My grandpa Coram was born in Lebanon. His family moved to the United States when he was an infant. Grandma’s family moved from Lebanon and settled in Jackson, Ohio, where she was born. Grandma always told people grandpa was born in Camel, West Virginia. When I asked her why she said their courthouse had burned down and all the records were lost. She feared he may be deported someday if folks knew where he was born, even though he was a legal resident. I thought she was being ridiculous. I don’t think that anymore, sadly.
Anyone who knew them assumed their wedding was arranged. Grandpa was a practical joker. He lived life with joy. He was a great man. I have so much love for him I took his last name after my divorce. Grandma approached life differently. Some of my greatest life lessons came from my close relationship with her. I miss them both deeply and feel their presence at interesting times.
My mother took on more of the characteristics of my grandpa and I have always admired her for her comfort with complete strangers and her ability to engage them with a smile and love. I am also deeply grateful that we grew up experiencing the culture, language and food of our family. Thanks mom.
I have great memories of feasts being prepared by our large Lebanese family. I remember Aunt Mary chastising me for putting too much parsley stem in the tabouli. “Use only the leaves!” she would say loudly.
I also remember the grape leaf rolls and cabbage rolls. I never liked the grape leaves. They were bitter to me. Now I love them and it is this time of year I excitingly stroll through our yard, looking at the progress of the leaves.
I use to buy leaves in a jar at the grocery store. They were OK. Now I harvest leaves from our yard and preserve them by freezing them. It seems I never save enough.
As with any foraging, it is important to not over-harvest. I take the third and fourth leaf from the tip when they are young and tender. I aim for leaves no bigger than my hand and like the ones a bit bigger than my palm.
To preserve them, I gather about 20 of them, wash them and roll them into a cigar shape, loose enough for water to reach them. I tie them in place with a string and dip them in boiling water for one minute. I drain them for a few hours to get them as dry as possible and them freeze them. It is pretty easy. It is a ritual I have made part of my spring. It is a ritual that celebrates my heritage and our home’s love of nature and the bounty it provides to us. Grape vines grow wild here. What a gift. Thank you Mother Nature. Thank you Ruth Jones for protecting your family farm in your will with a conservation easement. We thank you every day for this amazing gift from your family to ours. It is an honor to care for it.