Mediterranean on the Mississippi: Locals preserve their Lebanese culture

    Normally on a Thursday morning, Nelson Dakmak would be busy overseeing a multitude of home renovations and building projects around greater Baton Rouge through his business, Dakmak Construction. But one Thursday each month, Dakmak funneles his workaholic energy into a ritual wholly unconnected to his business.

    He’s in the kitchen preparing for Kibbeh Night, an evening of dining with family and friends who share a personal connection or deep appreciation for Lebanese cooking culture and its signature dish, kibbeh.

    As InRegister reports in its new feature, Dakmak, and other Baton Rougeans of Lebanese descent, grew up eating kibbeh, a labor-intensive dish made from ground meat, minced onions and spices that can be baked, fried or served raw.

    Dakmak spends hours preparing large pans of baked kibbeh, as well as perfectly formed loaves of raw kibbeh, or kibbeh nayeh, to a gathering horde of about 50 that will arrive later that evening. The group is invitation only and comprised of just men—there simply isn’t room for wives and kids—but Dakmak will make enough kibbeh to send his guests home with to-go plates for sharing. He prepares the main course, while others bring homemade grape leaves, cabbage rolls and tabbouleh, all staples of Middle Eastern cooking and common elements on the family tables of Baton Rougeans of Lebanese descent.

    “I grew up eating all these foods, and so did my cousins and lots of our family friends,” says Dakmak, who has been putting on his kibbeh parties for about eight years. “This night has become really special. It’s a way we can get together and reconnect over these traditions.”

    Read the full story about how they keep Lebanese traditions along the MIssissippi River

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