Friday, September 16, 2016

Ahwa Beida (White Coffee) for Foodie Reads

As we inch towards the final quarter of the Foodie Reads 2016 Challenge, I picked up a copy of The Language of Baklava by Diana Abu-Jaber.* I don't know if someone recommended it to me, if I saw it on someone else's reading list or blog, or if I just found it.

I dove into the book and carried in my purse to devour pages in any spare moment that I had. But my interest flagged about two-thirds of the way through and I struggled to finish it. Still, I finally flipped that last page this morning and am glad that I did. She did manage to draw me back in at the end.

On the Page...
This is a memoir about growing up with a foot in each of her parent's cultures. Her mom is American; her dad is from a Bedouin tribe in Jordan. As a kid, the Abu-Jabers moved between the two countries; and, as an adult, Diana has done the same.

There are recipes peppered throughout the book that tie in to the memory she just retold such as Poetic Baklava - for when you need to serenade someone; Innuendo Squash; Forget Me Not Sambusik Cookies; and Distract the Neighbors Grilled Chicken.

Through her narrative, Abu-Jaber makes connections between taste and emotion, between food, family, and celebrations. Food is memory, transporting the eater to distant places with familiar and comforting flavors and ingredients.

"Aunt Rachel removes the knaffea from the oven...the shredded phyllo dough is crisp and brown, crackling with hot, rose-scented syrup. Nestled within, like a naughty secret, is the melting layer of sweet cheese. ...It is so rich and dense that you can eat only a little bit, and then it is over and the knaffea is just a pleasant memory - like a lovely dream that you forget a few seconds after you wake. But for a few seconds, you knew you were eating knaffea."

From My Kitchen...
I drew my inspiration from what was barely a footnote. "Orange Blossom Water, a uniquely fragrant flavored water, is also used to make 'white coffee'...." I had just heard a reference to white coffee and decided to give it a shot. It's become an after-dinner ritual for me. And I know that I'm using pure orange extract instead of the orange blossom water, but I read that this drink can also made with rosewater, so I figured that there was some flexibility in the ingredients.

I have taken a tremendous liking to this simple, calming drink.

Ingredients makes 1 cup

  • 6 to 8 ounces hot water
  • 1 t pure orange extract
  • 1 t honey

Place 1 t pure orange extract in the bottom of a mug. Pour in hot water, then stir honey into the drink. Enjoy!

*This blog currently has a partnership with in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to and search for the item of your choice.

Here's what everyone else read in September 2016: here.


  1. Like the author, I love food memories. Inspiration can come from the tiniest little things

  2. I've had this book on my TBR for a long time. I need to get to it.