Hajji Aysha Ibrahim Abu Sa’id (al-Kabri)

Q: Hajji, what is your name?

A: Aysha.

Q: Aysha what?

A: My husband’s name or my family’s name?

Q: Whatever you want.

A: Aysha Ibrahim Abu Sa’id. And my husband is Ibrahim Yaqoub.

Q: Where are you from?

A: We are from al-Kabri.

Q: Your parents are from al-Kabri?

A: My parents are from Sha’b and I married from al-Kabri.

Q: Do you want to tell me about Sha’b?

A: I don’t know about Sha’b.  I was born in al-Kabri but my parents are from Sha’b, and my husband is from al-Kabri.

Q: So you were born in al-Kabri and lived in al-Kabri.  Okay, so I want to ask you about the dishes that were popular in al-Kabri.

A: I’ll tell you. The food wasn’t like here.  We would cook mjaddara, smideh wa banadoura, makhbousa, kibbeh tahila bi adas – it was home cooking. In Palestine we didn’t buy already prepared food; there were no vegetables like here.  In the vegetable seasons we would cook beans, cabbage, cauliflower.

Q: You mean you cooked what you grew?

A: Yes, whatever we grew, we would cook.

Q: Did all the families of Palestine cook the same dishes? Or was each area different?

A:  The food of the villages was like that, but you know Haifa and ‘Akka were different.  My uncle’s household had gardens, and they grew tomatoes, cauliflower, cabbage, onions – all this they would grow, and eat from it, and transport it to ‘Akka and to Haifa. We ate from it, and when the season was over we ate from what was stored in our homes.

Q: What was the difference [in food] between the people of the city, like Haifa and Yafa, and the people of the villages like al-Kabri and the other inland areas?

A: I don’t know. They would eat from the vegetables that grew in the gardens and got transported to Haifa and ‘Akka in the season. But when there weren’t any vegetables God knows what they ate.  We didn’t live with them. We were by ourselves and they were by themselves.

Q: So you didn’t know them, and there was no communication between you?

A: No, we didn’t go to them.

Q: What did you cook for weddings?

A: We would make rice, manasef; they’d bring sweets to offer. Kibbeh, manasaf, rice with meat on it, that was it.

Q: During the feast what would you make?

A: God help us, there was poverty, blackness, and misfortune in Palestine.

Q: You didn’t make cakes?

A: Yes, we made cakes — and here also. We would make cakes and share them.  On Thursday of the Dead [1] we would boil eggs, and put them in baskets, and sit on the roads, and give them out.  Not us, our brothers would sit and give out the eggs for the souls of the dead.  For the feast we would make cakes, and go to the graves. 

Q: And when a boy is circumcised?  When a boy is born and he is circumcised?

A: How would I know?

Q: You weren’t married?

A:  No I wasn’t married.  I left Palestine when I was 14 years old.  I got married here.  I got married in Tyre, in Shabriha.[2]

Q: When someone got sick, what did you do? There were no doctors before?

A: When we got sick, no, there were no doctors. The doctors were in Haifa and ‘Akka.  There was a doctor named Ibn Khazen — whoever got sick would go to him.

Q: What would you do for the sick person?

A: When someone reached that state we would boil yensoun and zoufa in water. And if his feet hurt we would get castor oil and rub them. God help us, there was poverty and misfortune in Palestine.

Q: And during Ramadan, would you make the same food?

A: The same food, the same things.

Q: There were no dishes that you made only in Ramadan?

A: In Ramadan we would be woken by the drummer who said, “O sleeping one, God is one!” We would get up and cook rice, and buy milk and make leban.  We would buy milk from those who had goats and cows — we’d buy milk and make leban.  We would make smideh wa banadoura.  This would be for suhoor.  We’d cook rice for suhoor.  We would make smideh and noodles, and next to it leban.  This was our food during Ramadan.  We would make maftool from dough a month before Ramadan, by hand. In those days we rolled the noodles by hand and let them bake in the sun. We didn’t have the things that we use today.

Q: During weddings and occasions like that who would help you with the food?  Did you hire people to bring cooked food?  Or did people help each other?

A: The families of the bride and groom would cook, and put the food out.  Whoever loved to eat would go, and whoever didn’t want to eat wouldn’t go.

Q: So no one came to help you for money?

A: No, people would help each other.

Q: Tell me about any a dish that you cooked?  What did you put in it?

A: We would cook with oil like I told you for mjaddara.

Q: How did you make mjaddara?

A: They boiled lentils and added burghul, and when the burghul and lentils were cooked we would fry onions — not like the cooking oil that we know here!! — we only used olive oil. Whoever did not own olive (trees) — God is the owner! — would bring four or five tankat [3] to the press and pickle olives in olive oil. This cooking oil we didn’t know. We wish we had died rather than leave Palestine.

Q: Were the foods different in winter from in summer?

A: No, they were the same.  In winter there were vegetables that came from outside.  Whoever could afford to would buy and eat, and whoever could not would eat from his house [ie. whatever he had stored].

Q: What do you know about your speech or accent in Palestine?  Did it change when you came here?

A: No, it didn’t change.

Q: Are there people who speak like the Lebanese?

A: Yes, there are people who are living with the Lebanese, like my children in the Beka’a. They speak like Lebanese, you don’t know that they are Palestinian. Those who live here in the camp with the people of the camp, they speak the same [as they always did].

Q: Was there a difference of accent between one region and another in Palestine?  For example, did the people of al-Kabri speak differently from the people of Kwaykat?

A: Yes, every region had its own way of speaking.

Q: Okay, what is a word that you say and that in another region they say it differently?

A: The people of Kwaykat say something and we say something else. Al-Kabri used to be near the city, and it had four rivers. ‘Akka and Haifa and al-Kabri and al-Nahar and al-Faraj and al-Sheikh Danoun and al-Sheikh Daoud — all of them drank from Al-Kabri’s water. And the gardens surrounded the houses in the middle. 

Q: Okay so what was the difference in their accents?

A: We didn’t mix much with the people of Kwaykat, or Al-Ghabsiyya, or anyone.  I don’t know.

Q: You mean you never left al-Kabri?

A: No, we didn’t come and go.  The merchants used to come to us and buy oranges and lemons. 

Q: Are there words that changed after you came to Lebanon?

A: No everything is the same. Al-ma’aliqa ma’laqa, al-shawki shawki [fork].

Q: Okay, in Palestine they used to call a spoon zalafeh?

A: And here we call it ma’laqa and not zalafeh.

Q: You mean in Palestine you didn’t call it ma’laqa?

A: Yes.

Q: When you wanted to praise someone, what would you say of him?

A: Whoever was good and honest and had good morals, we would say good things about them.  Whoever didn’t have good morals – excuse me — and does not say good things and his words are bad, and he gossips about people — would you say good things about a bad person?  We would say so-and-so is good; his manners are good, he’s ‘adami (kind), he doesn’t interfere in other people’s business.  You would make a friend of the one who is good and you wouldn’t go near the one who isn’t good.  If it was someone who wasn’t good, or his reputation wasn’t good, or his family’s reputation wasn’t good, would you enter his home? Would you make friends with him? But someone who has a good reputation and is well-mannered, you enter his home and you sit with him.  This is what I have to say. What else do you want?

Q: That’s all, thank you.

A: It’s true that the food we eat here is not what we ate there [in Palestine].  A person would wait until Friday to get an ounce of meat.  Meat cost 15 Palestinian quroosh.[4] Meat was expensive in Palestine. Whoever could afford it would buy, and whoever couldn’t wouldn’t, he’d only smell it and feel regret.  Whatever we wanted to do we did, thank God, and whomever God gave ease would buy food, and eat, and wouldn’t be stingy on himself.  And he whose life is difficult also buys and eats, but not like someone who has money.  And here in the camp it’s the same thing. Who has money buys, and the one who doesn’t have money doesn’t buy. You can buy a kilo of meat, I can buy a wqeyeh at most.  And we wouldn’t cook for two days.  We weren’t able to go and buy vegetables every day, and throw things away. We heated up the leftovers, and ate it.

————————-


[1] Khamis al-Amwat is a pre-islamic custom. On any Monday or Thursday, families may visit the cemetery and take food.

[2] Shabriha is one of several unofficial camps that Palestinian expulsees established in South Lebanon, and where they still live today.

[3]  A tankeh [plural tankat]: a metal container holding 15-20 liters.

[4] A quroosh was a 100th of a Palestinian pound.

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