This shrimp and pea salad is one of the many ways that peas can be used in cooking.  |  Habeeb Salloum photo

Bowls of peas defied the prairie dust bowl

I think one of the few chores I really enjoyed on our farm was when it was time to pick the green peas from our garden. I probably checked the patch of green peas every day to see if they were ready. Nothing was more exciting than when I heard my mother’s “time to pick […] Read more

Fababean pottage is the most common breakfast dish for about 90 percent of the people of Egypt.  |  Habeeb Salloum photo

Versatile fababeans can create an entire feast

One hot summer day, my mother seemed frustrated as she asked my father what she should do because she had nothing to offer the guests they were expecting for the weekend. My father suggested making a weekend of fresh fababeans. Our garden that summer was overflowing with fababeans, young, green and tender. We had planted […] Read more

Strained yogurt cheese is the “peanut butter” of the Middle East.  |  Habeeb Salloum photo

Growing up with yogurt in rural Sask. in ‘30s

Yogurt was a staple this family could not live without, either eaten straight out of the pot or mixed with other ingredients

One certainty of life on the Prairies during the mid 1920s to the 1930s was that we had yogurt almost every day. Whether we ate it straight out of the pot or whether we enjoyed it mixed in with other ingredients, it was one of the few staples that we could not live without. Every […] Read more


Minty meatballs in tomato sauce are also known as dawoud basha.  |  Habeeb Salloum photo

Kitchens benefit from year-round herb supply

Cilantro, mint, basil and thyme stir up nostalgic childhood memories for some, but they simply taste good in any dish

If one were to walk into my kitchen, besides inhaling the seemingly constant aroma of freshly prepared cooking, one would find my “can’t do withouts” — garlic, onions and four of my favourite herbs: fresh coriander (cilantro), mint, basil and thyme. These herbs are always on hand. I plant them in my small garden and […] Read more

Dal, a traditional thick vegetarian spiced stew, is served with yogurt and mint with rice or flatbread. It’s typically made with red lentils.  |  Michael Raine photo

From prairie obscurity to stardom

Lentils in Saskatchewan have come a long way since a Syrian immigrant family puzzled their neighbours in the 1930s

I remember walking in our garden with one of our neighbour’s children on our western Saskatchewan farm during my childhood in the 1930s and we ended up in our large lentil patch. The plants were teeming with their small flat pods, signifying a good yield. I was surprised when my friend didn’t know what the […] Read more


Beets are not used extensively in the daily menus of the Middle East, but the author’s mother did use them occasionally to make this beet and tahini salad.  |  Habeeb Salloum photo

Easter in southern Sask. — 1930s style

Preparing for the Easter holiday was a particular challenge for many prairie families during the Dirty Thirties

It was the mid-1930s and the week before Easter. For a month, my mother had been gathering and saving onion skins to make Easter eggs. She had also put aside about five dozen eggs over the past month that she had collected from our few egg-laying hens. As a young boy, I looked fondly on […] Read more

Freekeh is available whole, cracked or crushed and retains a crunchy texture when cooked.  |  Habeeb Salloum photo

Freekeh: the ancient, yet forgotten cereal grain

My family of Syrian immigrants brought their love of freekeh with them to their homestead in southern Saskatchewan where it was a staple in the larder. Every year, just before the wheat crop ripened, my mother would cut some of the wheat when it was turning yellow and the seeds were still soft and green. […] Read more



Mouth watering memories of Christmas Day treat

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 […] Read more