We took a walk around the neighborhood, where my mother grew up, her memories superimposed on everything she sees. My boys listen intently, enjoying her stories about the old places and characters my mother remembered as a girl. So many changes; new houses, crumbling old ones, unfamiliar faces but the same scraggly street cats. We passed her old school, and when we reached her childhood home she noticed someone familiar,
“Noora! Noora is that you?”
“Mazaaaaal! Where have you been all these years?”
Thirty years have passed but memories are strong. It is her pretty young neighbor, the one that could always be counted on. Now both are grandmothers but they tell each other,
“You have not changed a bit”. She also tells my mother,
“Your grandmother should never have left us, now she lives across town and all her children have moved, she is left with nothing, but I am still here and could have watched over her”. She is right of course.
My mother introduces me “She is my daughter, she loves to cook” and in the midst of their emotional reunion I can’t help but ask, “and how do you make your tabbuleh?” She tells me with parsley, green onions, a bit of tomato, burghul and mint. “But cut up the mint at the last minute because it will get black, and we eat the tabouleh with lettuce.” They make plans to meet during the weekend and then Noora turns to me and says “If you have any questions about our food, you can call whenever you want and I will help you.” Noora is a Christian Arab and has her own traditional recipes, different from my grandmother’s.
We continue walking to Yefet St, the main road that crosses Jaffa. The most famous butcher in Israel, Hannawi is located close by and vegetable venders, bakeries, spice shops are going about their business. Hannawi is owned by Christian Arabs who have contributed to Jaffa’s cultural and religious institutions, including my grandfather’s simple Kurdish synagogue. He is an amazing business man and has branches in several locations across Israel as well as two (or perhaps more?) mansions in Jaffa. The kids are getting hungry and I hop into a bakery for warm sesame bread while my mother waits outside. When I leave she whispers to me,
“He is from the mafia! The man that sold you that bread is from the mafia!”
“Really, how can you tell?”
“His beard, you can tell from the shape of his beard!”
I raised my eyebrows at this, I am such law abiding citizen that this sounds like total nonsense. I don’t say anything else, from experience she is probably right and if not I still like the story better like this. So if you happen to be on Yefet street, go to the bakery, the one not too far from the butcher’s shop and take a look at the baker’s beard and tell me if he looks suspicious.
This Lebanese and Syrian salad is made primarily of parsley, scallions, tomatoes and specked with burgul grains. Sometimes other herbs such as mint are included. Parsley is high in many vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, B and iron. Pars the ancient capital of Persia, where parsley grew indigenously is the derivation of parsley’s name.
½ cup pomegranate seeds for garnish
ick through the parsley, removing yellowed bits. Chop the parsley leaves very finely. (Don’t include the stems.) Finely dice the tomatoes, slice the green onions, including the green and white parts of each scallion, and chop the mint (chop it last because it darkens). In a large bowl, combine all of these ingredients.
***Unlike Burghul which has been parboiled, cracked wheat needs to be cooked before using and should not be used in preparations like tabbuleh salad unless cooked. Some versions use finely shredded lettuce in place of some of the parsley making for a lighter dish.