Labneh and generosity in the Middle East
Friday, November 20, 2009 | 02:52 PM ET
by Amber Hildebrandt, CBCNews.ca
Containers of olives at a souk in Aqaba, Jordan. They'll likely end up part of someone's mezze. (Amber Hildebrandt/CBC)
Though travel can focus on many things – history, natural wonders, relaxation – my trips inevitably are dominated by food. And happily so.
On a recent trip to Lebanon and Jordan, I did my usual culinary-style touring around the two countries – taking a cooking class, wandering in souks, browsing through grocery stores and gorging on local specialties.
Much like Spanish tapas, mezze involves ordering a selection of appetizers plus a main course meat dish for all to share. It’s the perfect mode of eating for a foodie, and it kept me satiated with my daily fill of hummus.
But perhaps the most pleasant surprise of travelling in the Middle East was the sheer generosity I encountered. I received free food samples at nearly every turn:
- After asking a baker about buying two honey-soaked doughnut holes, he gave me half a bag full.
- When asking about restaurant specialties, a waiter in Aqaba, Jordan, brought me a free plate of moutabel.
- In response to a question about what “white coffee” was, a Beirut restaurant worker gave me a sample. (Turns out it’s not coffee related at all, but orange-blossom flavoured hot water.)
Tell me about your favourite discoveries abroad.
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About the blog
From trends and culture to politics and nutrition, Food Bytes serves up tasty tidbits about food and the issues surrounding it that flavour our everyday lives.
About the writers
Amber Hildebrandt writes for CBCNews.ca in Toronto. Growing up on a farm in Manitoba, she acquired an insatiable appetite, but it was during a stint in Japan that she developed her discerning tastebuds and "foodie" ways.
Andrea Chiu is an associate producer at CBC Radio Digital. Though she loves to eat, cook and discuss food, don't ask her to bake. It never turns out well. She tweets as @TOfoodie on Twitter and organizes food and wine events in Toronto called FoodieMeet.
Tara Kimura is the consumer life reporter for CBCNews.ca, covering a wide range of issues that range from rising food costs and the growing organic movement, to new trends in the marketplace.
Andree Lau is a CBC web reporter in Calgary. Her journalism career includes seven years as a CBC-TV reporter. Her own blog called "are you gonna eat that?" chronicles her eating adventures (including sampling snake and camel hoof tendon).
Jessica Wong is a CBCNews.ca writer who loves to eat and cook, as well as discuss, read and watch programming about food, sometimes all at once.
Kevin Yarr, CBCNews.ca's writer in Prince Edward Island, wrote about food and beer for national and regional magazines before joining the CBC. He acquired a desire for new tastes on his first trip to Europe, and an appreciation of eating locally and in season when he finally settled down on P.E.I.
Elizabeth Bridge is a writer with the CBC Digital Archives in Toronto. She first ventured into the kitchen as a child to indulge a sweet tooth by baking cookies and making fudge. A student budget compelled her to be a vegetarian (for a while) and instilled in her an ongoing curiosity about food and cooking.
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