Often referred to as "tent cookery", the cookery of Libya is not sophisticated but is tasty and healthy. In addition to staples which include milk, oil, semolina, rice, dates, vegetables and pasta products, meats are generally cooked in ways that make for easily digestible dishes.
In this devotedly Moslem land, many eating habits are governed by strict tradition. At dinner, for example, each course is served on a common platter and guests are expected to eat by helping themselves from around the edges of the platters. The food in the very center of each tray is never eaten as it is intended as an offering to heaven.
In the most traditional homes, beverages are not served with meals. Only after the last tray has been cleared from the table, a communal vessel (guerba) containing spring water or milk makes the round of those participating in the meal. The person drinking should not breathe into the bowl, and must remove it from his lips before beginning to breathe again. After everyone has drunk his or her fill, meals are concluded with coffee and a pipe of tobacco.
Because the dietary laws laid down in the Koran are similar to those maintained by Jews, maintaining kashrut was not a problem in Libya, and Moslems and Jews enjoy similar diets.
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Sources: Embassy of Israel; Israeli Foreign Ministry; Ruth's Kitchen; Manischewitz; Rogov's Ramblings- Reprinted with permission.
Daniel Rogov is the restaurant and wine critic for the daily newspaper Ha'aretz. He is also the senior writer for Wine and Gourmet Magazine and contributes culinary and wine articles to newspapers in Europe and the United States.