For 57 years, Lebanese dinner delights Vicksburg diners

Published 8:09 pm Friday, January 27, 2017

Feb. 13, the members of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church and hundreds more Vicksburg residents will sit down to dine on such Lebanese treats as kibbe, sambousek, cabbage rolls and baklava.

Others will pick up their meals and take them home to enjoy.

Like its predecessors before it, the church’s 57th annual Lebanese dinner is expected to draw a lot of people.

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“Every year it gets bigger every year,” dinner chairman Rhonda Wright said. “Last year, we served 3,500 to 3,600 people.”

But putting the meal together doesn’t take place overnight, Wright said, adding it takes about month to prepare the different dishes diners enjoy annually.

“It’s very labor intensive,” Gloria Dornbusch said Saturday as she dipped a cooled baked sambusek, a small pie containing chopped pecans and sugar, into a bowl of syrup.

Dornbusch was one of several church volunteers making sambusek and baklava, a rolled or layered pastry with nuts, sugar and cinnamon, two of the sweet desserts served during the dinner. She and Irene Tzotzolas are the sweets team chairmen for the dinner.

By the time the sweets team completed its work Saturday afternoon, the group had 600 sambusek and 700 baklava completed and ready to serve.

“We have teams to prepare each part of the dinner, and we have chairmen for each team. Volunteers come in and do the preparation,” Wright said, adding work on the food began Jan. 18 and would continue up to the day of the dinner.

By that time, she said, the teams will have prepared 13,000 cabbage rolls and 168 pans of kibbe, a baked dish of finely ground lamb mixed with wheat and spices. The only thing left to prepare will be green beans and tabouli, a Lebanese salad.

“The green beans and tabouli are prepared the day of the dinner,” Dornbusch said.

Begun in 1960 to raise money to build a new church, the Lebanese dinner is one of the city’s most popular traditions in more ways than one.

“Generations of families have prepared the dinner,” Wright said. “My family is four generations involved doing the dinner.”

“My mother was sweets chairman,” Dornbusch said.

“We’re trying to pass this down what we know to our children,” Wright said.

“In the beginning, it was just the women who prepared the meal, but now a lot of the men and children are getting involved and learning how to do things. They help with chopping vegetables and they roll cabbage leaves.”

Tickets for the dinner are $13 and available from any church member or by calling the church at 601-636-2483.

Dinner will be served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 5 to 7 p.m. Tickets will be sold at the door only from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. tickets for the evening meal are sold in advance only.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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