Be it Easter or Eid, holidays in the Levantine region of the Middle East are incomplete without a shortbread cookie called maamoul. Stuffed with date paste or chopped walnuts or pistachios, and dusted with powdered sugar, these buttery cookies are the perfect reward after a month of fasting during Ramadan or Lent.
The dough is made with wheat flour or semolina (or a combination of the two), then pressed into special molds, traditionally carved in wood. And the fillings are fragrant with rosewater or orange blossom.
In the weeks leading up to Easter, the Beirut sweet shop Helwayat Al-Salam becomes a veritable factory of maamoul. Owner Mitri Hanna Moussa dips pitted dates into rosewater, then passes them through a meat grinder to make a paste. Mitri’s mother, Samira, a small, older woman with wrinkled hands but perfectly manicured nails, sits at a makeshift table sorting pistachios. She makes sure that neither a speck of shell nor a single shriveled pistachio makes its way into their renowned cookies. Once all ingredients are ready, Mitri and his assistant pinch off balls from their mountain of semolina dough. They shape the dough balls into small cups which they stuff with either date paste, pistachios or walnuts.
Then, Samira presses each stuffed dough ball into an antique wooden mold, which she thwacks against a wooden stump to toss out a perfectly formed cookie, ready to be baked. In a matter of minutes, the three of them prepare dozens more.
Blackwall was a challenge because my game blackscreened before I got to know him well, so it was a little more difficult to capture his personality. Thankfully I had all the Blackwall blogs on this hellsite to go through, which reminded me of 1) wood carving; and 2) he’s an indestructable tank.
I got a chance to play again with everyone (Sexiest Zombie, Range Proficiency: Dwarf, What Did He Say?). The Party consists of Pete The Warrior, our Necromancer Friend (No one knows his name, we just call him Nec), Anges the Dwarven Boomerang(played by our former cleric DM) and Myself. We are exploring a vampires haunted castle in search for the key that leads to his quarters, we soon come up to a door that stands out.
DM: The door is cleaner and more well kept than most, it is adorned in gold and has spiders carved out of wood.
Nec: Ooooo f*ck no… Nope, no no no. No, my contract says no spiders!
Anges: Tis just a door! Pete show dis ninny ‘ow to be a man!
Pete: I’m with the necro on this one, I don’t want to die again…
Anges: Oh for the love of- FINE *Anges opens the door*
Dm: As Anges opens the door, a larger nearly empty room sits beyond the it. The floor is scattered with webs and bones, the smell of decaying flesh filling the air. You see a pedestal at the back of the room, on it sits a old key, the key that opens the way to the vampire. But just as soon as you see the key, a grotesque hissing is heard from the ceiling as two very large decaying spiders descend and block your path.
Pete: Aaaaaand those are undead spiders…
Nec: I think I just shat myself…
Anges: Ya ’re all just a wee bunch o'cowards! PETE THROW M-
Me(OOC): I run into the room, screaming at the top of my lungs, attempting to dodge the spiders, grab the key and get out!
DM: *Eye twitching* Roll me dexterity twice and apply your bonuses…
Me(OOC): *Rolls a 19 and a Nat 20, but with bonuses from enchanted equipment I dodge both spiders* I parkour around the spiders, running on the walls while still screaming at the top of my lungs. I grab the key and jump off the back wall, performing rad flips over the spiders before landing halfway across the room, then back out! I slam the door behind me shut and bar it shut before looking back at everyone.
Headcanon: Dragon Age Inquisition Romanced Characters during St. Valentine’s day
Cullen: he organizes a wonderful dinner in the gazebo in the garden, after asking Josephine to keep the place just for him and his Inquisitor. The Inquisitor thinks that’s the present, but he smiles, blushing and rubbing his neck, holding out a packet. It’s wrapped simply, with a little bunch of her favorite flowers carefully tied there. “I hope you like it, I wasn’t sure… I can buy you something different if you don’t like it!”. Inside an exquisite leather bag, there is compass “For when you’re far away, so you’ll always find your way back to me.” he explains, smiling while she kisses him.
Cassandra: she blushes furiously, handing out to the Inquisitor a little packet, clumsily wrapped in an adorably cheesy pink paper printed with hearts. “It’s just a little thing.” she mumbles, shifting on her feet “If you don’t like it, tell me. I wasn’t sure what you might prefer.”. It’s a book. A book of love poems. Her own copy. The inscription tells simply “To my beloved.”, but the Inquisitor knows she spent hours thinking about it, pouring all her affection in the words.
Dorian: he gives the Inquisitor his present during the breakfast, as if it isn’t such a matter. But he’s holding his breath, and when his amatus opens his mouth, surprised and delighted, Dorian is radiant. In an elegant jewelry box, there is a solid gold bracelet, composed of two snakes wrapped together “I enchanted it.” Dorian smiles, smug “It’ll keep you warm when you are in cold places and vice versa. And look inside!” he urged. Where he points there is a single word “Together”.
Blackwall: of course he has carved something. It’s a little chest, easily transportable during her travels. He has surely worked for weeks, the Inquisitor realizes, looking at the complicated arabesques carved all over it. “I thought you might like something useful.” he explains, with an embarassed laugh. Inside, the wooden trunk has different compartments, and a secret one that he shows excited. Carefully carved in the precious wood, it’s written “My heart lies in your hands.”.
The Iron Bull: he gives to the Inquisitor two gifts. The first one is for both of them and the Inqusitor smirks seeing the complicated underwear, all laces and buckles. “Well, this is just for you instead, kadan.”. It’s a little dragon, made by a shining ruby. As little as the sculture is, it’s extraordinary detailed, but the Inquisitor can’t recognise the race. Bull smiles “It’s not one of the ones we fought. This is you. Well, you as I think you’d be in that form.”.
Solas: the packet is perfectly wrapped, with a sober cream paper. He smirks, when the Inquisitior opens it, finding an agenda. It’s handcrafted, with the Inquisitor’s favourite flowers dried and pressed on the cover. Inside, he has left some pages for her to full as she prefers, but the others are drawn. Flowers, scene from ancient places, and suddenly her portrait. She’s beautiful, radiant, and he caresses slowly her face “It’s how I see you, venhan.”.
Sera: she is super nervous, almost throwing her present to the Inquisitor. It’s a series of little notes, carefully tied with strings in the Inquisitor’s favorite color, placed inside a basket full of fresh flowers. “Look, I don’t say smoochy things. So I wrote them.” she mutters, blushing. Every note has a compliment or a witty consideration about the Inquisitor. Sera kisses her “I wrote everything I like about you.”.
Josephine: she has a little present, of course, a marvellous embroided new coat for them when they travel, but her true gift is a day to spend together. They have a lovely pic nic full of smiles, kisses and delicious dishes she serves personally. Josephine has made sure to have cooked all the Inquisitor’s favorite foods, as a bottle of the finest Antivan wine is ready to be shared. “I thought the most precious present is giving you a break from our busy life.” she blushes, kissing their cheek.