Month of May: “Together:Our Community Cookbook” Recipe: Intlak Alsaiegh’s Tabbouleh

“Perhaps my best years are gone, when there was a chance of happiness. But I wouldn’t want them back. Not with the fire in me now.” Samuel Beckett

Tabbouleh is a well known Middle Eastern salad made from tiny little pieces of bulgur wheat, parsley, scallions and mint with tomato, olives and cucumber added. In Arab cooking it is often offered on the table as something green.

Over this year in the solitude of my studio there has been an overarching sort of mixture of putting little pieces together of my friendship with Abby, my memories of her life and my own personal meaning of losing her. Honestly, after two years in, I don’t believe the grief of losing her will ever end. Time will not completely heal such a mammoth loss. But the acute suffering has certainly lessened. For decades I worked alongside grieving families as a hospice nurse but nothing has taught me more about grief than my own raw personal experience with it. We all travel on this road in our own unique way, in our own time, and for some, maybe not at all because the loss is too agonizing to let in. There are no one size fits all answers that we once believed. I have learned to be more compassionate not only with myself but with others as well. The way forward for me it seems is to be vigilantly receptive to that very still inner self. To be present with the emotional roller coaster as much as I am able and possibly most importantly to be courageous enough to feel the feelings no matter how painfully excruciating they might be to bear. Tears help too.

The question of what is it about Abby and our connection that stands miles apart from anyone else I have ever known and loved kept coming to the surface. What is it? I suspect one answer might be that together and apart we were always seeking, always searching for that elusive something, for that perfect someone that could put our mutual unsatisfying wanderlust to rest. Only recently, by some way of a miracle have I come to understand by Abby’s permanent absence that somehow I have found what I am looking for. I have discovered that what I needed all my life was me. I needed to find me. I needed to listen to me. I needed to love me. And when that shift finally happened, my restlessness was unexpectedly and surprisingly laid to rest.

Ingredients: 1/4 cup bulgur wheat, 5 tbsp boiling water, 5 cups chopped parsley, 1/2 cup chopped mint, 2 scallions thinly sliced, 1/3 cucumber peeled, seeded and chopped, 1 cup cherry tomatoes chopped, 1/4 cup whole and 1/3 cup pitted green olives chopped. Dressing: 1/4 cup olive oil, juice of 1.5 lemons, 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses, salt and pepper.

  1. Put the bulgur wheat in a small bowl, add the boiling water and immediately cover with a tight lid allowing to steam for 20 minutes.
  2. Make the dressing by mixing the oil, lemon juice and molasses with a pinch of salt and vinegar
  3. Using a fork fluff up the wheat. Add all the ingredients together and add half the dressing, mix and taste, add remaining dressing if desired. Serve in a dish with whole tomatoes and olives on top.

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