Kibbe and Myth in the Mississippi Delta
Travel Blog • Joanna Kakissis • 02.07.08 | 11:06 AM ET
If you go to any family-run diner in the Mississippi Delta, chances are you’ll find tabouleh, dolmas and the Lebanese meat dish called kibbe tucked between the barbecue and fried chicken on the menu. That’s because waves of Lebanese settled in Mississippi between the 1870s and 1960s, setting up grocery stores and restaurants to make a living, according to NPR’s Kitchen Sisters and “the Faulkner of Southern food,” John T. Edge.
One of the most noted is Abe’s BAR-B-Q in Clarksdale, where you can feast on kibbe, cabbage rolls and stuffed grape leaves as well as hear a few stories about Ike and Tina Turner, who used to work at a grocery store owned by Abe’s family.
But I was most intrigued by a vision from 1924, when Abe’s first opened: Abe, an immigrant from Zahale, Lebanon, watched legendary blues guitarist Robert Johnson playing near some sycamore trees. Could it be where the evanescent Johnson met the devil and exchanged his soul for killer blues chops? Now that’s my kind of American story.