Mimi waits for the porridge
Levantine Christians, Catholic and Orthodox, celebrated yesterday the annual feast of St. Barbara. In Damascus, children wore masks and families gathered to eat oatmeal. Some add raisins; Juliet put walnuts on the top as a sort of crust and baked it in the oven. Be sure to drizzle syrup on your helping before eating.
The wheat of the oatmeal symbolizes the wheat stalks that, according to local tradition, St. Barbara hid among before being discovered and killed by pagan rulers in early Christianity.
Children wear masks, invoking the black tar that she apparently put on her face while hiding.
In addition to the oatmeal, Juliet and daughter, Lena, made an assortment of helowiyat – deserts – also typical of the holiday. The qatayef, stuffed with crushed walnuts, were the sweetest and best I’ve ever had. I told Juliet so; she deflected my compliment by saying that’s only because they’re homemade. I replied by eating another.