Lebanese Food and Culinary Traditions & Thoughts

Lebanese Food and Culinary Traditions & Thoughts
Spring time always inspires me...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

One Woman's View of Terra Madre Day in Beirut

The day started with butterflies in my stomach. Will we be able to reproduce the feelings and the energy that we so often feel in Italy during Terra Madre? Will this common force be reproduced? Will we feel the magic so often a predominant characteristic of those important days? The traffic was normal, I suddenly felt really angry... The person I had counted on had deceived me... Had made me look bad, did not understand the importance of this task. I made a decision to let go of this person on Terra Madre Day... I arrived shaking...I was so hot... yet it was cold outside... The market was already set up. I stopped the passing traffic (they can wait 1 minute, it's the Lebanese way!) to give my books to Abou Cassem, the za'tar producer. He is always there to give me a helping hand. Aren't they all, they are a second family to me... all these producers and farmers... They are always hugging me, kissing me, feeding me, telling me their pains, their frustrations, their joys, their lives... I felt relief. I continued on my way to park my car in a nearby parking. He charged extra knowing I was going to stay for the day. I didn't mind, after all it only cost about 3 dollars. I walked down the street, I started crying...I didn't want to cry... then I stopped!!! I saw a reporter whom I knew with his family walking down the road. I smiled, wiped my tears and told him, "We are celebrating Terra Madre Day today, please come and join us". His wife noticed my depressed attitude, she said that she understood the strains of raising three children... I answered, "nah...it's not that at all! Kids, you can structure them, teach them,and in turn they will win your respect" I continued, "With adults, it's not the same, you have to do the opposite to get their respect". I bid them farewell and arrived to the Hamra market.

My friend Cherine was there waiting for me. She had put all the books in neat stacks. She has recently published a cookbook herself. We stayed in the market the whole morning. Cherine came back and forth, she was worried about her aunt who needed blood urgently in the nearby hospital at AUH. I looked around me at the buyers, the producers... It was indeed an experience. I saw the friendship that these weekly producers had built among themselves. They ate breakfast together and visited each others stands during quiet moments when customer traffic was low. I saw an Arab women sit down and order everyone around. A poor Syrian boy came to shine her shoes. He asked for a mere 2000LL, she argued and told him she'd pay him only 1000LL. He agreed and worked on her dirty shoes for 10 minutes; I was simply disgusted. But then she pulled out 3000LL from her pocket and gave the boy a tip. He was so grateful. He told the woman that he had not seen his family in over 8 months. All this was making me crazy... and yet, I sat in my corner contemplating the scene. A ray of sunshine appeared, I moved my chair in the sun and thanked God to be alive. Everything changed, It was going to be OK!

In the afternoon, the producers and farmers left one by one... only a few stayed with delicious typical Lebanese recipes to feed participants and the people passing by the market later during festivities. In a matter of one hour, the whole street took on another aspect. The mood changed... It came alive for nightfall. It was amazing... The Arab lady came by again, my friend tried to invite her for some wine... She smiled and said, "this is haram". This is the contrast in Lebanon. Some appreciate products of the vine and others declare that it is "haram". Who is right, who is wrong ... who's to say....It does not matter... All that matters for now is that we are here to celebrate our local wine, our local foods, and the conviviality of being together... together here in Hamra, in Beirut ... as part of a larger entity, of a larger group, of a larger body - that of the Terra Madre community, that of a citizen of this great big world...part of a message brought forth by our colleagues around the world... part of a positive continuation that will stay embedded in the souls of generations to come ... AND maybe then, a difference will be attained and humans will recognize the value of our earth and the food that is put on our table... and the significance of this natural cycle will come back...

And suddenly, phone calls poured in... my daughter had lost her homework...the family had to be fed... a mother is simply irreplaceable.. I packed some food made with tender loving care by Oum Ali, a producer from Magdelzoum and Siham Ghanem, another producer from the Shouf... I thought this would be the perfect dinner... I left the market... There was lots of traffic, I was so tired... Would I arrive in time to feed my family... Was the day successful? Memorable? Indeed, without any doubt...

2 comments:

tasteofbeirut said...

Hi Barbara
I am blogging in Beirut now and have your book by my side. Every time I read it I discover something new. I have seen a new edition published and was wondering if you gave further information on the flour to use for man'ooshe, would you know if it needs to be bread flour or all-purpose flour? or to get even more technical, how much protein is best?

Barbara Abdeni Massaad said...

the flour used is a mixture of type 55 and type 45 ; in other words bread flour mixed with cake flour... I am against using all-purpose flour for man'oushe...hope this helps..the new edition is a replica of the 1st, with some concept and design changes made. Thanks for your question!