“Mooneh,” this word evokes a feeling of home, security, nourishment, tradition, maternal instinct, and much more. For us Lebanese, it is indeed very much of our culinary traditions, and way of life. The word itself comes from the Arabic word mana meaning storing. In the past, especially in remote villages, mooneh was prepared during the summer months in order to be consumed during winter’s harsh days.
The mooneh was the fundamental nourishment of the peasants’ meal. The main purpose was to transform foods that were to perish into foods with long shelf life. These in turn became durable, lasting throughout a whole season; thus preserving basic food groups.
Today, without the urgent necessity of preserving one’s winter foods, the mooneh has become more of a sociological act. For some, it is a way to keep our basic culinary heritage. For others, it is still very important to preserve one’s bountiful harvest for winter’s consumption to avoid any kind of waste. And yet, others have continued to make mooneh to stock food for security purposes, prepared as a moral crutch to ensure food abundance in times of political instabilities. As you can see, mooneh can take on many different aspects, but the basic idea encompasses one of preserving food.
Preparing one’s mooneh is an elaborate work and in yesteryears sometimes involved a whole community. Nowadays, it is rare to find a household that prepares every single type of mooneh item. Very often, one prepares the mooneh with the harvest of the lands worked and labored during the season. Some who do not own land; wait for the cheapest economical value to buy all their goods to make their yearly mooneh.
The characteristics and elements of the mooneh can be very wide and rich. This is just a glimpse as to what the mooneh entails to our culinary heritage. It is an entity that should not be forsaken, that should be rediscovered, that should to be cherished, that should be replenished, and finally that should be kept alive. It is the mooneh of our ancestors, of our grandparents, of our parents; and the rest…the future is up to you!