If I want to submerge myself into a different culture without getting a plane ticket I just hit my local ethnic food festival. I feel so grateful to live in the San Francisco Bay Area where these food festivals abound–from Greek and Filipino to Polish and Portuguese. One of my favorites is the Lebanese Festival in Redwood City, California attracting 10,000 people every year. This festival is most definitely a foodie paradise, where the advice on their brochure says ” Plan your meals–avoid an angry stomach by taking a breather between meals, and remember we have take away containers to continue your feast at home.” Good advice, because with all the juicy shawarma, felafel fried on the spot, tabbouleh and kibbeh it’s easy to get carried away. Here I am annoyed cause my phone starts blowin up right before I wanted to dive head first into my feast.
A close up of my chicken kebab, tabbouleh, hummus and rice with housemade pickle–this is the comfort food I grew up on–the mac and cheese substitute of my childhood.
I even tried a new drink particular to Lebanon called Sharab al-kharroub, which means “carob drink” The mildly sweet beverage had notes of date and cocoa, which was so refreshing in the hot California sun. I loved the addition of pine nuts on top, which added a nutty flavor and fun crunchy texture. Made me think–why don’t we top beverages with goodies like this more often?
And the Lebanese fest people were right, my eyes were more hungry than my stomach, so all the excess desserts had to be packaged to take home. Here are slices of buttery rich kenafe, a mamoul bar (shortbread filled with dates) and basbousa, or yogurt, honey and semolina cake.
But even more than the food, the Lebanese volunteers that put this festival together really made this event shine. Over 100 volunteers from the Christian Maronite Church called Our Lady of Lebanon put countless hours into hand making every felafel morsel, every marinated shred of beef, and every pastry. The Lebanese have always been known as the most fun loving people of the middle east–when people of other Arab nations want to party they travel to Lebanon. When they want to watch the latest and greatest music video, game show, or films they watch Lebanese television. The Lebanese resilience is so legendary that they even have underground bomb shelters that have been converted into discotheques! But underneath it all, they are a people that have been through a lot of upheaval and pain from war throughout the decades. In this mini-documentary, it was my intent to capture the spirit and essence of the Lebanese people, I hope you enjoy watching it and I would love your comments and feedback!