These two weeks have been particularly precious to me, as they have helped me come to terms with what I do best. Thanks to my friend Anna, what I do now has a title. I am a ‘Social Learner’. I love learning with people and from people!
This is partly why my work on the Arabic language and culture is so dear to me. The whole process is like a treasure hunt, a search for knowledge and the people who have it, and, most importantly, who are generous and wise enough to want to share it for the greater good. It’s the kind of social learning that gives tribute to those who meticulously and lovingly nurture aspects of their culture, to preserve it and creatively evolve it. You, and your efforts, and your talent are so appreciated!
One of these special people is my lifelong friend, and honorary older sister, Basema. Along with her husband, she took care of me and treated me with such love while I was doing my Bachelors in California. They always made me feel like a part of the family in big and small ways.
Amongst Basema’s many talents is her ability to cook fabulous Arabic food; and she knows it! I love women who understand the power of a home cooked meal and its ability to nourish and heal. They take such care and pride in bestowing dignity upon, and full promise to an act that can otherwise be so mundane. One personal prayer of mine is to be a Basema in the lives of young people.
I was beaming with joy and gratitude when Basema made makloubeh in honor of the video segment that I am creating on this classic dish as cultural educational content. The day we got together, she made two makloubehs. The occasion was made even more special because she taught it to her daughter, Reema, who got married a year ago. One recipe was with eggplant and lamb, and the other with cauliflower and chicken. Each dish had eager, hungry fans at the table.
It was a fun, warm, lively table with her husband, her 3 kids (we missed you Nader), my nieces and I. While we were preparing and having dessert, the following question and answers were recorded on our dependable i-phones. “What does makloubeh mean to you?”
I want to honor these women in recognition of the love and beauty that they consistently and tirelessly share. I am lucky enough to have another one of these special women, my late aunt’s housekeeper, Estela, in my daily life. Estela took care of my aunt before she passed away, and is documenting my aunt’s recipes. I am always happy and tickled by Estela, as I ask her to cook and document my aunt’s food. She explains them well and I hear my aunt’s voice in hers. This aunt is like my grandmother to me. Estela proudly sends me every finished recipe with a picture of the delicious dish served on a pretty plate fit to be part of an Arab feast.
It seems like God’s Merciful Hand is with me as the filming kept being postponed, and now my sister, a great cook in her own right (and knows it too, haha!), will finally be in Dubai and can overlook the process and make it smooth and rich in my absence. She’s ‘got my back’ and I am lucky.
Food is a heartwarming and versatile topic, liked by both boys and girls alike, it connects one and all to their culture in a joyous, warm way. The ‘Makloubeh Cook Off’ concept is such a fun format to highlight its emotional and cultural significance to so many, along with its history and some fun facts about the “upside down” makloubeh, and how to make it.
The idea was liked so much by other Palestinian friends (Manya and Jihan) and honorary Palestinian friends (Young), that three beautiful women, of three families, decided to do a ‘Makloubeh Cook Off’ feast, and we gathered to eat and celebrate.
I loved asking every mother “Do your kids love makloubeh in the U.S.?” and hearing a confident proud happy “yes” or “tab3an” of course. I was also inspired and tickled by a fantastic Pinterest board full of Makloubehs (find the link in the information section). I never knew there were so many possible presentations of Makloubeh. Now that is a visual treat!
I so want, and wish, and pray for the richness and beauty of our culture in all its aspects to have the resounding “yes of course”. I am already planning the Saudi kabseh and Egyptian kushari meal in my head, so stay tuned 😉
P.S. I am publishing this post and adding this post script a year after the original version was first created. This is how long it took for me to pull together the video of the makloubeh recipe in Khalto Yusra’s way. It has been a steep learning curve as this was my first experience, but now I know how to prepare a storyboard for a video shoot. If you’re also wondering, it is necessary to document the narrative shot by shot, including visual and text. Once this is prepared, you can let the creative power of the filmmaker and editor take over. It’s kind of like its own sort of recipe!
The rough draft of the video was filmed by two friends who are film students and they did an amazing job. Once they had completed the filming, it needed editing, but for a number of reasons, this process just wasn’t happening until a dear young lady, close to my heart introduced me to a friend of hers who was able to introduce me to the young man who made the video happen.
I am writing this post-script so I can share what I have learned. I realized its important with projects like these to work with people who have a shared passion for the topic. The young man who ended up helping me loves his Filipino and Chinese roots and talks specifically about their cuisine with ease and interest. It was such a pleasure to do the work with him and he has my deepest thanks. Thanks, Paolo! He was so patient in working with me to cover for shots that weren’t filmed, to begin with haha and changing speed and text.
This first video comes as a true labor of love, I would be delighted if you do try the recipe that you let me know if it was easy to follow. We tried our very best to demystify the steps to creating an authentic Palestinian makloubeh. One of the lessons learned is to start off a new process on a simpler note as I could have chosen an easier recipe for my first video, haha, but everything happens for a reason and I have added it to my list of things to remember for the next time that I do something for the first time.
Please, also remember my Khalto Yusra in your prayers as you make and enjoy Makloubeh done her way. I am delighted that this post was destined to be posted on Eid.. as truly it is Eid in my heart to be able to finally share this special recipe that symbolizes one of the many ways that my amazing Khalto showed her deep love and generosity towards loved ones and their loved ones.
HOW to cook Makloubeh
DISCOVER more Makloubehs
To my Khalto Yusra for her inspiration and original recipe, to Estela for remembering it and recreating it for the video,
to Basema, Jihan, Manya and Young for contributing their own delicious makloubehs to the project
and lastly to Paolo for finishing the video production so the project could see the light of day!