There was no good reason for it to fail. I had been slowly amassing the necessary ingredients to expand my repertoire of Lebanese cuisine for quite some time. All of the old recipes call for River Rice, and having failed to find that particular brand in my town, I’d had the foresight to pick up a bag at mom’s neighborhood stop and shop when I was back east this summer. I handed that bright yellow bag to my girl and asked her to go put it in my suitcase. Later during that visit we actually needed more rice for the filling, so I went to fetch my stowaway bag only to discover that it had fallen into the vast abyss of my daughter’s memory. It was nowhere. Someone had to run out to stop and shop, and I asked that someone to pick me up another bag of my own to bring back home with me. Naturally, I soon found the first bag so I came home with two full pounds of river rice, booyah.
Syrian pepper was another obstacle. The recipes didn’t specify any type of quantity, but they all called for Syrian pepper. My family had an epically amusing conversation several months ago about the quantities listed in the recipe mom found in dad’s surgical recipe binder, then there was another whole conversation about how some of us never save the emails that contain recipes so we always ask anew whenever we want to make something. So I emailed to ask for the Syrian pepper recipe last week and mom sent it right along. As long as at least one person in the family is organized, the rest of us can sit back and pop bon bons. I needed to buy cloves, of all bizarre things, which incidently cost one million dollars per ounce. But they smell like Christmas! Specifically like those weird orange ornament/closet deodorizers we used to give to mom for Christmas. But I digress.
So I had my Syrian pepper and I had my river rice and I had my recipes and I had my Lebanese blood. What could possibly go wrong?
Be thankful there are no photos.
- Anyone who says that grape leaves from a jar are an acceptable alternative for fresh is a liar.
- If you turn off the river rice before it’s fully cooked, don’t try to remedy the situation by turning the heat up really high for five minutes before you eat.
- If your green beans are as dry as an old shoe because the tomatoes stubbornly refuse to express their juices, don’t bother adding water and adding water and adding water. They won’t be juicy, they will be watery.
- If your fridge is emitting an unholy moan and the milk smells funny, don’t be surprised if the yogurt is fuzzy/blue and your eyes water when you open the Trader Joes’s tabouli. Don’t try to convince yourself that the tabouli, which is admittedly a few days past its sell by date, is okay by taking several bites. It is so not okay.
- Your family thinks it all tastes really good, really they do. They are just not very hungry. Plan a hearty dessert.
- Serve with wine. Preferably by the bucket.
- Learn from your mistakes, and start planning your next attempt.