In our house everything has a notebook, beginning with the shopkeeper’s monthly notebook, the provisioning notebook, the family notebook, the salary notebook, the dictation notebook, the phone book. All these notebooks have the same ending – the nearest falafel shop in the neighbourhood.
This is why I decided to throw this notebook from my head onto this blog, thus avoiding a fate among frying oils.
The Zurian mint (mint from Deir ez-Zor)
Time: Elementary school days
Place: Ayyash village
I learnt the real meaning of Zurian mint in the village of Ayyash on the banks of the Euphrates River. My family went on a springtime trip along with our neighbors. As soon as she got out of the car, our neighbor Um Samer screamed: “Zurian mint!” I had no idea what she meant. But the scent reminded me of the time I accompanied my mother to the Attarien market (perfumers’ market).
Um Samer ran towards the short green leaves, knelt on her knees and shook them with her hands. Then she raised her right hand to my mother, who inhaled. I did the same thing, touched the Zurian mint so my fingers picked up its scent and passed it to all of my family. They inhaled the scent and closed their eyes, enjoying it as if it was their first time, and I felt happy each time.
I was a kid joyfully exploring the world of the Zurian mint.
This trip ended with a pot of tea flavored with some Zurian mint I picked up with my own hands.
The Zurian mint makes up my childhood.
The Zurian cucumber
Time: Secondary school days
Place: Our garden
Faten, our neighbour, never tired of preparing dinner with the same daily rituals, listening to the Deirian Al Moulaia song by Abd Alkader Al Hennawy. Faten tries to compete with the singer. Sometimes her voice overcomes his.
Faten’s voice disturbs my enjoyment of the song. I’m sitting at my study table in our garden. Secretly cursing Faten, I put in my headphones and get back to my books.
But Faten insists on interrupting me. Blurring my thoughts, she starts cutting cucumbers. The smell of the sliced Zurian cucumber descends from the first floor into our garden, sneaks into my stomach and tickles it.
Oh…. The same nightly scene. I close my book, put my headphones on the table, and without a host, I head to the kitchen, I take a Zurian cucumber, cut it and accompany it with white cheese on a soft piece of bread.
Zurian cucumber affects my study!
Time: High school days
Place: vegetable seller
All women gather at the vegetable sellers in Deir ez-Zor, all of them waiting for the cars coming from the countryside loaded with baby aubergine.
It is makdous, aubergine jam with walnut stuffed into the aubergine. That’s why women race to get this kind of aubergine – they can brag by stacking their transparent glass jars on kitchen shelves.
My role in this competition is limited in carrying aubergine in the big bags that mum buys. And all that happens before seven o’clock in the morning.
Baby aubergine is ruining my summer holiday.
Time: College days.
Place: Damascus University.
The identity of the Deirian cuisine is Deirian okra. It differs from any other okra in Syria – it’s different in shape and taste, and people from other provinces crave it . My friends’ mothers in Damascus ask me to bring them some from Deir ez-Zor.
A press conference about okra in the University:
Colleague 1: Why do you eat okra a lot?
Me: Because it’s delicious.
Colleague 2: I heard that you don’t fry the okra before cooking… is that right?
Colleague 3 (looking bewildered): Do you eat okra by hand?
Me (confidently): Yes.
Colleague 4: Do you have a festival for okra like the tomato festival in Spain?
Me: No, but we wish we do.
And I go back to my house in Damascus to find a frozen bag of okra sent from my mother. I heat the okra and eat it with my hands.
Deirian Okra makes me proud.
That Zurian vegetables syndrome
Images via Creative Commons: First, Chris RubberDragon, Second, Ingrid Taylar, Third, Paul Joseph, Fourth, Matt The Ogre