Um Salah Balqis (al-Kabri)

Q: How old were you when you left Palestine?

A: I was around 18 years old.

Q: So you were mature?

A: Yes.

Q: Were you married?

A: Yes, I was married, and pregnant too.

Q: Which village in Palestine are you from?

A: We are from al-Kabri.

Q: Among the well-known Palestinian dishes, which were the dishes that you mostly cooked? The famous dishes of Palestine?

A: We made maftoul, that’s moghrabieh. We also made kroush[1]and kibbeh tahila.

Q: Kibbeh tahileh? How did you make it?

A: We made smideh [burghul] and stuffing, ordinary stuffing, we fried onions and meat with a little oil, and we stuffed them. We call it kibbeh tahila or majdat smideh.

Q: Do you cook the same dishes here that you cooked in Palestine?

A: Yes, yes, our Palestinian dishes haven’t changed.

Q: Did all regions cook like each other, or were some different?

A: All Palestinians cook in the same way.

Q: I mean did people from Kwaykat [2] cook differently, dishes that were known to them only?

A: You know in all villages the dishes were the same — mjaddara, ghammeh — we called it karesh [kroush]. Maftoul is the same as moghrabieh, everything is the same.

Q: So every one cooked in their own way?

A: Yes. I mean I would cook a dish in a different way from you. Like for example young women nowadays cook from cook books. We made the food on our own. We cooked rice and lentils, we poured it in plates. We kneaded kibbeh, we ate mjaddara, smideh and tomatoes, and mnazleh – that’s eggplants and tomatoes.

Q: What did you cook for weddings?

A: We killed sheep, and we cooked large trays of rice, with meat and pine seeds on top.

Q: Did you offer sweets and the like to guests at wedding?

A: Yes, we invited people and we bought the sweets ready made.

Q: And cakes?

A: Yes, cakes at feasts – and people killed sheep.

Q: And for the pilgrimage. When people went and came back, what did you do?

A: Of course, every person according to his ability — people with money would kill sheep when the pilgrims came back. They would distribute gifts and go around drumming for them before they arrived.

Q: And at the time of a boy’s circumcision — what did you do when a boy was born and they circumcised him?

A: When a boy was born we made a zaffeh.[3] They drummed, clapped and cheered for him, and distributed sweets. The same when they circumcised him.

Q: And when someone died?

A: May God give you blessings.  His family took charge of everything, the wailing, the crying, the food. Some people made food for the family of the deceased, sheep and the like.

Q:  Who helped you on these occasions? Did the neighbors help, or did you hire someone? Or did people volunteer?

A: The family, everyone and his family, the neighbors… if the family is large they can provide everything, sheep…

Q: You didn’t need anyone from outside to come and work [for you]?

A: No, no one from outside, just every person and his family. People with large families would kill sheep and cook food for people. As for the poor, their neighbors would offer them food and help — the ones with means of course, if their situation allowed.

Q: Were the winter dishes different from the summer ones?

A: In winter moghrabieh and ghammeh, also called karesh. You cooked everything hot. This is all winter food, like spinach, stews, siliq [chard], hindbeh — we call it i’lit, here they call it hindbeh – many things — we cooked everything that grows in winter. In summer, mloukhieh, loubieh, all these things in summer. In winter dishes are limited, you cook something and you eat it hot.

Q: Were there poor and rich people in al-Kabri? What was the difference between the dishes of the rich and those of the poor?

A: Oh yes, of course, there’s a big difference. I mean, no offense, the rich buys meat every day, his food is good – fruit — he can afford to get everything. The poor, God help him, a bit of mjaddara, smideh and tomatoes, things that are free or don’t cost much. The rich eat meat and chicken. I mean — excuse me — their food is different.

Q: And when someone got sick at home, did you bring him herbs?

A: Yes, we boiled some maramieh [sage], we boiled it and added a little yensoun [anise], things like that.

F: Like zhourat nowadays? [4]

A: Yes, zhourat. Yes, sweetheart, and they would get better, not a lot of medicine, nothing. If someone had a stomach ache we would boil a little maramieh and let him drink it, and he would feel better, thank God. And if someone got wounded, we’d bring some coffee and put it on the cut and it would be cured. Now they come and go to doctors. I swear people lived in simplicity and a thousand mercies from God.

Q: Regarding speech, the accents in different areas of Palestine, did every village have its own accent? How did you differentiate one person from another?

A: We have different accents. I mean like you and me, we talk differently from the people of Tarshiha. They draw words out, but we speak normally. In Ghabsiyeh too their accent is different, the words come out differently, like “Ahhhhhhhhhh”. Their accent in Tarshiha is stronger, they lengthen words. I mean we say “ya ayni”, they say “ya ayyyyyyyni”. We say “Muhammad”, they say “Muhammaaaad”. But their accent is nice, yes.

Q: In Palestine you talked with your own accent: did you change it when you came to Lebanon?

A: No, for us old people no, but young children yes, because they were born here and they spend time with their age group, so they get used to it [Lebanese].

Q: But there are some words that you used to say in Palestine and that changed when you came to Lebanon, like ma’alaqa (spoon) — you used to call it zalafeh.

Q: Yes, we called it zalafeh, here they call it ma’alaqa. Like give me the zalafeh, give me the laktaat — here they call it maghraf. [5]

Q: What do you mean by maghraf?

A: The maghraf is the spoon you pour food with. Nowadays, they change everything.

Q: When you praised someone, what did you call him?

A: By God our neighbor is good, honest, we are friends with him, and the like, I mean thank God!

Q: If you wanted to shout at someone who bothered you, what did you say?

M: If someone made a problem, I would tell him No, my dear, calm down, my son! It’s shameful.

Q: So you didn’t tell him like those women, I hope you die?

A: No, those women who curse! – I don’t like cursing. No, no, may God protect him, when I hear a woman cursing her son or anyone else, it upsets me. They say, May you go blind! or may your hand be broken! and the like. When someone does something bad they curse him. It’s forbidden to curse. I don’t curse, thank God, but the neighbors curse — may you die or may your hand be broken, if someone did something bad or broke something….



[1]  Kharesh or kroush is stuffed stomach or intestines. Kibbeh tahila is potato balls in red lentil soup.

[2]  Probably the interviewer’s mistake since Um Saleh is from al-Kabri.

[3] A zaffeh includes clapping, dancing and singing. It is still performed at most weddings.

[4]  Zhourat is a mixture of dried wild plants often drunk instead of tea, and believed to protect against colds and coughs.

[5] Both laktaat and maghrafeh are used for ‘ladle’.


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