Being multicultural exposes you to a variety of flavors

Ossman Darwiche/ Staff Writer

You wake up in the morning to the sound of metal clanking rapidly. The stimulating aroma that enters your nostrils tells you it’s a spoon stirring “la cafetera” – a small pot of goodness used to stir in loads of sugar, mixing with one or two drops of the coffee to make the foamy residue we call, “espumita.” 

And no Cuban coffee is right without it. You instinctively rise up out of bed, drawn by a strange spirit of yearning for the flavor of family and a good conversation. 

That’s how I’ve spent most of my mornings since I was very young. On some days I would go spend time with my dad’s side of the family. There I would be greeted by a very different taste and aroma. The smell of fresh kafta off the grill, or kibbe – humus topped with extra virgin olive oil and paprika. 

On special occasions, my very Lebanese grandmother would gather the women and spend the morning rolling up grape leaves stuffed with all kinds of savory treats. 

These are the experiences I grew up with on both my Cuban and Lebanese sides of the family. 

Staple dishes like “arroz con frijoles” with a side of “ropa vieja” and “tostones.” I sometimes mix it lamb shawarma and fattoush salad. Each and every taste is a step in the sensory journey your taste buds embark upon. Absolute bliss. 

Of course for our column today, I will introduce you, or perhaps remind some of you, of some of my favorite Latin and Middle Eastern dishes. 

First, let us examine the art of making good shawarma. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, shawarma is basically a huge slab of meat, either beef or lamb. I personally prefer lamb placed over a large metal spike, slowly rotated and roasted. While turning, the chef prepares the meat with all kinds of spices mixed with lemon juice and vinegar, like an artist painting a masterpiece. 

When done, the meat is scraped off the spike onto a plate, or the waiting arms of a sliced pita loaf, slabbed with tahini, maybe some tzatziki to give it a good kick, and topped with a fresh salad or maybe some grilled onions and tomatoes. For those of you prefer to go veggie, my grandmother’s stuffed grape leaves make a great side dish. This is also a favorite of mine because the flavor is so rich. 

The leaves are stored soaking in vinegar for days, then stuffed with rice and all kinds of vegetables, garlic, and more. Then they’re rolled up like little cigars, usually served 4-5 on a plate at restaurants, but my grandmother used to load up a whole bowl topped with tomatoes and onions as a centerpiece fresh out of the oven. Mixed with a bit of Cuban rice with black beans, with fresh peppers and greens from the garden, your senses will thank you, trust me Habibi.

In the end, the world is filled with all kinds of flavors and dishes that are much more than food, they are expressions of peoples and family traditions. I love food period, and my dream is to travel the world experiencing both people’s cultures and cuisines. I’m not a professional chef; I’m just a guy who likes to live – and live well. I believe life is way too short to waste on politics and 9-5, soak up every sensation I say, Bon-Appetit!


The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

Photo by Pille-Riin-Priske on Unsplash

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