Mouneh is the Lebanese word of slow home processed food preserved by our ancestors to survive winter and the times of turmoil and war.
The sight of mouneh awakes in my heart strong childhood memories of Téta (grandma) drying figs and grapes on the roof under the summer sun and cooking jam on an open fire in the douwwara (fruits and vegetables garden near the house).
Téta is my superwoman who passed away last year. A will of steel kept her active till her late 90s. Téta is the olive trees, the bees and all that lives and grows. Her green thumbs fed us for decades and the sight and smell of mouneh is a canvas of sensations painting téta within me. In truth, I say her name everyday and honour her memory in my heart.
As a child, I used to spend my summer weeks alone in Téta’s house in Koura , North of Lebanon, waking up early morning for a hike to hers and grandpa’s land. By this time, people were still working their fields and I remember greeting villagers on my way back and forth. “These were times of peace and blessings” as Téta used to say. At midday, when done with fruit picking and vegetables watering, we used to have late breakfast under the grape vines. Freshly baked ors bayd was served. Ors bayd is a round bread with minted egg omelette on top baked by Estephan our village baker who used to show off being one of the last bakers to truly print his fingers on the manoushe dough. Manoushe in Arabic means “emprinted dough”. After the meal, I used to play cards with Téta and Jeddo who would let me win and then I used to watch them nap peacefully on separate couches. While waiting, I used to smell the wild flowers picked by Téta and brought home in a vase. She was living in perfect harmony with nature and she taught me well. She used to reuse indefinitely every single bag or strap repeating her famous saying “Kell chi byenooz” كل شي بينعوز with a typical northern accent and meaning that every little thing could be put to use. I used to make fun of that but now I know that this was sustainability at its best. I inherited Téta’s genes and it amuses me to notice when I copy her behaviours unconsciously. My mouneh now is home made to honour my heritage and my memories and to remind myself about the hard work needed to reach sustainable living. I grow few of my vegetables and I know that one day, I will grow my food on my land and I will be proud of my independance. I keep repeating to myself that my ancestors knew slow and healthy living and I would like to keep the tradition and the lifestyle alive for myself and for my family.
My mouneh in the picture is makdous (stuffed eggplants, preserved in olive oil), kabiss lefet (preserved turnip in red grape organic vinegar) and zbeeb (raisins).