I spent several weeks in Bethlehem, Palestine a few years ago.  I lived by myself, which meant cooking for myself. That meant I did not necessarily eat traditional Palestinian dishes.  I did learn about one popular dish, called Maklouba.  (I see it spelled differently by different people.)  Malkouba means “upside down,” and it refers to the presentation of this dish:  when the dish is ready, the cook tips the pot upside down onto the plate so that the rice is on the bottom and the meat is on the top.

In the few short weeks I was in Bethlehem, I was served maklouba on three separate occasions.  This says to me the dish is popular!  There are endless variations on the recipe, but it is always a combination of vegetables, (usually fried), rice mixed with spices, and some sort of meat (chicken, beef, lamb are popular).  Each “layer” is cooked separately.

Most of the pictures included in this gallery were taken on the day that a group of culinary students showed me how they made the dish and then served it to me.  It was dellicious!  Each time I was served it the dish was always a little bit different, but it was always tasty.

After I returned home to the U.S., I felt I needed to make maklouba myself.  One of the pictures is of me with my own homemade attempt.

I am including links to a few online recipes I found for this dish, in case you want to try it yourself.  Enjoy!

“Please turn to the gee!” My great dogsledding adventure

getting ready
getting ready


The long and brutal winters of Minnesota can be hard to take. Yes, they build character, but sometimes a gal accumulates so much character, she doesn’t know what to do with it all.  At that point, a change of pace is in order.

A few years ago, some friends and I decided to meet winter head-on with a day of dog sledding. We used the dogs and services of Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge in Ely, Minnesota.

dogsled doggie

Not knowing what to expect, we signed up for the half-day tour.  The lodge has longer tours, though, ranging from one full day to several-day tours for the true outdoor enthusiast.

We had two people per sled, led by a pack of several dogs.  The staff started by orienting us, explaining what to expect and how to lead the dogs.  They did not abandon us, though.   A guide accompanied us on skis in case we got in trouble.

Debra with dogs

The dogs’ pace was brisk, but not too fast.  They took us over frozen lakes and through hilly, winding forest paths.  For the most part, they were not too hard to control, although we had a few close calls when veering around trees.  It was great fun!

C with dogs 2

I would definitely recommend trying dog sledding at least once in your life.  The main drawback was that it was quite cold.  (Even though we were bundled up, it remained a bit chilly because we weren’t exercising; we were mostly just standing on the sled.)  A full day (or several days) of that kind of cold would be tough.

Here are a few fun facts about Wintergreen, sled dogs and dog sledding.

 good doggie

  • Wintergreen has a “staff” of 65 Canadian Inuit dogs. According to their website, “Canadian Inuit Dogs are one of four main working breeds of the far north, which also includes the Siberian Husky, the Malamute and the Samoyed. The Siberian Husky and their mixed breed cousins (commonly called Alaskan Huskies) are the fastest and thus are the breed of choice for racers, though they range only 40-60 pounds in size. . .averaging 80 pounds, the Canadian Eskimo Dog falls between the Malamute and Husky in size. That means they’ve got the beef and build for back country travel but can still be comfortably handled by most beginners. Most of them are extremely personable.
  •  Size isn’t everything. Sometimes the strongest dogs are on the small size. “You rarely see a really good sled dog over about 55 pounds,” says onetime musher Joe Runyan,who won Alaska’s Iditarod sled dog race in 1989 (PBS Nature),
  • With the advent of cars and snowmobiles, dog sledding declined as a mode of transportation in the snowy north. But in 1925, in hazardous conditions, Alaskan sled dogs proved vital when they were used to transport diptheria serum from Nenana to Nome to stop an epidemic.  This heroic trip was the basis of the famous Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, which is over 1000 miles. (Neary)
  • Like all elite athletes, sled dogs need to keep in shape year-round. Sled dog owners or “mushers” will often start training their dogs in the fall, often by roping the team to four-wheeled cart or to an ATM vehicle.  One owner, Nancy Ensley, says she begins her dogs’ fall training with four mile runs as they are roped to her ATM.  Gradually, the dogs work up to thirty-mile runs.


Let's go already!
Let’s go already!
  • At first, I was ambivalent about using the dogs to pull us and our sled. I thought it might be abusive to force them to pull us.  I soon realized, though, that they really do love to run and pull.  When the team was standing around waiting to go, they were irritable.  They bickered with each other and got into little skirmishes.  However, once we started moving, they were happy as could be and got along swimmingly with each other.
  • In our orientation at Wintergreen, we learned that “gee” is the command for a right turn and “haw” is the command for a left turn. I learned the hard way, however, that my polite request to the dogs to “please turn to the gee” and “could you possibly take a haw here?”  did not work well.    Yelling works better.
  • I also learned that sled dogs will obey our commands—but only up to a point. (They are like college students in this respect.)  If the team sees another team of dogs off in the distance, they will run after their doggie friends rather than listening to City Girls’ pleas to stop.
  • The dogs are pretty darn adorable! I understand why Nancy Ensley has them sleep in the house with her at night.


Io, is that You?



This photo is in honor of Io, the woman from Ovid’s Metamorphoses who was turned into a cow.  The Metamorphoses is the ancient Roman poet Ovid’s compendium of Greek and Roman myths.  All of these myths are linked together so that the poem tells the story of the world, from the creation to the then-present time of Roman Empire.  Linking each story is the process of transformation: people get transformed into animals; animals get transformed into stars, and so forth.

While Ovid was a brilliant writer, I find this poem rather painful to read at times because there is so much abuse of the humans by the gods.  In particular, the male gods (especially Jove/Jupiter) have a habit of lusting after female humans and raping them.  These women are then transformed (usually against their will) into another creature.

The myth of Io and Juno provides one example.  Io was a lovely young woman.  Jove had a “thing” for lovely young women and started pursuing her, literally.  Io most certainly was not interested in having sex with Jove, but he chased her “until she entered the shady groves of Lyrcea / And there, cloaked by a sudden thundercloud / Jove overcame her scruples and her flight.” (Book I, p 48).

As if being overtaken by a thunderbolt-wielding lust-crazed god wasn’t enough, there was more.  Jove’s wife Juno guessed what was going on between her husband and Io, and tried to stop them.  However, Jove realized Juno was coming, so he turned Io into a cow.  It’s as if he said, “Who me?  Raping a virgin?  I would never do that.  I’m just hanging out with this pretty little cow.”

So Io, who was just going about her business, not only get raped, but she also gets transformed into a cow in order to appease the angry wife.  How fair is that?  Unfortunately, Greek and Roman mythology is full of similar stories of male gods being entranced by human females, with the women usually having to pay a heavy price for being attractive.

We talk today about living in a rape culture.  I would remind readers that this culture is nothing new.  We only have to glance at classic literature to see it displayed full force.