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Annual Lebanese Food Fair a family affair

8/1/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Julia Kazar

Mary Beth Abraham, her husband, Chuck, and her husband’s cousin, Chuck Maroon, make ka’ak for the Lebanese Food Fair, which will take place Aug. 2-3.
Photo courtesy of Mary Beth Abraham
FAIRLAWN — For more than 20 years, Our Lady of the Cedars Church in Fairlawn has been hosting its annual Lebanese Food Fair, a fundraiser for the church and a family-friendly event.

All the food served for the event is authentic Lebanese cuisine made from old-world recipes that have been passed down through generations, according to event officials.

“My grandmother, who emigrated from Lebanon when she was young, taught me how to cook,” said Mary Beth Abraham, who is in charge of pastries for the event. “Now, I can share this food with the community, with the help of many other volunteers from the church, of course.”

The Lebanese Food Fair will take place Aug. 2 from 4 to 9 p.m. and Aug. 3 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the church, 507 S. Cleveland-Massillon Road.

When it first began, the food fair was held on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but it has been reduced to just one day for the past few years to make it easier on the volunteers. Adding Friday to the event is a new way to give the community more opportunities to come out.

“We decided to add Friday evening to hopefully attract people who are just getting off work and looking for something fun to start the weekend off,” Abraham said.

Preparing to feed more people is no easy task — quantities of everything have been upped this year, and volunteers have been cooking and baking for more than a month. Fares Jasser, who is in charge of food preparation, said organizers have ordered more than 300 pounds of chicken and beef that will be made into several different dishes. Some of the most popular items on the menu include: shwarma (a middle eastern gyro), falafels (a deep-fried ball filled with ground chickpeas and fava beans), grape leaves stuffed with meat or vegetables, kibbee (ground beef mixed with cracked wheat, onions, seasonings and pine nuts) and many other traditional Lebanese foods.

There also will be hot dogs and hamburgers for those who want to stick with American fare.

“I am so grateful to all the volunteers who are working on this event with me,” Jasser said. “It wouldn’t be possible without their help and hard work.”

Plenty of desserts will be available, too. Abraham and other volunteers will prepare seven different pastries for the food fair. The most popular being baklawa, or as it is more commonly known baklava, made from layers of phyllo pastry, honey and chopped walnuts.

“We’ve made 20 trays or about 1,000 pieces of baklawa for the food fair,” Abraham said.

Other desserts will include ghribee (a butter cookie), ma’mool (a cream of wheat pastry filled with walnuts or dates), and some cookies and brownies will be available, too.

While Abraham enjoys all aspects of preparing the desserts for this event, her favorite part is when her whole family gets together to make the ka’ak.

“It’s really a family affair,” Abraham said. “My whole family — my husband, mother, some cousins, everyone — all comes down to the church and work together to make the ka’ak.”

Ka’ak is a traditional Lebanese anise bread topped with syrup, and Abraham and her family used more than 75 pounds of dough to make this year’s batch.

Admission to the Lebanese Food Fair is free, and tickets are available at the door to purchase food, with most food items costing between $2 and $6. Desserts are $1.75 each, except for the cookies and brownies, which are $1. All the money raised from this event will go into a general fund for the church, according to event offcials.

“We need a new roof and air conditioning,” Jasser said, “as well as some other general maintenance things to keep the church running.”

Both Jasser and Abraham encourage everyone in the community to come out to the event.

“It’s just a fun event for everyone involved,” Jasser said, “and I hope people come out to enjoy themselves.”

“This is such a great event,” Abraham added. “Come out and sample some authentic Lebanese food with friends or family.”

For more information, call the church at 330-666-3598.

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