Sunday, May 25, 2008

From `Akkar to `Amel: Travels in the Lebanese terroir

In the summer of 2007 a group of students from the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences at the American University of Beirut set out on a journey to explore their own food heritage. Their approach was very methodical:
  • First, a list of 25 of the most renowned traditional food products of Lebanon was drawn by a group of experts.
  • The students and their advisors identified one or more regions of Lebanon known for each of the products, and one or more representative producers in each region.
  • The students then carried out a literature review on the products, in order to summarize the state of the current knowledge, and to provide a list of literature references for further use.
  • Concurrently, the students were visiting the producers in their homes or their places of work. They administered special questionnaires developed by the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity for the specific purpose of investigating Presidium products.
  • While filling the very detailed questionnaires, the students also took pictures and obtained samples of the products.
  • Finally, an individual report for each of the products was prepared.

The student team consisted of Sami Abdel Rahman, Khodr Hajj Hassan, Waleed Shaar and Samer Saadeh. Sami Abdel Rahman led the team and produced all the reports, adding material and photos where needed.

Deborah Chay, a member of Slow Food New York, volunteered to manage the project during her visit to Beirut in August 2007. After her return to the US, Deborah continued to be involved in the project. She painstakingly edited each inventory report, and checked all the material for consistency and for coherence. Later, Prof. Imad Toufeili, Chairperson of the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences at the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences of the American University of Beirut took time from his very busy schedule to thoroughly review the material and check its scientific and technical content.

The material produced by the team amounted to hundreds of pages of texts and an equal number of photographs. It served as the basis for writing articles that were published in Slow Food Magazine, and for creating a PowerPoint presentation that was shown in Italy and in France. The team decided that it would be important to share this information with the largest number of people in order to celebrate Lebanon’s traditional foods. This is how the idea of this website came about. We hope you enjoy it.

Rami Zurayk (Land and People) (email)
Inventory Project Coordinator

This project was funded by UCODEP from the ROSS program, and was implemented in partnership with Slow Food International, Slow Food Beirut and IBSAR at the American University of Beirut.

All material on this blog as well as the inventory sheets linked from the Slow Food Beirut site is copyrighted to Rami Zurayk and Slow Food Beirut.