Thursday, September 18, 2008

Kentucky Roadtrip IV

When we went to Kentucky and stayed with Leon and Helen they wanted to know what we wanted to see and where we wanted to eat. Since Jack and I had covered lots of Kentucky's famous tourist sights in previous Kentucky excursions (Churchill Downs Racing Park, My Old Kentucky Home, Shakertown in Pleasant Hill, Makers Mark Bourbon Distillery, etc) and we get exposed to lots of southern cooking in Virginia we decided that we wanted to do something a little more exotic on this trip. Leon came up with the answer.

For food Leon then insisted that we go visit his favorite Palestinian restaurant and Palestinian grocery. This for Leon is a treat since he was born in Cairo, Egypt and exposed to Arab food at an early age. So we went to this Palestinian restaurant not far from Leon's home and had the most delicious meal. I think Leon ordered one of everything they were making for that day so we could try it. Look at these pictures of the food.

In the first photo at the top left corner you see a spicy eggplant dish called baba ghanoush. Next to that are these deep fried vegetable balls that are called falafel. Leon told us this is one of the national dishes of Egypt handed down by the Christian Copts who are said to be the descendants of the ancient Egyptians. The stuff in the next dish is cacik which is a delicious ground cucumber with yogurt and mint salad that is very refreshing. In the next bowl is hummus which is ground chickpeas in a spicy tahini sauce.

In the second photo is a platter of grilled meat kabobs: chicken, lamb, rolled ground beef and beef chunks sitting on top of a bed of saffron rice with grilled tomatoes along the edge. That was sooooooooooo good tasting! We finished our meal by having hot tea with mint served in a glass. Leon told us that is the way to do it in the Middle East. You wouldn't think of serving tea in an English bone china cup!

Now I must digress a moment here and mention two cultural things I noticed. First, Ramadan has already begun this fall for the Muslim faithful so the Palestinians in this restaurant were preparing and smelling all these delicious foods but couldn't eat a bite of any of it. Because during Ramadan you fast from sun up to sun down. I felt so sorry for them and thought to myself that doing that would be much harder then Roman Catholic fasting during lent. Second, the people in this tiny restaurant were such a mix of cultures and religions. At our table we had two Jews, a Roman Catholic and a Methodist. I noticed another table with Palestinian men and I noticed a woman in traditional Muslim dress and veil enter the restaurant. I also noticed several typical American "redneck" bikers come in and purchase food to go and then go tearing out of the parking lot on their motorcycles. Just when I thought I couldn't possibly experience any more of a cultural religious hodgepodge in walks the next man in a black clerical dress and Leon immediately stands up and greets the priest from St Micheal's Greek Orthodox Church! What this confirmed for me is that this is an example of how delicious food can bring people from very divergent religious and cultural backgrounds together in peace. And why can't everyone in the world gather together for food and drink and friendship in the name of peace.

Now with tummys full Leon drove us to five different Jewish synagogues in Louisville in the cause for hunger. Leon works for an organization that coordinates an interfaith Walk For Hunger and he had to deliver brochures on the upcoming Walk For Hunger to the various Jewish synagogues that were participating. And since Joann, a Roman Catholic, stated that she had never been in a Jewish synagogue but would love to visit one we took a drive to accomplish two things at once.
The synagogues we visited ranged from Reform to Orthodox. In the Orthodox Leon and Jack had to cover their heads with a yammuka. I liked the stain glass windows of this one synagogue.
Note the writing on the wall in this one synagogue. English writing is read from left to right. Hebrew and Arabic writing is read from right to left. Leon showed us the prayer books and pointed out that they open backwards to Western books.
In this photo you see the light that is always lit in the sanctuary. Leon and I had fun comparing our religious practices. For instance:

Leon: Here is the water in the pitcher that you pour over your hands in a certain fashion before entering the temple.

Joann: Roman Catholic Churches have holy water that you use to make the sign of the cross.

Leon: There is always a light burning in temple.

Joann: There is always a light burning in a Roman Catholic Church.

Leon: The men sit downstairs and the women sit upstairs in the temple. If the temple is just one level there is a wooden wall that separates the men from the women.

Joann: I can remember long ago at St Remy's Church in Russia, Ohio the unspoken rule was for the women to sit on the left side of the middle aisle and the men on the right side of the middle aisle while the children all sat in the front pews under the watchful eyes of the all seeing and ever vigilant nuns.


fishing guy said...

Joann: We go to a Mid-East restarant almost every Friday I am in PA. I grew up with this food and would have really enjoyed your resturant. Thanks for sharing this great meal.

DragonQuilter said...

Mid eastern food is wonderful. I quite often have falafal balls in my refrigerator for a quick sandwich...nothing as fancy as what you were eating. Yummmmm!


Our good friend in college is from Iran. We have gone to his home for a traditional Persian dinner. Many foods were served-some similar to those in your picture! My favorite was the cacik- especially after eating some of the more spicy dishes!

Old Lady Lincoln said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful trip and lots of good food.