Ms. M. Khairallah is a lady in her eighties living alone in her family’s ancestral home in the village of Ghineh in the Lebanese mountains. Her memories of the olden days is crisp and clear; she recounts how back then every family had a small plot and was growing wheat to sustain them throughout the year; wheat was harvested and milled in the village into bulgur and flour and kept in earthenware jars for the year’s supply.
Her grandmother would slip a handful of roasted wheat berries in her pocket to eat for a snack. (shown here roasting in an old-fashioned roaster kanun).
There were also crops of chickpeas and lentils and beans brought in from the Bekaa Valley. A sheep or a goat was slaughtered once a week on Sundays. Cows were kept for dairy needs; the women milked the cows (one cow was usually the norm) and made cheese (labneh, and a fresh cheese called jebneh khadra or farmer’s cheese). She laughed remembering how her sister loved that cheese so much she once ate a dozen pellets in one sitting which gave her warts all over. Life was spent outdoors farming and one cash occupation was raising silk worms who’d feed on mulberry leaves. Their silk (or cocoon) was then sold to French silk manufacturers.
These roasted wheat berries are sold today in some Beirut supermarkets under a Fair Trade label. They make a good snack for a simple mezze with some sliced cucumbers and carrots.