Roaming around Ain Mreisse with my friend Faysal, a budding playwright, chewing on many lahmajoons, and discussing literature and theatre …Sitting with my Teta Nabiha at a small table in Al-Ajami restaurant downtown savoring ever so slowly a rose-flavored booza (ice-cream)…going out to eat chicken shawarma at Marroush near the AUB, feeling all grown-up.
At home, watching Teta in our tiny kitchen pounding olives with a stone and covering them in salt to cure them for a while; making sheesh barak dough on the small formica table then deftly shaping the tiny dumplings filled with meat kafta; watching her make lemonade by rubbing the half lemons with her knuckles in a big basin to release their fragrant oil and then dousing them with orange blossom water and sugar; and when it was decided to make it for Sunday lunch, spreading the mulukhia leaves on a white sheet on top of her queen-size bed to dry thoroughly, then patiently gathering each leaf in a pile of several hundreds that she would slowly and accurately run the blade of her sharp knife through the stack shredding them into thousands of pieces…; lowering the straw basket from our balcony on the fourth floor to get a kilo of tomatoes from the cart vendor, only to argue with him a minute later that 15 piastres was too much and she’d only pay 10. and of course, the pounding in the kitchen when it was the day for making kibbe, rythmic and decisive in the stone mudaqqa.
Living in Beirut was a sensual experience every day.
Despite the violence and bloody destruction that continues to plague my homeland, I bow to all those who, like my grandmother, kept our culinary tradition alive, the only aspect of our culture that will not be crushed…
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