Would You Care for Some White Coffee? The Arab Dinner Party

White Coffee Orange Blossum Water

“We would so love to have you come to dinner at 8:30” was the text I received from our Lebanese friends.

The Thursday night arrived (Friday and Saturday are our weekends) and about 8:30 Mojo and I started getting ready.  It was 90 degrees and humid, so I dressed casual – 7 for All Mankind jeans, a corset top from Italy, a scarf from Paris and gold wedge Michael Kors’ heels.  I grabbed the hostess gifts – a bottle of red wine and a red flamingo lily and we headed over at 9pm.

9:10 we drove up to a completely empty driveway.  As we got out, a second car, another friend with a dish for the table, pulled up and the three of us were the first guests to arrive.  We shouted our greetings and kissed our hosts three times.  Setting down my purse the waiter asked what I would like to drink – soda, juice, wine or scotch – and we sat down to wait for the others to arrive.

The next arrival at 9:30 was a Brazilian married to a Lebanese man.  She complained she had to wake her husband up at 9 from his nap.  He complained they would be the first ones to arrive.  He didn’t know I was coming.

We started out in the sunroom, the women and men sitting together.  By the time the third couple arrived, the women were encouraged to retire to the large U-shaped living sofa and the men stayed put.  Armchairs were added to complete the circle.  Each new arrival walked around the circle greeting each woman with either a kiss or a handshake if they did not know one another.  The men might come through and shake our hands but many simply stood on the edge and waved hello.

Sometimes when we eat with this family we sit outside but tonight it was dinner (indoors) not a barbeque (outside) because of the humidity.  As a result I was under-dressed.  The other ladies, hair freshly blown dry at the salon, wore cocktail dresses or elegant evening pants, clothes they would never wear outside.

We chatted, drank and tried not to nibble too much for we all knew our hostess cooked the food herself.

Around 11:30 the hostess called to the twenty–five guests “dinner is served”.   The ten foot dining room table held 13 silver platters for the Arab style buffet.

If my memory serves me well  …

Green Salad with tomatoes and avocado

Spinach and cheese  fatayer – triangles of dough filled with spinach or a feta cheese mixture

Chick peas and tomatoes side dish

Kibbeh (ground meat) baked with onions in a round casserole dish, cut into diamonds

Red pepper salad decorated with walnuts

Rice with chicken topped with slivered almonds

Lamb, stuffed vine leaves and zucchini – Waraq enab

Lima bean and onion salad

Beef tenderloin bites in a sauce

A mound of white rice the size of a large soup pan

Asian style mixed vegetables

Sweet and sour chicken

Chinese cabbage salad

We ate and ate as the hostess patrolled the tables to encourage us to fill our plates.  Thank you, it’s wonderful everyone told her.

“Satain, satain” she replied pleased to see us eating.

After everyone took two plates, the dining table was cleared.  The desserts were set out.

Chocolate Cheesecake

Guava with pomegranate seeds and syrup

Carrot Cake made with fresh carrots

A trifle – cream, blueberries, and sponge cake

A platter of Australian cantaloupe, Indian sweet melon and Saudi watermelon

The waiter came around with small cups of Lebanese white coffee – hot orange blossom water – and sweet mint tea.  The men lit up cigars.

At 1am the first guests filtered out.  Then couple by couple said their goodbyes.  Waiting for our turn to say good bye, we stood near the foyer littered with bouquets of flowers, Villeroy and Boch shopping bags, and boxes of Panache chocolates.

It was a wonderful evening, but now you understand why a dinner party takes three days to prepare.  Every dinner is an Event and a great show of hospitality.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sarah F.
    Oct 15, 2011 @ 18:21:16

    What kind of training regimen do you use to survive these late night feasts? And how did you feel the next morning?!?


  2. Eva the Dragon
    Oct 15, 2011 @ 18:53:54

    Take a nap before dinner. To fill the entire plate, just take a small spoon of everything. Finish with white coffee, a digestive. Usually I feel hungry the next morning because my stomach has stretched.

    One woman told me she lost about 40lbs by not eating after 6pm. She said she ate at home and not at the dinners. A couple years later she has regained her weight. She must have started eating at the parties again.

    There are a lot of overweight people here. As a country Bahrain has the highest percentage of obese women in the world. Diabetes affects about 25% of the population. This type of eating doesn’t work if you have to get up early in the morning.


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