Lebanon Postcard

Book rural taste of Lebanon, Lebanese terroir cooking, cuisine libanaise terroir  
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Book dimension 21x25 cm - 232 pages - Printed in June 2013
Author: Chérine YAZBECK - Photographer: Randa MIRZA - Illustrations: Hoda ADRA
Design: Chantal YAZBECK COROLLER - Food stylist: Chérine YAZBECK
Literary award by the international academy of gastronomy >>Table of contents<<

The story of this book begins in July 2008 during an unexpected visit to the rugged northeastern province of Hermel. Gathered around a cauldron, a community of women cast in handfuls of grains and vegetables, infusing the air with tempting odors while unearthing unique recipes, savors, and aromas.

This was the scene that inspired me to write this cookbook. A collection of authentic recipes gathered in rural areas; a guide that explores the genuine Lebanese taste in all its complexity and diversity; a comprehensive anthology with daring and unexpected visuals that reveal a hidden Lebanon; a reference manual that provides myriad different procedures for the same dish - a gastronomic road-trip.

I wanted to unveil hidden secrets from our forefathers, from eco-conscious farmers to village women, recipes passed down from mothers to daughters since time immemorial. Along the way, I met beautiful and inspiring people who helped me to capture our culinary traditions. Their recipes draw together cultures, lifestyles, family secrets, and fragments of life. During the course of the journey, I wove together snippets of stories from the compelling lives of individuals I encountered, creating a varied and complex textual fabric. Through these roads, we compiled these recipes in small cities and villages going all the way down to the coastline.

I considered it necessary to pass on their rural cooking techniques. We cooked in courtyards, in kitchens, around the tannour and the saj. I wanted to record our food heritage: plants, herbs, spices, bread, dairy products and growing methods - in many ways, shaping the history of my country. Limited resources have always stimulated creativity, encouraging us to cook what grows locally, a concept that resonates with many of us nowadays. Modern consumption habits are poisoning us and damaging our earth. It is time to go back to our roots by embracing earthy foods, allowing quality dishes to simmer - in perfect harmony with nature. Most of the recipes in this book are simple. It is simply a matter of feeling and using the right techniques. Vegetable, cereal, bread, wine or cheese, I wanted to document and share the wealth of the Lebanese terroir.

In the process, I immersed myself in research on plants. This should prove useful to readers who seek to add them to dishes according to their nutritional and medicinal values.

My research on the history of Lebanese gastronomy was complicated by a shortage of literature. Therefore, I decided to focus on our forefathers, heading directly to the mountains where the road opens beneath our feet: to the earth, the terroir, the hands of the man who achieves that delicate balance; the tanned and toughened skin which speaks of hard labor, fields, nature, plants and vegetables.

Also unique was the keen eye of Randa Mirza, the photographer who accompanied me on this culinary journey. She captured the poetry of the rural landscapes that opened her to these cooking encounters. Her images lyrically capture the stages of this adventure so rich in feelings.

Hoda Adra illustrated this work with subtlety and sharpness, conveying fragments of the lives of real people as well as abundant details of rural life.

Following the thread of this book, you will share moments that retrace the habits and customs of our ancestors. You will uncover well-kept secrets of our food, edible plants, bread-making techniques, and conversational styles from different regions and times. We could speak of a rural community living according to a certain ancestral inheritance, but I’d rather give voice to a family of spirit, a shared terroir, an homage to those who will never sacrifice the quality of food for the glitter of profit. Whether they dwell in the bustling hub of a city or the most remote corner of a mountain, each of these beautiful people shares a love for taste.

I like to call it: A Shared Emotional Terroir.

Terroir : comes from the word terre, (land). Some agricultural sites share similar soil, weather conditions, and farming techniques, all of which contribute to the unique qualities of a specific region’s crops.

Chérine Yazbeck - Beirut - April 2009

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