This summer will be a poignant one, spent far away from Lebanon and the revered tradition that is the Sunday lunch with family and friends.
As in many Mediterranean societies, Sunday lunch in Lebanon is sacrosanct. Once a week, Lebanese families flock back to ancestral villages or head - with extended family and friends - to restaurants dotted along the coast or tucked away in Lebanon’s ancient mountains and valleys.
We are always greeted with a chilled pitcher of water or jug of steaming hot coffee, while the children are sent to pick apples, plums and apricots from nearby orchards.
Before long, we are feasting. As hours slip by, we graze on assorted mezza - like the much loved hommous, sprinkled with zaatar; sipping Arak (the Levantine version of Ouzo); smoking Arguileh (hookah); and bonding with our beloveds.
Salads and mezza, like stuffed grape leaves, labneh (strained yogurt) with cherry tomatoes and kibbeh are presented for guests to enjoy. Then, comes the main dish. This might be freekeh (cracked green wheat), which is cooked in a large pot over a fire.
Saving the best to last: dessert is served! The sort of delight you will only find at Grandma’s house. For my family, this might be biscuits with Turkish delight, pomegranate syrup with tahini, compotes, mastic ice cream, Namoura (semolina and
orange blossom syrup cake ) and
Sfouf (tumeric and semolina cake).
For us, it will be a longer wait than usual until we can relish the full glow of the Lebanese Sunday lunch once again. But there is some consolation: we can still enjoy the comforting warmth of home-made hommous, sprinkled with our zaatar.
As we do so, we smile at the knowledge that, far away, those we love are sitting around a sated table and enjoying the very same flavours. We may be miles away, but our food brings us home.