Hajji Fatima Mahmoud Yasin (Shafr Amr)

Q: Hajji, what is your name?

A: Fatma Mahmoud Yasin.

Q: Where are you from?

A: I’m from Shafr Amr.

Q: How old were you when you left Palestine?

A: I was born in the year ’38.

Q: What were the most popular dishes that you cooked in Shafr Amr?

A: Muhammar, kibbeh, spinach, fatayer — we cooked rice, manasef — everything.

Q: What did you grow mostly in Shafr Amr?

A: Wheat, barley, lentils, everything.  Mloukhieh, tomatoes, watermelon, sesame — all the foods.

Q: You mean you didn’t need anything from outside? What you grew you would eat?

A: Yes.

Q: What did you cook for weddings?

A: We cooked rice, manasef, stews.[1] We made fasouliya, dsouti, abu al-halaa,[2]cabbage, kibbeh. And we made yellow cake, we put ‘uqda safra [turmeric] and oil in it, and stuffed them, and made rows of them to give to the young men who begged. And when they brought the bride they would make us stuffed lamb that everyone and the bride would eat for dinner.

Q: What would you make in Ramadan?

A: If the feast came — may God make you share in it [3]— we would bring wheat and grind it, and put it through a fine sieve, and prepare it. We would bring semneh – we’d go to Haifa and get baladi semneh — and our neighbor would come on that day, she and her daughters would help you to make cakes. And we would bring a huge tray-full, and we’d bake them in the taboon or the oven. And you would share it with whoever didn’t have any. And they would go to the streets and to distribute them.  The next day your neighbor would do the same, and the next day someone else. And they would also bring mlabbas and Turkish delight, and would cook pumpkin—they’d slice it, and make jam — not jam that you dip bread into. And if you didn’t have it, your neighbor would give you.  And we would go to the swings and take with us all kinds of food. And we called it zarad, not ka’k.

Q: If a woman gave birth, what food would you make her?

A: We would make moghli. We didn’t make moghli in bowls. We brought the cinnamon sticks and pounded them, and boiled it in a saucepan, and cooked it.  We made it as something to drink.  We would bring walnuts, pine nuts, and other kinds of nut, as well as cloves, and we’d add a cupful of sugar with the nuts. And you would drink it like tea – we’d serve it in big cups. And afterwards you would serve sweets and mlabbas

Q: If someone died, what would you cook for his soul?

A: Manasef and kibbeh. On the third day we would kill sheep, and drink coffee, and everything.

Q: Was there someone to help you in such occasions, or did you pay someone?

A: No, the people of the village, and the neighbors, and our relatives, and the older women cooked, and those who were younger would help them, and also serve.

Q: Were the dishes of the winter different from those of the summer?  What did you make in the winter? And in the summer?

A: We would make cabbage and mjeddara, and khubz muhammar, chicken and everything. Whatever food there was we would cook it.

Q: You mean the dishes weren’t different from winter to summer?  Whatever there was you’d cook?

A: Yes, we would make i’lit, what they call hindbeh here. We would go and pick the dandelions, and get chard and spinach, and we’d make spinach fatayer, and we’d make yakhneh.[4] You would cut from what you grew, and chop it, and cook it with mint, tomatoes, and green onions, all in front of your house.  

Q: How was your accent different from the people of Kwaykat?

A: Like I said, our speech stayed the same.

Q: How could you tell where a person was from?

A: We knew.  For example, the people of ‘Iblin would say kaal. The people of Tamra and Kawkab would lengthen the name Hasan. Kafr Mandal people speak differently, and Safouri people speak differently. Al-Kasayer and Nasra would say kaal with a qaf.

Q: When you came to Lebanon did your speech change, or is it still the same?

A: No, our speech didn’t change, because we didn’t leave the people of our village, or mix with others. We stayed in Jwayya but we didn’t talk like them.  We Palestinians went on visiting each other. The people of ‘Amqa speak differently from us, but our accent is Palestinian.

Q: What are some words that you used in Palestine, but when you came here they changed?  For example, before they used to say zalafeh instead of ma’laqa.

A: Yes, before they used to call the spoon zalafeh, and I don’t know in what region they called it khashooqa.  We didn’t call the maghrafa maghrafa or the kafkir kafkir.[5] But spoons we would call zalafeh.

Q: What did you call plates (sahoun)?

A: The plate was istaytiya and also the deep dishes. And the long dishes for rice we called shakhatir. 

Q: Would you like to say anything else?

A: May God return us to our land, oh Lord. We just want to see our land before we die.  I wish we had died rather than have left.

 


[1] The word used here, dsout, means a very large pan, so we assume hajji Fatima is using the word to mean a dish with many ingredients.

[2] Abu al-halaa: meaning still unknown.

[3] “Inshallah yinadalayki” is a phrase used when speaking to people about Ramadan.

[4] Yakhneh can be translated as ‘stew’. It means any mixture of meat and vegetables that is served with rice.

[5] These are both words for ‘ladle’.

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