Memories of my Syrian Heritage

Published December 3, 2018

Memories of my Syrian Heritage is one of the most precious memories I have of my beloved grandmother, Sitto Naima. It is her enduring lesson to me, whether it was in the foods she prepared, our religious traditions or the hospitable ways of our newly-arrived Syrian immigrants. I learned all of this by her example.

One of those memories is so clear to me in the celebration of the feast of St. Barbara. Every December 4th, she would prepare the boiled wheat decorated with all of the condiments for this lovely tribute. After dinner, she would set out a platter of the wheat, mixed with wonderful Middle Eastern spices, nuts, raisins and pomegranate. She’d light the candle and lead us in a song remembered from her childhood in #Aleppo, all of it in #Arabic. Although we were young, we memorized the words, not completely understanding the story of this young girl, who was martyred for her faith. It only became poignant to us as we became adults and realized the significance of it. “Edeeseh Bahbara” Sitto would begin…and we would all join in. Even now, it brings tears to my eyes to see the fervor that she had for her faith, for our Syrian traditions, for the love of her own heritage. She was so determined to teach us, so we too, would carry it on. Thank you Sitto…I remember..and I will teach my children and grandchildren about this young and brave, Saint Barbara.

The recipe for this treasured and fondly remembered traditional dessert is on page 153 of Sitto’s Kitchen II Cookbook and on page 136 of Sitto’s Kitchen Cookbook.