The Idea of Mezze

Mezze-platter-LR

I love eating mezze style when I am out with friends or family for a light afternoon lunch. I love mezze even more when I’m eating Lebanese cuisine. The idea of mezze style eating is new to U.S. and is usually associated with Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. But mezze is truly a Lebanese style of eating.

According to Chef Ramzi Shwayri the basic philosophy of Lebanese cuisine is that people want a few little things to eat while being in the company of friends. Mezze can be thought of as appetizers or hors d’oeures and is traditionally served with arak, an aniseed liquor that is from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. Mezze is one of many words that Arabs use for appetizer that is Turkish in origin. The origin of Mezze is believed to have started amongst different people at the riverside restaurants in the Lebanese town of Zahle, in the Bekaa valley, around the 1920s.

The early forms of mezze were served in small rectangular pottery plates that held items like raw okra, olives, fried eggplant, boiled eggs, broad beans cooked in olive oil and garlic mixed into labne (a thick strained yogurt that is a Lebanese staple) and is accompanied by a small glass of arak. Mezze should be a simple meal that should be served in small amounts with six different selections of food. The table should not be laden with a variety of foods that fill the whole table. Mezze is about the quality of food rather than the quantity and should consist of both cold and hot dishes with fresh ingredients.

In my opinion mezze is the best for a light simple meal in the summer. Lebanese cuisine is very refreshing in hot weather and when in the company of friends. Mezze is a very social way of eating and should be eaten in a friendly and relaxing environment.

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