Mervat Shaheen.. After translating the language, I translated my cooking hobby into a book

“A Taste of LEBANON” preserves the legacy of Lebanese recipes

It is almost impossible for anyone to achieve success in the kitchen unless the first and last ingredient in their dishes is the love and passion for cooking. The taste of food prepared by hand with a passion for innovation and cooking is enough to be the most delicious that can ever be tasted.

From the chefs’ love, to the kitchen, to the culinary enthusiasts, who translate their love for food and traditional and contemporary recipes into books, every word is made with an idea based on memories and sharing recipes with others for their families .

Mervat Shaheen is a Lebanese mother who immigrated to London during the civil war in Lebanon to settle in London with her family. Her father, the famous calligrapher, Mahmoud Shaheen, worked for the newspaper “Al-Sharq al-Awsat” during its founding. Since her childhood, she loves cooking in all its shapes and forms, as well as her passion for reading. She worked in the aviation field for many years, and due to health and social conditions, she had to devote herself to raising her son and daughter.

Mervat Shaheen is studying translation to translate her love of cooking into a cookbook

This did not prevent her from developing her abilities and passion for reading, and continuing to study translation, where she obtained a master’s degree, hoping to find a job that suited her circumstances, but it was not an easy thing.

In the middle of last month, Mervat launched her first book, “A TASTE OF LEBANON.” Asharq Al-Awsat met Mervat while she was signing her first book, and our conversation began about the birth of the idea that led to the birth of the book she chose to write in English, and Mervat said that when When her son moved to study at university outside of London, she took the opportunity to think of translating her love of reading and cooking into a book, in an attempt to fill the void created by her son’s absence from home for long periods, so she began the journey to write about cooking. Mervat adds, “Writing gave me a daily routine and regular work that I was looking for, which made me feel very comfortable despite the many challenges I faced due to my health.”

On the challenges she faced while working on the book, Mervat says that she was exposed to many challenges but her insistence to continue gave her the courage to complete the project through the daily routine that she stated to follow. She added, “I started my day earlier with physical exercises and swimming, which took up a good amount of time every day, and this was one of the factors that improved confidence and boosted morale, in addition to the fun of this sport . provide.”

What sets the book “Taste of Lebanon” apart are the stories associated with the recipes of each dish. Each recipe in the book has a personal story, a joke, a historical story, or some of the customs and traditions that come with it. Mervat tried to use her love of translation and humor to add a little humor sometimes, and to stay away from rigid language as much as possible. Style is also important, and it is one of the elements of suspense in reading.

When asked about the choice of the English language for her book, she replied: “Because it is firstly aimed at foreigners, to inform them about some customs and traditions in addition to recipes, as it is aimed at Arabs who prefer to to read English, like my children and others who were born in expatriate countries and English became their mother tongue.”

Mervat Shaheen chose the English language for her book to convey the traditional Lebanese recipes to the West

She added: “Writing this book was not an easy experience, and I faced many difficulties, as I said, health and others. But my passion for reading and my love for translation, as well as family support, helped me a lot to overcome these problems, not only to prepare for cooking, but to organize this process, and to repeat it regularly, which reduces the great effort mentally and physically.”

The love of cooking is usually related to an important person in the life of the chef and also the recipe writer, so we wanted to know the inspiration of Mervat Shaheen in the kitchen, and we found that her mother was the first inspiration for her. She loved to cook, and her food was very special. For her, every stew was a painting she put out in front of her neighbors, relatives and neighbors in defiance of all the women around her. She inherited this passion from her mother, who passed away early, and it had a huge impact on her life.

Lebanese cuisine is known to be an essential component of the heritage of its people and people, and it is one of the oldest international cuisines. Despite the distinction of Lebanese cuisine and the distribution of many Lebanese cookbooks, it does not gain the fame it deserves, with the exception of specialists in the culinary world. This is briefly the opinion of Mervat, who said: “From this point of view, I found that there is a great opportunity to contribute to the delivery of this cuisine to the world by adopting a new method and of facilitating preparation to suit. all, and how to use or substitute materials (Ingredients) and cooking utensils that are not available.”

Baba Ghanoush traditional recipe

As for the people who played an important role in realizing the dream of writing this book and launching it in its first version, Mervat says that together with a young man, Andrew Room, a graduate of the University of Cambridge, worked what her daughter during the official exams, so I asked him to read some of what I write, and he really liked it. Then I sent the materials to him for review, then compiled them and selected the most suitable one.

She also hired Alistair Hilton, a professional photographer, to photograph the dishes, and this craft is very important in a cookbook because the pictures play an important role in presenting the recipes in a good way.

However, due to the fatigue and exhaustion required by the constant work, in cooking and the accompanying preparation, preparation and purchase of materials and others, and due to her health condition, it was necessary to enlist the help of an army of volunteers, the first of which are her two sons and her sister Mona, who is considered a first-class chef, in addition to some friends.

Mervat made a very important point about the reason for the West’s interest in cookbooks, saying: “There is always a place for a book of recipes, especially in Western countries, and it is considered one of the most important gifts on holidays and family. or public events.”

The book mostly tells the back story of the meal, its history or its personal relationship with the author. This information is not always associated with YouTube clips, Tik Tok and other similar digital platforms. In addition, the book is considered a source of private information, as it generally reflects the culture of the country, and satisfies the desire to learn about the life of this author through the cookbook.

Mervat emphasized the point that all this does not prevent the cookery education programs distributed on TV and YouTube videos from benefiting from cookbooks and ways of making different dishes, which contribute to the distribution of these books.

She concluded her conversation with us by saying, “Despite the traditional competition between the two worlds of the word (the book) and the image (illustrated programs), they can also be complementary.”


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