One of my oldest memories of Hama was in the kitchen in Jiddo Mohamad’s house. The smell of the warm buttery crust, the spiced meat and toasted pine nuts flowed down the halls of the old house, leading me to the kitchen. My step-grandmother “Khaleh Um-Samir” was standing over a large metal tray of meat pies (Ush el Bulbul) that was delivered from a nearby Oven (elFuren). Ush el Bulbul literally means the bird’s nest. She would carefully hold up each of her creations, inspect it, and place it in a glass platter to serve lunch.
After eating the main meal of Ush el Bulbul with local buttery rich sour yogurt, we had desert. Cream filled pies (Shaibiayt) consisted of the best Hamwi (Ushta) filling, served warm, topped with rosewater flavored syrup. Yummy!
I would later learn the bakery was called “The Oven” because its only service was baking goods that Hamawi women prepared at home. Like Khaleh Um-Samir, all Hamwi women until the late 70s kneaded dough, prepared the filling and sent the pies ready to elFuren ready to be baked.
I owe much of my knowledge of Syrian cuisine to my paternal aunt (Ameh Mokhlesah) who’s an authority on Hamawi recipes. I asked her one day how older women in Hama stayed so thin despite the rich ingredients. “They worked hard” she responded. “Their days were spent kneading bread, drying and preserving seasonal vegetables making yogurt from fresh milk, hand washing their family clothes, cleaning the house and courtyard.”
can’t stop writing about food … more to come 🙂