Chewing gum was a major treat for me growing up in Beirut. It was exciting as well, because my father forbade it , saying that it made us look like camels.
My aunt Marcelle lived in the same building two stories up: every few weeks her seamstresses would come over and spend the day: Fittings, sewing and alterations for the entire family were on the agenda. Rounds of Turkish coffee would be distributed, packs of cigarettes opened and smoked, ashtrays filled, and chewing gum would be made.
Start out with some mastic pebbles. Mastic is available in Greek or Middle-Eastern groceries in small jars. It is the solidified resin of a tree that is located in a Greek island. When we were kids, we would also use the resin of parasol pines to simulate this mastic, but the fragrance was piney.
Apparently, this mastic was used as a medicine, as a breath freshener (used in the harems) and was used in dental work; It is an antioxidant. It is also used in cooking and baking in Lebanon.
Here is how Lorice and Mona would proceed:
Take a few miskeh (mastic) pebbles, about half of a small teaspoon; scrape a bit of white wax (about a gram or two no more) with a knife or the blade of scissors; put the two on a teaspoon or the palm of your hand and flick the mixture into your mouth and start chewing rapidly. If you have the time, it is best to crush the mastic pebbles either in a small mortar or by using a mallet or rolling pin and placing them between two sheets of foil or plastic. Then, add the wax and mix the two in a teaspoon and drop in your mouth and start chewing.
Initially, the gum will feel gritty and stick to your teeth. Dislodge it, and keep chewing, adding a few more pebbles of mastic if it just feels too soft. After about 3 to 5 minutes, it should gain its perfect chewiness. This gum can be chewed all day without any loss of chewiness.
Actually, you can probably chew it the entire month if you wish.
To read up on mastic, click here.
NOTE: Don’t be surprised if it sticks to your teeth initially. Just dislodge it and chew some more. Add some more pebbles if it is too sticky and gooey.
I recommend getting the mastic in the package with Greek lettering; lately the other type of mastic does seem to be of inferior quality.
The wax is plain candle wax.
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