Sitto’s Kitchen includes the original recipes and memories carried by the author’s grandmother onto the shores of Ellis Island in 1912. These treasures, taught to her grandmother in Aleppo, Syria, comprise over 100 years of traditional Arab cooking.
Author Janice Jweid Reed remembers, “In 1966, I started compiling my grandmother’s recipes in a little spiral notebook. Years later, as my worn and food-stained notebook captured the fruits of my own labors, I realized these recipes were too precious to lose. They’re a testament to all those cooks before me who faithfully preserved their heritage, mother to daughter, through the generations.” Over the years, knowing these time-honored dishes were an important part of her cultural heritage, the author’s notebook led to this cookbook.
Sitto’s Kitchen guides the reader with a Basics chapter offering tips on pantry staples, cook’s tools and the ingredients needed to create this delicious cuisine. Recipe titles written in both English and Arabic, a Where to Buy It section and photos of many of the dishes are all included with today’s cooks in mind. The author carefully describes techniques used long ago but has simplified and updated them. Young cooks or those new to this distinctive cuisine will find the cook’s notes at the end of each recipe a helpful and contemporary touch. Charming stories and anecdotes will give readers a window into the past. Culinary delights, from an Aleppo breakfast of butter-soft turnovers to after-dinner Arab coffee and sweets, highlight this unique cuisine. Tantalizing Open Meat Pies, Tamarind Meatballs, aromatic Barley Pilaf and Syrian Stuffing are mouth-watering. Phyllo-encrusted Spinach Rolls, healthy soups, salads and grains, including several Bulgar Wheat dishes, will appeal to vegetarians.
The next generations of young Arab cooks who long for these traditional foods will be drawn into Sitto’s Kitchen. Readers exploring new cuisines will find these Middle Eastern spices and fragrant herbs carrying them to ancient lands. Sitto’s Kitchen is a homespun adventure in Middle Eastern cookery, simply prepared, with no mystery and traditionally preserved by generations of Syrian cooks who served these humble dishes to their families with love.
Janice Jweid Reed grew up in the vibrant Syrian-Lebanese community of Paterson, New Jersey. Her grandparents, having emigrated from Aleppo, Syria, brought the Middle Eastern traditions, foods and Arabic language that were an integral part of her upbringing. After marrying, and moving to the Midwest, she was intent on keeping her Syrian heritage intact for her own young family. The author began realizing that no written recipes were ever created for the culinary treasures she knew so well. Mothers traditionally taught their daughters these kitchen secrets through the generations. The miles separating her from family prompted her to begin recording her grandmother’s recipes in a simple spiral notebook. Her hopes were that someday her own children and grandchildren would have these cherished recipes and remember their ancestry. Over the years, knowing that these time-honored preparations were an important part of preserving her cultural heritage, the author’s notebook led to this cookbook.
Janice’s interest in food preparation and regional cuisine led her to travel across the U.S., the Caribbean, Mexico and abroad. Her family heritage has instilled an appreciation and knowledge of Middle Eastern culture, language and particularly, the renowned cuisine of Aleppo, Syria.
The author’s educational background includes a degree in Interior Design, which she practiced in Chicago, New Jersey and eventually, New York City where she owned her own business.
In the last twenty years, the author has lived and worked in Southern California.
Recently retired, and now a grandmother herself, she enjoys cooking and teaching the preparation of traditional Arab foods for family, friends and community. Janice Jweid Reed relishes the role of keeping her family’s ancestry alive in their cuisine and traditions. Through her cookbook, Sitto’s Kitchen, A Treasury of Syrian Family Recipes, the legacy of these 100-year-old recipes becomes timeless. The author welcomes all who wish that they too had a grandmother or “Sitto” in their kitchen!
My great grandmother and grandfather Kayal were shopkeepers in Aleppo, Syria. When great grandfather Nicholas died, great grandmother Amelia sent her two eldest sons, Naim and George, to America in hopes of easing their life. She later sent her eldest daughter, my grandmother Naima, accompanied by our friends, to join her brothers. Great grandmother promised she would soon follow with her remaining two daughters and two sons.
My grandmother Naima, whom I only called Sitto, meaning grandmother in Arabic, sometimes spoke of her trip across the ocean in August of 1912. She was just 14 years old, feeling alone and anxious about her journey and new life. She shuddered as she remembered that month aboard ship and being in the “belly of the ship.” She remembered how sick the ocean had made them and believed they would perish as the ship tossed them about during a bad storm. She’d been on that ship with people speaking many languages, away from her family and the country she knew, wondering what lay ahead as they docked at Ellis Island, New York.