The Scoop on the Etiquette of Eating Lebanese Bread

Lebanese bread, also known as Arabic bread, or as the locals pronounce it, kh’GHtfHz, is a remarkable product. It is said that early man was given the recipe for Lebanese bread by divine intervention. When Adam was exiled from paradise, he wandered in the Arabian desert for fourty days. At the end, he reached a green, fertile land where he had free access to an abundance of foods. Berries, nuts, seeds, root vegetables and greens dominated the scenery and food stuffs such as vine leaves were successful as clothing as well as being a perfect wrapping sheet for Eve’s famous dolmades. One night, as he pondered the events leading up to his exile over a plate of hummous, feeling helpless and alone, Adam cried a single tear. His tear fell on an ant that looked up to see what befell it and saw the source of the tear. The ant took pity on Adam, sitting there, all alone, with no cutlery. She pleaded to God and asked that Adam be given some source of cheer and happiness. And out of thin air, a bag of bread appeareth before Adam and he henceforth ate hummous with bread for the rest of his days.

This story is passed down through an oral tradition by the Bedouin tribes of Lebanon, where the direct descendants of Adam still eat hummous with Lebanese bread to this day. But, do you, dear reader, know how to eat with Lebanese bread? Well, let me tell you how, and hopefully allow you to experience some insight on how the Middle East eats Lebanese bread. This article is part of a series I intend to write about the various forms of eating with Lebanese bread. I wish to begin with the following enigmatic form: The Scoop.

The Scoop

The most common and basic way to eat with Lebanese bread, “The Scoop” is also possibly one of the most obscure and least understood by westerners in terms of structure and uses. If you are eating mezze, seeking assistance from a spoon to put a dollop of baba ghannouj on a piece of Lebanese bread is far too tedious as well as being a sure way of making yourself known as a foreigner. Master “The Scoop” and you are sure to win the heart of the villagers, almost securing yourself a beautiful bride; or if you are a young lady, you will almost certainly earn the right to hand feed the tribe leader’s son. To perfect the art of “The Scoop” you must understand its construction. The idea is to create an edge on one side to “cut” through the dip you are trying to eat, whilst creating fortified edges to ensure the integrity of the structure, much as you would with an underground military tunnel. The following are the steps to follow to achieve perfection, and though they seem tedious, they might save your life if you are ever mistaken for an infidel or a spy, taken hostage and forced to eat with your captors, so make sure you practice before your next visit:

1. A uniform slice of Lebanese bread is held securely between the thumb and index of your left hand, with enough bread protruding on the three sides of your thumb.

2. Then with your right hand, you fold the middle flap over your thumb’s fingernail. Your right thumb should keep this flap secure and under observation

3. Fold the left flap over the middle flap and secure both with your right hand’s index finger. The edge of the left flap should be at a slight angle

4. Fold the right flap over the middle flap in such a way that the two meet at the edge and create a point that allows you to hold the scoop. Be careful not to reverse steps 3 and 4 as you might offend your host. The left flap is always folded first

5. Assuming you’ve survived step 4 and your host is content, use “The Scoop” to literally scoop your dip of choice. Enjoy, without smiling too much.

28 Responses to “The Scoop on the Etiquette of Eating Lebanese Bread”

  1. Forager says:

    Great post and neat drawings too! I’ve only just realised there is a technique – clearly haven’t been observing others at Lebanese retaurants. Now I am well armed to take on the next dip and impress others with my borrowed food knowledge! Can’t wait to try it out!
    Forager´s last [type] ..David Thompson’s easy tom yum goong

  2. Forage says:

    You know, I’ve always wondered how to do that! No wonder I’ve never won the hand of a tribe leader’s son ; ) cool post. now i’m going to scour your site for lebanese bread and homous recipe
    .-= Forage´s last blog ..Pistachio-encrusted salmon with parsnip mash =-.

  3. FOODESSA says:

    I’ve frequented quite a few Arabic restaurants…never giving one thought to scooping etiquette. Now, I guess I’ll have to practice it so that this Italian can pass for a Lebanese and impress her friends ;o)
    I had a quick look around…I’ll certainly have to come back.
    If you’re wondering…I followed you from Joumana’s blog ‘Taste of Beirut’
    Very interesting post.
    Flavourful wishes, Claudia

  4. lol. The perfect post for all us lebanese bread savages. I am well versed in the structural superiority of the scoop now. Awesome drawings too.
    .-= Helen (grabyourfork)´s last blog ..Chicken rice balls, Nyonya cendol and 1m roti tisu, Melaka, Malaysia =-.

  5. AHAHA! Love it! Now I have to practice my scoop technique so that I can one day hand feed a tribal leader’s soon (my ultimate dream) ;)
    .-= Betty @ The Hungry Girl´s last blog ..Pho Bac Hai Duong, Marrickville =-.

  6. Oops. I meant son!
    .-= Betty @ The Hungry Girl´s last blog ..Pho Bac Hai Duong, Marrickville =-.

  7. Maria says:

    I love this! I might print this out and bring it with me next time I’m going to a Lebanese restaurant!

  8. The Ninja says:

    Good for slurping up the blood of your captors after you get taken hostage

  9. Reemski says:

    As someone of Middle Eastern background, I find that post truly hilarious, as would my mother. I must show it to her!

  10. linda says:

    ROFL this is such a classic Fouad. What an awesome article, I finally learnt how Lebanese bread came in to the scene, I guess you learn something new every day.
    .-= linda´s last blog ..Malaysia Mondays – Cameron Highlands =-.

  11. Gourmantic says:

    Brilliant! Print these on napkins and sell them to Lebanese restaurants around the country. You’ll be the ambassador of Lebanese bread!

    PS I only take 30% commission ;)
    .-= Gourmantic´s last blog ..Winning the May Grantourismo Travel Blogging Competition: A Personal Post =-.

  12. Jen says:

    Haha, so that’s the secret technique! Woohoo, this will be the end of dropping dip before it reaches my mouth! :)
    .-= Jen´s last blog ..Cosmopolitan’s Fun Fearless Female – Women Of The Year Awards =-.

  13. Moya says:

    Brilliant illustrations! I will no longer disgrace myself in Lebanese restaurants!
    .-= Moya´s last blog ..Home cured olives =-.

  14. i totally never knew about this. i’ll have to remember next time. i usually grab grab a piece of bread and smear it into the dip and eat it but this technique would allow me to scoop more dip :-) great illustrations!
    .-= Simon Food Favourites´s last blog ..Wong Kee Fast Food: Char Kway Teow, CBD Sydney (2 June 2010) =-.

  15. Viviane says:

    Hahahahaha! OMG! This is hilarious! I think when such a way of using the Lebanese bread is used naturally in your environment so you don’t question. The military assimilation is too funny and so are the comments on the sketches. I chuckled a bit. I bet thought that for novices it is one hell of a helpful posts. Looking forward for the other parts.
    .-= Viviane´s last blog ..Cooking is Art, Baking is Chemistry =-.

  16. Another masterful piece of writing Fouad! I laughed heartily and thank you profusely for the good time I enjoy while visiting you. Loved the drawings too and second Gourmantic suggestion and think you should take it and go for her 30% offer.
    .-= tasteofbeirut´s last blog ..Grape leaves stuffed with bulgur and chick-peas =-.

  17. Amanda says:

    Thank goodness for your most informative post!!
    Cross cultural dining is such an etiquette minefield. ;)
    .-= Amanda´s last blog ..Love and cheesecake – Italian style =-.

  18. That’s awesome! I never realised I was doing it so wrong. Will be trying out today!
    .-= Simon T Small´s last blog ..Muesli with Banana & Honey at home =-.

  19. Love the Adam, Eve and ant story.

    So now that I know what I have been doing wrong for so many years I shall be “scooping” my bread from now on. I probably wont make as much of a mess as I can do too!
    .-= sara (Belly Rumbles)´s last blog ..Tokonoma =-.

  20. You know, if this post was released on the first day of April, I’d swear that this was a hoax post.

    Certainly learned something by reading this post. I’ll have to wait and see whether the standard way that I eat at Lebanese and Middle Eastern establishments is considered ettiquette.

  21. Fouad says:

    Hi guys. Thanks for your lovely comments and apologies on the lateness of my reply.

    Forage – hehehe. Watch out for those tribe leader’s sons, they are difficult people

    Foodessa – Thanks for visiting. Great to have you here. Would you like a coffee? Joumana is welcome too  Scooping etiquette might just save your life, so please pay close attention to the instructions

    Helen – I thought I already gave you a private lesson on this. Don’t tell me you still use cutlery!

    Betty – you’re in luck. I myself am a tribe leader’s son :P

    Maria – If you do print this out, send $5 per copy to my address as royalty

    The Ninja – indeed, very good to slurp up enemy blood

    Reemski – Hehehe. Great! Did your mother enjoy it?

    Linda – your desserts suck! Thanks for the nice comment though

    Gourmantic – I’ll send 30% of whatever Maria sends me across your way for sure 

    Jen – You can also consider moving your mouth closer to the plate hehehehe. I’m glad I was able to help decipher Lebanese bread for you

    Moya – hopefully, once you are in the Middle East you remember these instructions. Study them well

    Simon Food Favourites – smearing has its uses will be covered in lesson 3

    Viviane – Hehehehe. Shhh. People are taking this post seriously, so please don’t ruin it for everyone

    Joumana – Thank you! You are too kind. I hope you are enjoying Lebanon. I wish I was there. Say hi to my parents for me 

    Amanda – watch out for those Middle Eastern minefields I always say hehehe

    Simon T Small – Did it work? Glad you enjoyed

    Sara – Hehehe. My brain works in mysterious ways. The scoop works with garlic sauce too you know.

    Simon @ the heart of food – Hehehehe. Is April fool’s the only legal day to tell a small fib? Glad you enjoyed

  22. Debbie says:

    I cannot find reference to the manners of eating other bread. I have a running debate with someone where they have told me it is proper to “sop” food with bread and to use bread as a utensil in getting extra food onto the fork. I disagree and say that the knife is used for that purpose. Can any of you foodies help me out with the proper etiquette here?
    Thank you!

  23. Paty M says:

    hehehe i’ve always managed to mess this bread thingy up!la2 ur blog raw3a :p ill stop living here for the night and probably continue tomorrow!

  24. Jacy says:

    Expert Lebanese diners do this one-handed! I know I do … ;)

  25. OK, this is hilarious and awesome in equal measure. Bread incompetence begone!
    Vibey @ Yumbo McGillicutty!´s last [type] ..Hotspots and hotpots

  26. Bote Man says:

    I can confirm that this is the absolute unvarnished truth. We were recently blessed with our first Lebanese restaurant here in South Florida, a very nice place with tasty food and good help.

    I witnessed one of the chefs take his meal to an outside table and perform this exact ritual with each piece of bread. That’s what led to the Google search that brought me here. Well done!

  27. Lisa Abejja says:

    Now I know why my husband laughs at me when I fruitlessly try to scoop dip with bread hahahaha Thank you very much ! this is great =D

  28. Brazilfarmer says:

    Although fascinated by the techniques involved in eating Lebanese bread I am somewhat confused by the fact that both hands appear to be in action in the diagrams. Is this a more modern approach that ignores the more traditional Muslim heritage of the country?

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