St. Maron was a 5th century Christian monk who founded the Maronite spiritual movement. The Church that grew from this movement is the Maronite Church. And there happens to be one in Richmond, St Anthony's in Glen Allen.
Every year on the Feast Day of St Maron, the church has a luncheon to celebrate. And its always a nice treat. Volunteers cook for several days to prepare a multi-course feast.
The meal started with Tabbouleh (Arabic: تبولة) a Lebanese salad dish, made with bulgur, finely chopped parsley, mint, tomato, scallion (spring onion), and other herbs with lemon juice and various seasonings, generally including black pepper and sometimes cinnamon and allspice. As its off-season for tomatoes, this wintertime version was light on tomatoes and heavier on parsley and lemon juice. It takes hours to hand chop the parsley.
The second course was Kibbe Nayye, basically steak tartare, but with a healthy amount of fine bulgur wheat mixed in. Its typically eaten with raw onions and olive oil. My 2 1/2 year old wolfed his down before I could consider whether or not he should be eating raw meat.
The main course was shrimp and beef kebabs with a wonderful rice pilaf, complete with broken pasta mixed in.
Dessert was the only disappointment- no traditional pastries, only dry sheet cake with icing. My kids didn't mind a bit.
I was surprised when at the end of the meal many people pulled out ziploc bags and foil to wrap up their left-over goodies. Were they all packing bags because they knew from experience that there would be lots of leftovers. Or is there a deeper-seated reason? Many Lebanese (like my father) are refugees from Palestine or veterans of living in a war-strewn country. They are used to packing up bags and fleeing at a moments notice. Has this behavior become encoded in their DNA ?
PS My beef and pepper kabobs became fajitas the next night. I have learned my lesson well