Ramadan in a Sofra

At sunset every day, during the holy month of Ramadan, the Sofra is the magnet that pulls family members together. Mom and the older girls emerge from the kitchen;  Dad comes home from mindlessly roaming the street – avoiding his stressed out wife; the zombie-like teenagers are freed from the trance of their mobile phones and…

Food Truck Nation

For most people, the name “food truck” will conjure images of gourmet burgers and fusion tacos. Across the United States and Europe these mobile eateries offer haute cuisine for the masses. This hot trend has started to catch on in the Middle East, especially in Dubai. In older cosmopolitan cities like Cairo and Istanbul, food…

Hand, Spoon, Fork : The Evolution of Libyan Food Culture

Through my endless readings and observations in Libyan Food Culture since first starting the We Are Food project in 2009, I find myself grouping Libyan recipes into three major categories, Hand – Spoon – Fork, or food which would require one of these three as the main eating utensil. From the very humble diet of the indigenous…

Aseeda Barley Porridge

Barley forms the staple grain, along with durum wheat (hard wheat which is made into semolina) in the western region of Libya for both the Bedouin Arabs and the Amazigh Berbers. Barley is usually lightly toasted before being milled into flour used to make an array of pastes, dough and bread. Barley porridge, called bazeen…

Naturally Sweet Date Syrup

Islamic celebrations follow a lunar calendar meaning that they fall on different dates every year. As such most food traditions tend to be based on year round staples rather than seasonal produce. Miloud, or Mawlid Al Nabi, the prophet Mohammed’s birthday, is welcomed every year with a hearty barley based porridge (aseeda) topped with date…

Quality not Quantity: Obesity in Libya (part 2)

The Libyan diet can be described as being both Mediterranean and North African, although these are very broad terms and regional variations are seen from country to country, and within different regions of a single country. Climatic differences and administrative boundaries have historically segregated Libya into three distinct regions with major culinary differences, simply known…

Bigger not Better: Obesity in Libya (part 1)

I remember a time back in the 80’s when the Mediterranean diet was hailed for being super healthy and Americans were encouraged to adopt some elements of it.  Soon after, a craze for olive oil began but what some people failed to recognize was that even if olive oil is good fat it’s still fat…

The Diversity of North African Cuisine

The North African kitchen is always associated with couscous as a staple, and rightly so. But the flavors and influences create regional differences that give each of the Maghreb countries it’s distinct characteristics. The Moroccans are the master’s of spice blending, using the most exquisite ingredients such as saffron, preserves, dried fruits and nuts to…