Welcome! My name is Lilian, but my friends call me Lily. It's so nice to meet you, and I'm so glad you are here.
My Whole Life Story
Made in California in 1985, my childhood spans Tamagotchis and slap bracelets. I'm made from American (originally Northern European) and Lebanese genetics despite convincing my younger brother his real name was Maria and I'm really from another planet.
As a kid, I was obsessed with Michael Jackson and would only jump off of the diving board doing one of his dance moves.
My childhood was spent trying to find ways to join the circus, babysitting, and starting businesses (lemonade stands) that would help me save up for my dream car when I turned 16 - a Jeep Wrangler. Dreams really do come true.
I have 3 younger siblings that have kept me humble. My brother, Jamil, is actually the best cook I know. Jason is the youngest and wisest of our family. My sister, Angie, is a talented musician and artist.
My mother, Judy, is a retired teacher, pianist, and licensed professional counselor at Live Oak Therapy Group, a telehealth counseling practice in Texas.
My father, Elie, and grandmother (Tayta Lily) are not afraid of snakes, which I find entirely fascinating.
Growing up, I was taught to play tennis with a two-handed tennis racquet- an invention of my father's (yes, it’s ITF approved).
Aside from helping my Granny out in the kitchen and one time trying to bake a frozen duck, my first cooking lessons were as a teenager from my Thai neighbor, Pat. She is a professional chef, and I still have my recipes and notes from almost 18 years ago. Little did I know that this little passion of mine would come full circle almost 2 decades later.
Following the Conventional Route
In 2004, I went to college to study mechanical engineering. I'm not going to lie, I thought I made a mistake at the time. During all 4 years of undergraduate study, I felt this pressure on my shoulders that I was carving out the next 38 years of my professional life. That feels really heavy for someone in their early twenties, who is just starting to figure out what they like and don't like. If I had to say one thing to my younger self it would be: You got this and nothing is permanent (aside from student loan debt!).
My 10-year corporate engineering career was variable, like most things in life. There were things I liked and things I didn't like. I worked with cool people, in cool places, and learned a lot about physical products: how they are designed, built, operated, and procured. Sometimes, I would run into obstacles that crossed my path.
The biggest takeaway from my corporate career was: Follow your passion. Do what you love and love what you do. Otherwise, at some point, we all hit a ceiling in personal and professional development, and we stagnate. What value is growth to you?
While I was pregnant, I left my corporate job and decided to stay home with my daughter, Amina, for her first year. Shortly after Amina was born, I moved to Abu Dhabi.
Motherhood is Challenging
My experience with motherhood can be summed up in two words: fulfilling and challenging. Even though I'm so thankful to be a mother, I'm also surprised by how difficult it is. I made a lot of assumptions prior to starting my journey as a mother, and well, I guess you don't know what you don't know. But now I know.
At first, I thought maybe I was a different mother duck struggling on the sidelines. But as I spoke to more and more women, I realized we all have similar stories and difficulties. Even with supportive spouses, being a mother is super hard. Sacrifices are inherent and many times unseen. But that's ok because it shapes us into who we are today. Motherhood has only strengthened my larger purpose which is empowering women.
Michele Obama pretty much summed up my stance on being a mom in her documentary Becoming. A lot of times something has to give, and that's ok. It's a different kind of beautiful, and I'm embracing it.
How The Matbakh Got Started
I've always loved cooking and bringing people together. What started as a creative outlet where I could mentally disconnect from being a stay-at-home mom has turned into a full-blown passion. This passion project is constantly evolving and changing.
Cooking has always symbolized something more to me than just making food to eat. Cooking brings up memories from my childhood, it's a creative place where I can try new things, it's a place to connect with friends and family or even a way to immerse myself in a new culture. Food is the vessel for which I travel to new places, build beautiful memories, and have meaningful relationships.
Anyways, enough about me... now that you know my whole life story. Let's talk about you and what you can find here.
What You Can Find at The Matbakh
The word matbakh means kitchen in Arabic. Here you will find tasty, easy options for cooking with likely a cultural twist. Everything from Granny’s sweet potato casserole to bulgar wheat tabouli, you will find a variety of flavors and stories behind each dish brought to you from travels abroad and international friendships.
Just like many of us are a hodgepodge of nationalities and backgrounds, this food blog is a cultural melting pot with an emphasis on Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. You might have already noticed that we have a small team. We share parts of ourselves through our recipes because cooking is a way of connecting with people. Thank you for being here.