When and how did you become interested in cooking Lebanese food? Have you ever lived in Lebanon, or do you have any interest in doing so? My grandparents are Lebanese immigrants from the turn of the last century, so my interest was born out of my love for the Lebanese culinary traditions that have always been an integral part of our family life. Years ago, when I was back in Michigan studying literature in grad school at Michigan State, I visited my Sitto (that's Arabic for Grandma) every week. Looking back, I see that the real education I received was in her Lebanese kitchen learning to bake impossibly thin flatbread (what I'd give for another lesson from her today!) and how to turn out fresh, creamy yogurt every week with a starter from the last week. I made my first trip to Lebanon just two years ago, after what can only be described as my lifelong yearning to get there. The strife in the region had kept me, and many in my family, from making the trip at various times over the years. When I finally made it there, it felt so familiar. I met family I'd never known, really rather close relatives, and couldn't get enough of both the classic Lebanese dishes I'd grown up with as well as the very exciting innovations that are such a part of the ancient and cosmopolitan culture there. I'm blogging this week, in fact, about the za'atar croissants we ate everywhere there, be it at a high-end Four Seasons breakfast or a café (including Starbucks in downtown Beirut).