American Univesity of Beirut

AUB Archaeological Museum launches lecture series with reflection on the origins of regional cuisine

​Safa Jafari Safa, Office of Communications,

The AUB Archaeological Museum held its first lecture for the academic year 2018-19, this month on the “Origins and Story of Middle Eastern (Levantine) Food.” The lecture was delivered by Dr. Samir Rebeiz, an architect, archaeologist, and specialist in the conservation of monuments and historic centers, who is also interested in the topic of ancient food.

Supporting his analyses with archaeological findings, as well as published and ancient manuscripts on food rituals, recipes, paintings, and significance, Rebeiz recounted stories and shed light on the evolution of Levantine food through the history of various regional dishes. He started by quoting Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin who said, “Tell me what you eat and I shall tell you what you are,” and referring to the extended idea of food as an indicator of civilization, Rebeiz then looked at the interactions throughout history between civilizations and regions—through the ancient trade routes that connected East and West (the Silk Road), excursions, invasions, or other socio-economic exchanges—that brought today’s rich but related dishes of the Levantine region.

Historical art depicting the significance of food in the region: Feast given for the Janissaries by Lala Mustafa Paşa in the 16th century.​

The lecture ended with an invitation for the attendees to sample food that Dr. Rebeiz had prepared: almond and pepper cakes that the Romans used to prepare in the 1st century AD, the Persian Chelo Zerde (rice dish) of the 15th century AD that is also prepared today, and the Anatolian 6th century BC King Midas drink. 

Celebratory food: Çanak yağmasi: public feast given as part of circumcision celebrations for the sons of Ottoman Sultan Ahmed III. ​

Since the establishment of the Society of the Friends of the AUB Museum in 1980, the Archaeological Museum has been holding a series of monthly lectures between October and May of every year, tackling various archaeological sites or studying themes related to archaeology. This year marks the museum’s 150th anniversary.​

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