meat, fish, and chicken are consumed a lot. For sweets and desserts Lebanese use rose water and orange blossom to add flavor. Also, bread is essential in Lebanon. “We use it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Lebanese bread is thin, and we use it to make sandwiches, but also to scoop the food we cook.” Reine explains.
“Lebanese cooking combines the sophisticated European cuisines with exotic aromas of middle eastern spices.”
Reine tells us that, traditionally, Libanese place a high value on breakfast. It mainly consists of creamy cheese called labneh with olive oil, other cheeses such as halloumi and akawi, zaatar, fresh mint leaves, tomatoes and cucumbers. Also, most Lebanese eat Man’oushi in the morning which is “like pizza but much simpler with Zaatar on it or cheese baked in an oven.”
Pizza for breakfast? That sounds like a perfect start of the day! We wonder what's on the menu for lunch. Reine says that the lunch consists of several dishes. “We introduce a lot more ingredients to lunch compared to breakfast. Mezze (several small dishes served together) is typically what we would eat on the weekend with friends and family coming over, or at a restaurant. On an everyday basis at home, we typically would eat a salad, one or two mezze dishes, a main dish, and some fruits after.” For dinner, Reine's favorite meal is a local dish called mloukhieh which is a combination of herbs, meat, chicken, with lemon, vinegar, rice, and grilled bread.
“On an everyday basis at home, we typically would eat a salad, one or two mezze dishes, a main dish, and some fruits.”
Lebanese not only have customs in terms of food, but they also have different traditions for drinking. Coffee is served multiple times per day in Lebanon, it is a way to socialize. “When people visit you, you always offer coffee. We make the coffee by grinding coffee beans then boiling it with water, sometimes adding cardamom. After it boils once, we usually boil it again and serve it in small cups,” Reine explains. Their national drink is Arak. Drinking Arak is one of the Lebanese traditions for celebrating. It is served with Tabbouleh, mezze and grilled meat. Arak is made with green anise which aids in digestion. “The preparation requires some patience. First, the grapes have to be crushed, and left for three weeks to ferment. After three weeks the grapes are placed in a still, called "karakeh" in Arabic, after it is mixed with anise at a second stage. Typically, the drink is served in a small cup where Arak is mixed with water and ice.” Worth giving a try!