From delizioso to yummy shou taybeh!

You guessed it right! I’m not going to be exposing the obvious pizza-ish “Mankoushe”. But I am going to talk about a dish that we are all familiar with and most of us love: the Chicken Alfredo Pizza!

Keep in mind that Lebanese are the biggest target-oriented food translators. I’m going to rely on your memory to remember why. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you most probably didn’t read my previous article and to be honest, I don’t know what you’re still waiting for!

Wrong name, found fame

First, let’s take the name as an appetizer.

Chicken and pizza, the forbidden love

Alfredo: Sorry to be the one that breaks it to you, but this famous Italian sauce (also found in Fettucine Alfredo) doesn’t even exist in Italy! Mind blowing, no? I mean you can still find a handsome Alfredo just not a tasty one…

Chicken: I don’t know about you, but I can have chicken with any plate ever! Thank God I’m not Italian because, they would never consider adding chicken to a pizza topping for it is not considered as a flavor adding ingredient but a main one!

Cheesus crust!

As for the main course, the ingredients: 

Let’s start with the base, which in this case is the dough. Lebanese, especially moms, love adding milk to anything and everything. Because If they can’t make us drink it, they’re going to milk it! – pun intended. Therefore, unlike Italians we add milk to our fluffy dough.

And how can you ruin the pizza experience for an Italian more? Use the very non-Italian shredded mozzarella. I can still remember the face of my Italian friend when she saw the bag of shredded mozzarella cheese in the supermarket, and I quote her “My nonna must be rolling in her grave right now!”. 

The 7 deadly spices got him killed

After all, we got some ingredients right, such as the “te’leye” (i.e. fried garlic and onions), fresh mushrooms, spinach and heavy cream. But our loyalty to the original dish gets lost once again in our spices; from all shades of white pepper to the black ones and of course our famous sabaa bharat (i.e 7 spices).

And finally, the cherry on top, our abusive use of ketchup! Take it from me and don’t EVER add ketchup to your pizza in front of an Italian! The shame!

Now that you know what Lebanese translators have been cooking for us… which pizza do you prefer? The Italian pizza or the sliiightly less Italian one? 

Eat your words – LITERALLY!

Food is a language, therefore, it’s translatable!

Let your mouths eat, leave the talking to the eyes

Don’t we all feel a certain way when eating specific dishes?
For example, gratin is my awe dish, for it reminds me of the time I was punished for not eating it when young.

Kousa mahshi » is my happy dish, because it’s what my late grandmother always cooked for me.

Pomodoro pasta is my love dish for it is the dish that I always share with my loved one.

Each dish makes me feel something; therefore, eating it is a language. My favorite language, may I say!

Words in a pot, the translation broth

Tomayto, tomahto.

Translation, on the other hand, is what guarantees that any message in any language reaches all people around the globe.

And if cooking is a translation, then Lebanese are the biggest target-oriented translators, for they adapt and mold the foreign dish, until it suits their taste buds. 

However, this form of translation happens everywhere. For instance, « to please American audiences, cream and butter, two staples of traditional Indian cooking, have been cut from recipes to make food less heavy and more « light » and « low fat. ».

Confined, but always refined

Now that we’re all in confinement, and with most imported products going extinct in our supermarkets due to the economic crisis, I’m sure that all of you, little chefs-wanna-be, know what I’m talking about; unless you didn’t go the extra mile and stuck to baking cinnamon rolls.

From Turkish Shawarma with “extra toum (i.e. garlic)”, to Italian pasta “Kattir (i.e. lots of) shredded mozzarella”, and cookies with Tahini instead of softened butter; we’re doing it all wrong!

Can you guess what dish is the biggest victim of the Lebanese target-oriented translation and also the topic of my next article?

Hint: It is round, triangular, and square-shaped, all at the same time!

“Waiting” in Brussels…

 They say travelling is always about the experience and not the destination, and indeed, they are right.

During my mobility scholarship in Belgium, I experienced such a memorable adventure… And trust me, I would never have thought of doing it here in my home country.

The smell of our delicious shawarma made me homesick, as I was walking down the streets of Brussels…where I discovered this typical Lebanese cuisine restaurant O Liban.

I saw our famous mezza, our fine wine and our best-known sweets. I heard people speaking in Lebanese. At that precise moment, I realized that it felt exactly like home.

I don’t know how it came to my mind, but I decided to work as a waitress in that restaurant specifically, given that I had plenty of time and working for fun was not a bad idea.

And there, my experience began. I learned how to hold three plates in one hand and four glasses of wine in the other, just like a pro. To be honest, it was never an easy task since I broke three glasses the first time I tried to hold them and made some stupid little mistakes in front of clients; but I managed to do it perfectly at the end.

However, I have always wondered why they hired me, a translation student. Well, I was not a pro, nor I had skills. Then, I figured it all out. I am Lebanese, which makes it easier for us to communicate.

I know all our dishes by heart and being a translator was a plus for me. I was able to talk about the variety of the dishes we have in different languages. I was able to tell the clients about the ingredients of our mezza.

Then I realized that it was never about the skills because eventually, everyone will learn the technique. It was about the passion we share for our Lebanese cuisine and for the way we want to present our culture.

And that’s why foreigners love coming to the restaurant. They are in love with our famous dishes, sweets and “Almaza” beer. After all, the smile says it all.

My adventure ended after three weeks of clumsy hands, broken glasses, perfect sorting and mastering the waitress job.

I never thought I would be a waitress one day but I had the guts to do it and it was definitely a worth remembering experience.

So my advice to you is this:

Break out of your comfort zone and don’t be afraid to travel. Always have the courage to try new things for it will be a step closer to what you want to achieve in life.