Born and raised in the USA to Libyan parents, and spending different stages of my life in different parts of the world, I am currently based in Houston, Texas. I have spent many days contemplating how my Libyan heritage has affected the American me. As a practicing architect, I have a habit of observing the way people live and interact, and how they have progressed from their traditions. This, along with a childhood passion for food and writing, inspired me to write about food.
My first culinary experience was ten years ago, struggling to make our first lunch as newlyweds, at which point I wished I had paid more attention to my mother’s command of the kitchen. What was once a chore stemming from love gradually turned into a passion; a passion to be a good homemaker for my family and a good host for my friends. With the We Are Food project, I hope to share some of my gastronomic experiences with you.
I am also proud to be a founding member of the Académie de Cuisine du Monde Arabe (Academy of Arab Cuisine) based in Paris, France. I have also recently contributed articles on Libyan food culture to theculturetrip.com. I was previously an editor at LookOutLibya .com, the online expat’s guide to living and working in Libya. I have published several feature articles including the “In Season” series which focuses on eating fresh and local.
About We Are Food
It’s no secret that the core of Libyan society, traditions and customs is centered on food. A Libyan man’s passion stems from his heart and his stomach. A Libyan woman’s dexterity is measured by her performance in the kitchen. A good child is a child who eats well; a good mother is a mother who cooks well, and a good father is a father who provides well. The quality and quantity of food served reflect the hospitality, generosity and virtue of its host. Food is a national pastime, a near obsession. No celebration is complete without a feast worthy of the Sultans of our Ottoman heritage. We Are Food in who, what, when, where and how we eat. Food makes up both our fabric and our soul.
The We Are Food initiative started in September 2009 as a self-funded culinary research project for a book I am writing. The passing of my grandmother marked a milestone in my life, a symbol of stories that were lost with her, traditions that are dying with her dwindling generation. The lack of documentation on Libyan culture in general, and food in particular, has brought on this challenge of trying to retrieve and preserve an integral piece of Libyan society.
This project stems from a series of observations I have made over the past years as to the way the Libyan diet alters as economic changes occur. The prepackaged imported supermarket stocks and fast food chains are quickly taking over what is left of an undocumented food heritage that will soon be lost. The evolvement of the Libyan diet also reflects our ever-changing identity through our colorful history and wide range of foreign influences, be it Ancient Egyptian, Jewish, Greek, Phoenician, Roman, Islamic, Ottoman, or Italian. The We Are Food campaign aims to bring people back to their grassroots traditions through engagement in an ongoing conversation about what food means to us.
In order to achieve this task I need your help. Please comment freely about any of my posts; feel free to add, correct or suggest where necessary. Your contributions are much needed. Join the We Are Food Facebook page and interact with myself and others. It’s time to dig up your unique family recipes, get talking with the elders in your families and communities, and post pictures of food you make or eat, or food related events, such as Ramadan, Eid, Weddings, Ashura etc. For you non-Libyans, who have somehow found your way to this blog, I would love to read your observations on the similarities and differences between Libyan food culture, and the cultures of the countries you are from or have lived in.