“My mother, my grandmother, no one, any of the Syrian-Lebanese women I know, did not like to waste food, so if you had something extra, you found a way to cook it. So one of our favorite dishes is stuffed squash, it’s called Kusa Mehshe, and you clean out the inside of the yellow squash and you stuff it with a rice and meat mixture. Well, my mother-in-law, did not like to throw away the inside of the squash, so she started mixing the insides with flour and garlic, and a little mint, and I think sometimes she’d put onions, and an egg and make it pasty, and deep-fry it, and I don’t know what they’re called, but I call them squash fritters, and it was a way to eat the inside of the squash without letting it go to waste.”
Informant: The informant is a Catholic mother of five, of Syrian descent. She is from Kinder, Louisiana, where she grew up in a large family.
This traditional Syrian-Lebanese food is very interesting, in that it is very interesting, in that it exemplifies the multiplicity and variation of which folklore is made up. The traditional food in this dish is Kusa Mehshe, the stuffed squash. However, the squash fritters are derived from this dish because of a tradition, within the Syrian-Lebanese culture to not waste food. This desire to not waste any food could come from the culture itself, and where the traditional foods came from. Perhaps in that area, food was scarce, and they learned to value each bit of food. This could have been passed down through generations, with each woman in the family doing the cooking emphasizing to their family members the importance of not wasting any food.
The squash fritters are an excellent manifestation of this emphasis on valuing every part of the food as the practice began with the informant’s mother-in-law, deciding to make something out of the inside of the squash. Because of the Abrahamic tradition that has influenced the Christian tradition as patrilineal, the women have traditionally been the ones in the kitchen, which is why this particular tradition passed from the mother-in-law to her daughter-in-law, as the two of them most likely cooked together often. This also emphasizes the importance of the communal aspect of cooking, as the sharing of recipes and feelings about not wasting food come from the work in the kitchen.
Not only are the squash fritters practical, they are also popular with the family as well. Therefore, they have become their own dish as well, meant to accompany kusa-meshe, but really could be served with any dish as a side. I was luckily able to try these fritters, and they were very delicious, something that would be popular at any table. Overall, this dish is an excellent example of how culture influences food, and how food is a valuable venue through which customs and traditions can be passed down.