Mouneh, from the Arabic word mana, meaning ‘to store’, is what Barbara Massaad’s latest book is all about. Barbara has travelled all over Lebanon for five years in search of truly traditional Lebanese Mouneh. She moved from village to village and sat down with old and young to listen to their stories, as well as getting her hands dirty and jumping in to help the villagers in their processes to understand truly, their unique methods.
Mouneh is not simply full to the brim of preserving, pickling and storing methods, it is also a journey which is taken with Barbara throughout her travels as she has recorded each and every moment. From learning to become a bee keeper, to picking Akub (gundelia tumbleweed) during political turmoil in Lebanon.
Mouneh is not a cookbook, so don’t expect to find recipes for Lebanese food inside. But it is a great work, documenting Lebanon’s fascinating traditions of food preservation through pickling, brining, drying, and various other procedures.
Mouneh is written in a very lively way, which makes it an incredibly easy and entertaining read. Although the sheer volume of the book may be intimidating at first, when one begins to read each story, it becomes impossible to put down. Barbara writes passionately about the people she has met and their stories, as well as her own traditions in preserving local foods. Mouneh is quickly becoming a cultural archive for Lebanese cuisine.
Mouneh has over 1,000 recipes for pickling, preserving, brining, drying as well as many more methods for storing foods. The book is broken down into four sections, one for each season of the year. What is even more fantastic is that at the start of each section/season Barbara has given a list of seasonal vegetables/fruits which will be used in that section. Barbara has also included in Mouneh the perfect timing not only for preparation, but also the shelf life of each recipe made. Although many of the recipes are a lengthy process, you know that you are getting the very best from each recipe and at the end of it, your family will be thanking you, and you will in turn be thanking Barbara.
Barbara is also a professional photographer, Mouneh not only is a dream to read, it is incredibly visually appealing. One could forgo reading a single word and simply flip through the pages and read her story just by the photographs. The photography in Mouneh takes you directly into Lebanon along with Barbara, the striking photographs leave one feeling a range of emotions, from joy to sadness and everything in between.
Barbara is a founding member of Slow Food Beirut, a delegate of the International Terra Madre Community, and Slow Food Italy. She is a contributing editor to local and international publications. She has also worked on an extensive portfolio dealing with children’s portraiture. Basically an all rounder!
Mouneh is perfect for anyone who has a love of preserved foods as well as anyone with a love of Lebanese foods. Mouneh is a beautiful glimpse into the lives of Lebanese people and is a must-have addition to any library.