To most Americans, Lebanon is an ancient country with a complicated religious and political history. It's somewhere "over there," in the Middle East, where Americans don't quite understand the people and aren't sure who is in charge of what. I am that American, but I gain new understanding each time I lead a tour that includes Dean's Mediterranean Imports at Findlay Market.
"Dean is my dad," begins Kate as she explains that she is the second-generation owner of this quaint little shop. "My dad came to this country thirty years ago and started this store when he couldn't find any Lebanese food that he really liked," she continues. "I grew up taking hummus to school before it was cool." Kate's presentation moves into the description of each of the foods that the guests will sample, and I can see the anticipation building as she explains the sourcing of the ingredients for each item. We can all sense the pride as she speaks about her Lebanese heritage and her passion as she strives to maintain the standards set by her father. She invites the guests to sample what to us looks like a feast. "There's plenty," Kate says, "because that's what we like to do. We eat and we share." Today we enjoy falafel, dates, figs, apricots, and freshly roasted cashews, and we leave with a better appreciation for a region that's "over there."