It has been my privilege to befriend Philippe and Saidé, people I consider Salt of the Earth: Seasoned farmers (for generations) in the Lebanese mountains. They raised six beautiful children, all grown and gone to live an urban life in Beirut or in North America. Here they are, left with an intimate knowledge of nature and agriculture and no one to pass it on to. I sat down with Saidé, or as I call her Um Elias (mother of Elias, her firstborn), to learn a bit about her life in these parts during extremely difficult circumstances when the country was in the grips of civil war. She told me about her trek to Deir el-Qamar (escaping a massacre in her home village); she walked for nine hours with her children in tow; she cupped her newborn in the folds of her dress and held him by the grip of her teeth. She told me of finding a benevolent soul who gave them a place to live and the weekly donation of staples when the Red Cross truck would stop in town. However, there was no delivery of coffee or tobacco. Um Elias chuckled as she describes a town resident and his buddies meet-up for farting sessions after drinking coffee made out of chickpeas. She told me: “I was not going to do this, I found a better way!”; she roasted acorns instead, grinding them and making acorn coffee. She would point to her belly and say “this would not inflate! much better than hummus!” (hummus is also the word for chickpeas in Arabic).
Lebanese mountains are covered with oak trees and acorns this time of year are everywhere on the ground. I picked a bunch, pulled them out of their husks and decided to try this coffee. Apparently, the Native Americans used to eat acorns and even now in Korea acorn flour is used to make a type of pasta. Here’s how to do it: Pick some acorn and pull them out of their husks (they come out easily). Make a small slit on each in two places with the tip of a knife. Place them on a baking sheet and roast them in a 350F oven for 30 minutes; you will smell a wonderful nutty fragrance wafting out of the oven. The nuts need to be dark brown near black. Remove from the oven, cool a bit and peel them. Cool them completely and grind them in a coffee grinder till powdery. Keep in the freezer till needed, in a tight plastic bag or container. To make coffee, use the same directions as your regular drip or French press or Turkish coffee. the coffee will be bitter so a sweetener is needed here. Um Elias showing me an onion bulb. I had no idea it was so complex to grow onions from seeds of other onions.
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