Videography and editing by Hassaan Ashraf
Mom picked so many grapeleaves last spring. She reconnected with a cousin who owns a Lebanese restaurant and pickles the leaves to use through the year. She decided to pick an abundance of leaves to save. Everything was about the game of spotting vines, quality, and stealability. At a family supper my uncle told me about how he’d walk with his wife and her family enjoying a neighborhood walk that quickly turned into a herd of Arab women and him malling a grapevine and minutes later, leaving the bush in shreds.
A labour of love, a group of thieves.
Last year mom’s collection grew so fast, that by the end of the season she had pickled 10 jars, each with 100-120 leaves, stacked thick, then rolled and bound with sewing thread, tucked next to and on top of one another. I asked her if this was her first time pickling the leaves, proudly wondering if my project and if my recent interest in food had inspired her own process. She answered, no—that when we were new to Winnipeg my sister and I would constantly request warak arish. Shocked, I told her I had no recollection of this. She simply replied, that it was 20 years ago.
That my interest in Lebanese food has led my inquiry into identity, place, and relationship is not surprising. That my godmother left me a gold grape pendant may be coincidental. That my continual return to engaging the magic of grape leaves and grapevines is a testament of my lineage.
I juggle fragmented identities that shapeshift with time and place; homes I have come to know, can’t remember, and have not yet visited; lands I have been displaced from, migrated to, and settled on. I learn where I came from. I indulge my romantic longing. I create a repertoire for femme disruption and belonging.