EM – Koosa is a traditional Arabic dish. First, squash is hollowed out using a special scoop. My grandmother uses a scoop that belonged to her mom and grandmother. The squash is stuffed with a seasoned ground lamb meat and rice mixture and cooked in a tomato soup seasoned with spearmint.
And of course the squash seeds can’t go to waste, so they are salted to draw the water out and squeezed to drain as much as possible. They are then mixed with eggs, parsley, onions, and Syrian pepper to make an omelette-like batter. They are then deep fried into little cakes called ejeh. Fun to make and heavenly to eat.
Interviewer – Any special occasions to eat these recipes?
EM – We usually make koosa and ejeh in the summer when we can get fresh squash from the farm.
Interviewer – Are they always made side-by-side? Do you eat them at the same time in the same meal or do you eat them separately?
EM – Sitto (Arabic word for grandmother) doesn’t always make ejeh, but when she does, its always with koosa. We don’t usually eat them together, though. I like ejeh as a snack or breakfast, and koosa is always lunch or dinner.
Interviewer – If your grandmother has the special scoop, can no one but her make them “properly” or do you use whatever scoop you have? Is the scoop actually made specifically for koosa, and what does it look like?
EM – There are other scoops out there. I have my own, but Sitto’s is special because it’s been passed down. I don’t actually know if anyone uses the scoops for anything else but we call it a koosa scoop. It’s a long metal half-tube basically.
Interviewer – Does someone make them better than anyone else?
EM – Sitto makes them the best.
Interviewer – Have you learned both of the recipes?
EM – I know the recipe fo koosa, but not ejeh yet.
Interviewer – Do these recipes feel culturally significant to you personally, or are they just food you are glad you get to eat? Do you feel connected to your family through these recipes?
EM -The recipes are culturally significant to me because I feel close to my family when we make and eat them.
EM – All of my family’s recipes are either in our heads, or in the case of ka’ak and other desserts, the recipe is written down but no directions are given, so the only way to learn to make them is to observe and learn from our elders making special bonds and memories
The dishes are usually made in the summer for maximum freshness. Because I collected the story during the winter, the story was not performed with the actual food but rather in a context of discussing favorite foods.
Koosa and Ejeh are examples of food connecting a person to their family and their heritage. The informant has never traveled to Lebanon, and knows only a few words in Arabic, but is proud of their heritage and feels connected when they learn the recipes that are passed down through family, learned by memory, and made with and for their family.