Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

Tag: Grape Leaves

The Cost of Picking Grape Leaves

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One day years ago I discovered outside of a Barnes & Noble bookstore a fence covered with grape leaves. I hurriedly got into my vehicle and informed my mother and sisters of my finding. That same day, we all squeezed into my minivan, empty plastic grocery bags in our hands, and drove to the back of the store. My daughter sat in a stroller and watched – she must have been a year or so – as we excitedly picked the grape leaves.

We were plucking away when a tall man dressed in professional clothing suddenly appeared from around the corner. He was the manager of the bookstore and he hesitantly approached us and asked what we were doing. He looked a little nervous. We had all been dressed in black because my aunt had recently passed away and we were in mourning for forty days. Obviously the sight of us frightened the store manager, so we explained that during summer we picked grape leaves, enough to last throughout the winter, to make an Iraqi dish called dolma (a pot of stuffed vegetables). He said that was fine, but if we could just inform someone in the store next time we decide to pick grape leaves so that they wouldn’t be surprised by our sudden presence.

Last year I asked my Iraqi-American neighbor, who was throwing away his perfectly good grape leave into a garbage bin, if I could pick them. He said, “They’re all dead.” They were not, but I let it go and since then have been buying jars of grape leaves.

Today I was at my friend’s home. She told me of a man who shot a woman picking grape leaves somewhere near his house. Another man was picked up by a police officer who asked him, “What are you doing?”

The Iraqi man did not speak English and motioning with his hands towards his mouth he said, “Food! Food!”

The police officer, feeling sorry for this man, took him into his car and drove to his house where he gave the Iraqi man ten dollars, thinking he did not have money to buy food and thus was eating leaves.

People – if you see someone picking grape leaves, it is okay! God created everything in this world to be used, not be wasted or just sit there and look pretty.

Advertisements

Flipping a Pot of Stuffed Grape Leaves – The Chaotic Way

My brother-in-law arrived from Jordan a few days ago and we had a gathering for him last night. Although the gathering was nice, it was also quite chaotic. After all, it was an Arab/Middle Eastern family so we’re talking sisters and brothers and nieces and nephews and aunts and uncles and more aunts and uncles.

There were more people than my house can hold and it was too chilly to sit on the patio. My husband was passing out jackets to the men (after checking no money was in any of the pockets) but after staying outside for an hour or so, they walked back in and took up whatever little air was left inside.

The most fun part was when all the women tried to help in the kitchen. I was trying to get to the sink but when I saw the little crowd clustered there, I thought, better get the camera instead.
Turns out the fuss was over the huge and heavy pot of stuffed grape leaves, which my husband’s nephew successfully flipped over. The Iraqi version of stuffed grapes is different than other regions in the Middle East. The dish is called dolma and in it is included stuffed green peppers, cabbage, zucchini, eggplants, onions, or whatever else one’s heart contends. Some even stuff potatoes and carrots, if they’re large enough.

The good part is – at least I did not have a lazy group of people at my house, in which case I would have ended up staying up until 5am cleaning instead of when I actually slept at 1:30am.

IMG_0920