The Gospel reading for today details a family crisis. We grow up with these words, we know them by heart, but it is only living in the countries near where Jesus was actually born that I have come to ponder these words in my heart, and try to imagine what it meant in Mary’s time.
18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah* took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20 But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ 22 All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
23 ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel’,
which means, ‘God is with us.’ 24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son;* and he named him Jesus.
Living in Jordan, living in the Gulf has helped me so much to understand the context in which this birth took place. In America today, it is still hoped for that women will be married when they have children, but it is not taken for granted. No one goes out and kills a daughter or sister who has had sexual relations with a man before she is married. Parents don’t disown daughters who conceive before the vows are publicly exchanged.
Even now, in the Middle East, most expect women to be virgin at marriage, and to conceive only after the formalities of marriage. There are steep penalties to be paid for varying from that route. Banishment. Death. Dishonor. A bastard child, if she lives that long. These are all things Mary was facing as she entered her earliest months of pregnancy. Joseph had decided to set her aside – not to marry her. He was a decent man, but a man of the times, he didn’t want a pregnant bride. The angel comes – he tells Joseph that this baby is special, conceived of the Holy Spirit, that Mary remains virgin. And miracle of miracles . . . Joseph listens.
What a courageous woman. What a courageous man.
In the comments of a recent post, blogger Moodi asked if I liked Qatayif. I checked the Wikipedia page, and it reminded me of something else.
In Qatar, when I lived there, our teachers at The Qatar Center for the Presentation of Islam demonstrated making a large, thin dough that was used in many ways, folded and used in casseroles, used as a foundation in serving dishes, crumbled up when dry and used in breakfast making . . .
It was made by hand, using a dough that you held in your hand, and tossed and brought back to your hand after leaving a dot on a hot griddle. I think the hot griddle might have been flat some times, and like an upside-down wok other times. The pancake would turn out large and round, but only a few atoms thick, they were very very thin and delicate.
I never have seen this in Kuwait, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
Do any of your grandmothers or mothers make thin pancakes for special holidays in this manner? Can you tell me what it is called?
In Tunisia, women used to make Malsouqa, the thin thin dough used to make brik and sell it in stacks in the marketplace. You could wait, and buy it fresh off the stove, they would toss and grab, toss and grab, and then peel the very thin, fragile skin of dough off the burner. Pop in a little tuna, chopped parsley. salt, pepper and egg, fry lightly in a little olive oil in a frying pan – heaven in a wrapper.
I was obsessed. It took me an hour – but I found a wonderful blog, Chef Zadi with these fabulous photos of how malsouka are made. His blog is all about healthy North African cuisine
So – have you seen anything similar, something done on a hot iron with a dough held in the hand and tossed at the got grill over and over, leaving small spots of dough that gather into a large flaky thin pastry?