Hajji Um Mustafa al-Haysh (Kwaykat)

Q: I want to ask you about the food you used to cook.

A: Which food?  Here?

Q: From which village are you?

A: I’m from Kwaykat.

Q: What are the names of the dishes you used to make?

A: In winter, hommos, beans, mjaddera, lentils, kibbeh, smideh, ghomida, mabaq al-i’lit, mabaq al-khobaizeh, mabaq al-a’qub.[1]

Q: What is a’qub?

A: It’s white, small, you dig it up from the earth. It’s white as snow. You crush it. It’s tasty.

Q: How do you cook it?

A: We crushed it and roasted it, and fried it in an omelette.

Q: Is it a kind of herb?

A: Yes it’s an herb.

Q: What is the special dish of Kwaykat people?

A: Moghrabieh and kibbeh.

Q: What did you cook for weddings?

A: People slaughtered seven or eight sheep.[2] They cooked rice, and boiled the meat and brought laban, and invited people.

Q: And when someone died?

A: They also cooked rice, and kibbeh, and bread, and they killed sheep for the people who came to condole, and distributed the meat.

Q: And for the feasts?

A: Sheep, every house would slaughter sheep. We baked cakes of different kinds.

Q: If someone gave birth, what did you do?

A: The people of the house cooked, and made soup, and everyone would visit her to congratulate her.  They brought almond sweets and Turkish delight.

Q: Didn’t you use to offer anything to your guests?

A: We offered them moghleh.[3]

Q: And when someone got sick?

A: People came and brought coffee.

Q: And in Ramadan?

A: They cooked at night. People woke up for the suhoor, and when they said “Allahu akhbar” they cooked mloukhieh and rice, and everything would be ready. They cooked the usual dishes.

Q: Who helped you with the food at weddings?

A: Everyone in the village was a good cook — like us. When you invited them, seven or eight women would come and help with the food.

Q: You paid them for this help?

A: No, it was for free.

Q: How did you cook moghrabieh?

A: They brought the moghrabieh, soaked the hommos, brought the meat and cut it up. Then they brought onions and put them in the pot with oil and stirred them. Then they put the hommos, the meat and the moghrabieh and cooked them in the cooking pot. After the cooks finished cooking, and after everybody ate, they arranged the left-overs in a pan, and gave them to the cooks with the meat.

Q: Was the food of the rich different from that of the poor?

A: No, the food was the same. But they can afford to buy their food whereas we used to grow it. For example we sold them a’qub, i’lit, khobayzeh. They cooked their food like ours.

Q: You mean that those who have money, rich people, their food was different?

A: No. But they used to put half a kilo of meat in the dish while we used to put only an wqeyeh.[4] God created people in different levels.

Q: Did rich people eat special food?

M: They added more meat to the dish, more poultry, more in quantity. For example, you got one chicken for the whole family, they brought two.

Q: You’re from Kwaykat, how do you speak?

A: Here we are, we are still the same. But the people from Ghabsieh, Sheikh Da’oud and Sheikh Dannoun have a different accent from ours.

Q: How does their speech differ?

A: I don’t know. I didn’t mix with people much; I was young, I didn’t go and come. Only the older women went around, they went to wakes, they went here and there. Their speech is different.

Q: When you came to Lebanon, some words changed. For example ma’laqa [spoon] you called it something different before.

A: Al-ma’laqa – zalafeh. Al-sahn – jaat. Staytiyeh, that’s the sahn al-umsafla; al-bajama – shentian. We made them with elastic. Fustan is still fustan.

Q: When you wanted to praise someone female, what did you say?

A: Imniha; bint ‘alam; bint awadem; shalabiya; brinja; helwa helwa; wa muniha.

Q: When you shouted at someone what did you say?

A: We cursed — may your heart go blind! shut up! be quiet! Here we say the same.

Q: How old were you when you left Palestine?

A: Seventeen. I was married, I had a little boy – he still didn’t walk — his name was Mustafa. They were all born here, except Mustafa.



[1] Smideh is Palestinian for burghul (crushed wheat); homeida is a sour plant loved by children; I’lit (dandelion), khobaizeh (mallow) and a’qub (gundelia) grow wild, and are much prized by rural people of Belad al-Sham.

[2]  Dabahu dabah:  “they slaughtered [animals]” — always means sheep.

[3] A dessert made to celebrate births.

[4] An old measurement of weight that is still used, a wqeyeh equals 200 grams.


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