Date of Award


Document Type



Colby College. Jewish Studies Dept.


David M. Freidenreich


No discussion of Lebanese food is complete without the mention of kibbee. Whether the discussion is simply a description of the legendary dish in general, an examination of the various methods in which kibbee can be cooked (or not cooked), or the type of meat one uses, if you don’t know kibbee, you don’t know the Lebanese community of Waterville, Maine. Surely this is not to say that this singular dish can encompass Waterville’s entire particular brand of Lebanese identity. Dishes like cabbage rolls and grape leaves compete with kibbee in popularity, and like many other dishes, represent the local culture in unique and important ways. For some, the memories of cooking Lebanese style flatbread may be their most cherished, and for others this space will be occupied by imjadara. However, unlike these other dishes, an exploration of kibbee can provide a powerful overview of how Lebanese identity is formed in Waterville, and how food has been working to shape that identity for more than a century.

There is a deep connection between food and Lebanese identity within the community found in Waterville. Kibbee is especially emblematic of this connection, as the ways in which it is prepared, enjoyed and shared can provide a tremendous amount of insight into the identities of these community members. The physical nature of foods like kibbee can provide important insights about economic conditions and the status of Americanization within the community. Institutions such as Saint Joseph’s Church and Joseph’s Market also have their significance highlighted in this discussion of kibbee, as the services they provide with relation to this dish have a lot to say about their connections to Lebanese identity. Finally, Lebanese food not only represents an important connection with the community’s past, but also allows it to share this history and culture with others.

The following research delves into the history of the Lebanese community in an effort to explain how the distinct food practices found in Waterville relate to the specific Lebanese identity located there. Focusing primarily on the time period between the 1920s and 1960s, the roots of today’s Lebanese identity and its strong connections to food will be investigated.


assimilation, Americanization, immigrants, ethnic cuisine



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