By Naomi Young
Saugus Community Contributor
What a mystery we are witnessing! The big green glass bowl in the middle of my mother’s kitchen table is still three-quarters full with the stuffed grape leaves she prepared. My husband and I had just gotten married in Israel and his family and friends came from the United States for the wedding. My husband, his brother and his best friend are staring at the green bowl for the second day in a row. They are enjoying themselves tremendously during their visit but it doesn’t look like it right now.
Stuffed grape leaves are not exactly their favorite dish. It is, though, one of my mother’s specialties. She learned to cook it from her mother, who’s an expert cook of Syrian cuisine. My mother sits for hours to stuff these grape leaves with rice, special seasonings and meat. Its tangy lemony flavor is delicious but it is indeed an acquired taste. This dish is left to simmer for at least two hours on very low heat to cook to perfection.
When I was growing up, dishes like this one were a staple at our dinner table. They are considered gourmet food since it is time consuming to make them. Emptying the inside of zucchinis, tomatoes and peppers in all colors and stuffing them with meat; it’s a creative, inexpensive dish since it’s made with very little meat.
Recently, this healthy Mediterranean diet was recognized as one of the best in the world because they’re prepared that way. Over the years, all of our relatives loved and enjoyed my mom’s specialty that she prepares especially on festive occasions. They’d ask her to make it for them and let her know how much they love eating them. Once again, my mother wanted to honor and impress her guests and new family members with her food so she treated them with it.
Gourmet shgormet, who cares? These picky American eaters enjoy mostly the classic American fast food hamburger with french fries on the side and ketchup as a vegetable. Food that’s usually prepared in 30 minutes or less.
But they don’t know my mom, as she will make sure the old food must be gone completely before they’ll be served a new dish. They try to trick her and put the stuffed grape leaves back in the bowl when she’s not looking, but when she sees their plates empty she assumes that they had finished it fast because they liked it.
I’ve seen this magic happening for the past two days. I smile as I realize the huge gap in the two cultures and the personal taste we each posses. Finally, I decide to make this bowl disappear and I suggest that we should all go downtown for a good falafel place on Ben Yehuda Street. It’s right across from Burger King.