“What is patriotism but the love of the food one ate as a child.”
Koosa – A Middle Eastern Stuffed Summer Squash
I had an entirely different post written for this week when a friend sent me this quote. It spoke so clearly to me that I almost cried!
I decided immediately to change the tune of what I would write about in order to fit the quote.
I have a pat answer that I’ve always used when people ask me what my background is. I’ll tell you what that is in a moment, but first let me share a little of my world.
Being asked where my family is from is a regular occurrence in my life, regular like weekly! You see I’m half Lebanese and half English (which by the way equals 100% Canadian in case you were wondering!) and so I don’t really look fully anything. Most people guess Greek, sometimes Italian, occasionally Portugese but almost NEVER Lebanese. And trust me when I say no one ever wonders which part of the UK I might hail from!
Usually, when people do guess it right, it’s because they too are of Middle Eastern descent, and on my unluckiest days they speak Arabic and start rattling off something or other in a language I know exactly two words… no kidding… two. Oh yeah, and one song which parents sing to their small children and it’s something about how stinky their bums are! Not highly useful for trying to carry on pleasant conversation with someone you’ve just met!
Well two words and a short song that is outside of the gorgeous language of FOOD! This is where my little joke comes in to the story. When asked if I speak the language, my standard reply is “I only speak the food.”
In other words, I have made the food my background. It is my patriotic Lebanese streak. It’s all I know and I cling to it fiercely.
I connect with my Lebanese-ness through the cooking and eating the food of that area. I’m teaching my children how to do the same, and I know it’s working. They are only one quarter Lebanese and yet when they are asked what their background is, it is always, loudly and proudly, LEBANESE! And they only speak the food too!
I think that you will find this decidedly Lebanese dish a delicious and deceptively simple example of why one might choose to hang on so tightly to the language of food. Also, if you are unable to find summer squash, get creative, stuff some peppers or another type of squash!
Enjoy & Namaste!
- 2 large or 4 medium summer squash
- ½ of a large onion, diced
- 2 med or 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1 lb ground beef or lamb (or combination if preferred)
- ¾ cup long grain rice (I use brown but white will work of course)
- 2 tsp Syrian Spice Mix
- 800 ml good quality canned tomatoes
- ½ cup beef stock
- 2 or 3 stalk of fresh mint (although dry will do in a pinch)
- Top and hollow summer squash. I start by using the handle of a tablespoon. Gently scrape until walls of squash are thin being careful not to break through.
- Rinse in cold water inside and out and set upside down to drain.
- Saute onion and garlic in a little olive oil.
- Combine onion and garlic with meat, rice and seasoning in a mixing bowl. I find using my hands the most effective method.
- Stuff hollowed squash with meat mixture. Don't pack too tightly and be sure to leave room at top as rice will expand.
- Place stuffed squash in a med saucepan with fitted lid and top with tomatoes, beef stock and mint.
- Cover tightly and simmer over a low temp for approximately 1 to 1½ hours.
- Serve with tomato sauce ladled over and a dollop of plain yogurt or Cucumber Mint Yogurt