The prairie winter wind in the early 1930s was biting cold as I struggled uphill with two pails of well water. The water was needed to make baklawa.
Every Christmas and Easter, my mother, Shams, would make baklawa. My parents were Eastern Orthodox Christians originally from Syria.
In those days on our family homestead near Val Marie, Sask., it took Mother and the children a full day of backbreaking work to make two large pans of the Middle Eastern sweet.
In the early morning, Mother would make the dough. While the phyllo dough was resting, she would spread white sheets over pillows placed on a large table.
She would then form the dough into balls, roll them out and gently stretch them on the white sheet until paper-thin.
She would then quickly cut the stretched dough into sheets on the pans that would be used for baking.
Working at a fast pace, as the dough was cut and placed in a pan, each sheet was lightly buttered until about half the pans were filled.
A filling of walnuts, sugar and spices was then spread over top and the same amount of buttered sheets placed on top.
The baklawa was cut into squares and baked in the oven for 40 minutes. Then a syrup was spooned over top.
As I went to sleep that night with the aroma of baklawa filling the house, I was in a world of ecstasy anticipating that Christmas Day’s sweet.