By Mary Anna Violi |@MaryAnnaVioli
I have fond memories of spending copious amounts of my childhood and adolescence with my Aunt Adelaide and Uncle Richard in Detroit. He was a design engineer who was later inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame for having designed the 1949 Ford, “The car that saved an empire [the Ford Motor Company].” I loved my aunt and uncle dearly. My aunt still retains her radiant smile and melodious laugh. Even after my uncle’s death, I still see him, pipe in mouth, moustache neatly trimmed, in his 3-piece well-cut suits, flashing his perfect smile. My uncle was Lebanese and he was grand. Tall and dashing like a dark-haired version of the equally black-haired Omar Sharif [though Sharif was French-Egyptian] galloping across the desert in Lawrence of Arabia, although I am not sure my uncle ever road a camel in the desert. Uncle Richard had an acerbic, hilarious sense of humor, with artistic talent oozing from every pore, and an intense love of family. Small wonder my aunt fell for this romantic, handsome man. He and my father, the Italian immigrant, were close. I thought everyone had family of exotic lineage like mine, and if they didn’t, they should have.
Chief among my cherished memories of those years is Lebanese food, which I eat to this day whenever possible. My uncle’s mother taught my aunt how to cook Lebanese food and did my aunt ever learn! She served up cabbage rolls, Lebanese bread, and kibbe to beat the band. She shared her cabbage roll recipe with my mother so that we could feast on when we returned home from Detroit. My aunt’s shawarma and hummus tasted awfully good, too. Aromatic Lebanese food, coupled with light-hearted conversation over dinner during those years remains with me today. The laughter, the voices ring in my ears as I look back over the landscape of time.
This is likely why I wax poetic over the fabulous Lebanese food at Le George in Northville, Michigan. For dinner at this tantalizing small eatery, we savored every bite of the Pastry Cigarettes with 3 Herbed Cheese and 3 Spiced Meat; a Crème De Lentilles soup; the Vine Leaves Rolls Lamb with Beef & rice, simmered in a delicate lemon sauce on the side as well as Wheat à l’huile d’olive, and Lamb Shank Leg of Lamb, braised in garden tomato sauce with vegetables. We washed it all down with a fine Italian Pinot Grigio from Friuli. Truly, Le George served us a memorable repast.
This is likely why, after our Labor Day weekend, I craved Lebanese food. While one of our two local Lebanese restaurants makes a very good falafel and baba ganoush, it still cannot hold a candle to the Lebanese food creations of my aunt, uncle, and his mother.
Ciao for now.