About a life devoted to the love for Folklore, Mythology, Legends and.....Art

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Food and Folklore: Ainar (a Libanese herbal tea)

This week I suddenly realized how I have neglected my blog. Yes I am posting regularly, but I only write about my "Tell me a story" project, while there are so many other interesting subjects related to folklore I could and should write about. Such as food.

I started the 'Food and Folklore' section a little while ago with the intention to share recipes which in some way relate to folklore. Be it a traditional dish served during Christmas or a cookie connected to a urban-myth. However, the downloadable recipes accompanied by my illustrations costs me a lot of work to create, too much actually.
As I do love to search for recipes and write about them, as well as trying out them myself, I decided to continue with the food and folklore section. But, this time without the illustrations, as it just was too much work. However, every recipe will still be accompanied by a photograph so you all can see the result before you start experimenting yourself!

This post will be all about the food and drinks connected with childbirth. While searching for these recipes I noticed a most curious thing, they all had one thing in common, one ingredient; anise. Though it surprised me that this herb appears all over the world, it did not surprise me that it is so popular. Anise has a long history in folk belief. In folk magic it was believed to ward off evil and even to exorcise demons. In folk medicine it was prescribed for women who just gave birth as anise was said to stimulate the production of mother's milk. Now, the second explanation seems to be more logical then the first,one.
But one must keep in mind how frightened people were in the past, and sometimes still are, for witches, demons and other evil. It has been believed for a very long time that diseases were caused by demons. So to keep your child healthy it was important to keep the devils away. There are many traditions connected to the exorcism of demons such as laying a silver scissors beneath the cradle or binding a piece of red ribbon to the child. Even a child's rattle was meant for this purpose as the sound was supposed to scare the demons.
Anise, for this same reason, was processed in drinks and food.

The following recipe comes from Libanon. This tea was traditionally served to all guests when a child was born. I have heard this is a more modern version as in the past there were two different recipes; one for boys and one for girls. This tea was served just after a girl was born. But when a boy was born rice pudding was served. The birth of a boy, as in many cultures, was "more important" then the birth of a girl and thus when a son was born they served the more exclusive rice pudding.
This custom has changed through time however, at many places and this tea is now drunk wether a girl or boy is born.

Oh, yes and if you leave away the walnuts it is also said to be a great remedy against pain in the stomach!

Ainar (Libanese herbal tea)

  • one and a quarter liters of water
  • two quills of cinnamon
  • a quarter teaspoon of ground nutmeg
  • a quarter teaspoon of ground anise
  • a quarter teaspoon of ground allspice
  • As garnish: chopped walnut
Boil the herbs for 20 minutes. Sift through a piece of cloth and garnish each cup of tea with some copped walnut. Sweeten as you prefer with honey or sugar.

(the recipe was adopted from: The Arabic Cookbook, written by Janny Moor)

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