Lebanese Food / Wine and Culinary Traditions

Lebanese Food / Wine and Culinary Traditions
Spring time always inspires me...

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Apple Does Not Fall Far From the Tree

You often wonder why you act a certain way, or take a path that leads you to something that you are familiar with... I understood this much later in life. I arrived to Lebanon as a young woman of 18 years of age. It was a very difficult period of my life - a cultural shock from sunny Florida. I was devastated. My father suggested I work with him, as he had the intention of setting up a photography studio in Ballouneh. I didn't want to hear anything about it. I wanted to go to university and learn a trade of my own... Years later, many years later... I have followed the steps of my father indirectly, in my own way focusing on food and photography with a strong curiosity and generosity towards other people (as he has all his life). So the expression, "the apple does not fall far from the tree" is quite relevant ... My childhood was different and I think that's what made me think "out of the box".

Now that my children are turning into young adults, it is fascinating to see the evolution of their characters and aspirations ... Each generation builds on the other, taking dreams into another level.

Carla Henoud, a renowned Lebanese journalist, wrote a beautiful piece about my father which I would like to share. It sums up his work and life in a way that she only knows how to write. If you are interested to read the article in English please copy and paste on google translate.

Perdu de vue ... Georgie Abdeni, un Dorian Gray à l'envers !

REPORTAGES
06/05/2000
 
Abdeni. Une signature, au haut d’un immense portrait en noir et blanc. Une griffe, celle du grand photographe Georgie Abdeni qui a immortalisé des visages célèbres et moins célèbres, les figeant dans une beauté intemporelle et indélébile. 

C’était le temps du noir et blanc. L’heureux temps où la photographie se sentait, se pensait et se faisait par des maîtres-artisans, avec, pour outils de travail, un appareil, un studio et un regard. C’était le temps de la frivolité, de l’émergence d’une créativité qui trouvait enfin son expression, son identité et sa place au Liban. Heureux temps… 

Georgie Abdeni se souvient de ces jours en noir et blanc. Tout dans son studio des années 70 lui rappelle les visages d’avant, leurs sourires et son bonheur de capter ces instants d’intimité. «Je suis un homme qui a arrêté le temps, un Dorian Gray à l’envers !», précise-t-il, avec son grand sourire et son accent américano-libanais. Sur ces grandes photos qui comblent les murs comme des présences éternelles, le temps assassin n’a en effet laissé aucune empreinte . On dirait qu’il s’est arrêté… Aucune trace de rides, d’années rajoutées, de valeurs ôtées. Ces femmes troublantes de beauté fixent le visiteur – ou l’objectif de Abdeni – et murmurent leur satisfaction. Elles ont toutes un regard intense, une attitude «mise en scène» par ce même magicien. 

Pour réussir ce travail, il fallait, bien sûr, beaucoup de psychologie et de savoir-faire. «La photographie n’est pas seulement un art. C’est également de la mode, du maquillage. Le photographe doit être un visagiste, un psychologue, un directeur de production et un metteur en scène». Il doit surtout être libre, son propre chef, «ne recevoir d’instructions ni de limites de personne. J’ai toujours imposé mes idées, mes concepts, et mon propre style. Voilà pourquoi j’ai réussi». 

Une personnalité affichée Georgie Abdeni , longtemps photographe de stars et d’hommes politiques, a fait la couverture du magazine al-Hasnaa’ durant de nombreuses années; il a flirté avec la publicité et a saisi des centaines de regards, de femmes surtout. Il connaît le visage humain comme un chirurgien ou un sculpteur. Son calme et sa gentillesse ont toujours réussi à mettre le modèle en confiance et en tirer le meilleur. «Il n’existe pas de beauté, dans l’absolu. Chaque visage a une expression, un intérêt propre». Sa personnalité a su cadrer et mettre en images des idées – photos publicitaires –, des personnes et des personnalités. Ici, dans ce studio qui vit encore, sitt Sabah côtoie le président Sarkis, Feyrouz, Georgina Rizk, «je l’ai découverte quand elle avait treize ans», Faten Hamama, Hrair, Omar Shérif et Anita Eckberg font bon ménage. «Le caractère du modèle est important. Je suis toujours à la recherche de la pureté d’un visage, de l’angle idéal, du bon moment et de la meilleure lumière». 

Il est arrivé à la photographie par goût, se donnant la précieuse liberté de s’éloigner des «affaires étrangères», apprises à Georgetown, USA, de la banque dans laquelle il a travaillé durant six ans, bref, de ce qu’il était supposé faire. «À l’époque, peu de gens “de bonne famille”» faisaient ce métier. J’ai commencé par les portraits, pour passer ensuite aux campagnes publicitaires. J’avais le bonheur de concevoir l’idée, le slogan et de réaliser la photo». Il se compare volontiers à un chef cuisinier qui réussit un plat avec des ingrédients utilisés par d’autres. «La personne devient pour moi un boulot, un peu comme si je devais fabriquer quelque chose de bien». Durant ces «années photos», Abdeni va collaborer dans différents projets, sillonner le Liban avec Roméo Lahoud pour le Firman, et parcourir le monde pour assouvir son besoin de libertés et d’images; souvent envoyé spécial de al-Hasnaa, il ramènera des centaines d’images, des archives qui ont aujourd’hui une valeur incalculable. «Depuis une trentaine d’années, lors d’un voyage pour al-Hasnaa’ où je devais photographier des hommes et des lieux en Jordanie, je me suis retrouvé dans une école, avec deux enfants en train de se battre amicalement. J’ai calmé les deux frères, avec des mots tendres, et puis j’ai pris mes photos». Le roi Abdallah de Jordanie et ses images d’enfant consolé figurent à présent dans la galerie de photos de Georgie. Un scoop qui n’a pas de prix. 

Marié en 1968 avec Laurence, père de deux filles, Barbara et Gabrielle, Abdeni ne s’est pas laissé enfermé dans la seule photographie. Durant les années de guerre, il s’est interessé à la construction, à la restauration, «la grenouille», en 1967, avec son ami et complice Jerry Guréghian, puis le «kebabs and things», en 1980, durant son exil «floridien», et «un peu de tout» ; Georgie construit encore sa «caverne d’Ali Baba», une grande maison où il se plaît à inventer des objets, des miroirs en métal, bois, verre soufflé, des cannes, des sculptures en bois, et s’occupe à décorer les pièces comme il l’entend, mettre un vieil évier en guise de mur, construire une baignoire en pierre, créer un espace de vie libre de toute contrainte. 


Nostalgique et franc, il conclut : «Dans mon esprit, j’ai toujours ma vision de la personne, intacte. La revoir trente ans plus tard est souvent un choc !» Des images plein les yeux et la tête, on se surprend enfin à rêver de figurer un jour dans cet album précieux, et demeurer ainsi à l’abri du temps qui passe.

Un scoop de Abdeni, le roi Abdallah II et son frère.

Kebabs & Things




I was going through old photos yesterday and stumbled into this article... It is a revue of our family restaurant which we all ran in the 80's. It brought back many memories. You could say my passion for food and everything related to restaurants started at the age of 15, when I worked both in the kitchen and served clients. It was a good school for me (a school of life). Since then, this experience helped me forge a future in this field through research and many other activities..

The revue is very basic and feels almost amateurish, but it is still a glimpse of the past and the restaurant years we lived as a family, working hand in hand, serving customers and sharing the food of our beloved country - Lebanon. We met many people, both incredible and sometimes not so, but the experience was unforgettable and remains to this day one of the most important in my life.


Restaurant Revue Kebabs &Things p. 14 - Entertainment News & Views

Kebabs and Things is not your usual restaurant. Its gleaming white exterior and crisp white, turquoise and blue with touches of red interior belie its Mediterranean dishes. When one thinks in terms of Mideast or Mediterranean foods, it is always with the touch of mystique - hidden corners, shadowy forms 0 but the cleanliness that surrounds Kebabs is a point in their favor - for out of a spanking clean kitchen comes well prepared food - cooked to perfection.

They are only open for dinner during the summer, but during "season" also serve lunches. Their appetizers rand from $1.50 to $3.50 and are sufficient as a meal for the not so hungry. Generous portions always speak well for a restaurant and encourage the hearty appetite to return. Their entrees are also int eh medium price range and feature many authentic chicken, lamb, and beef dishes.

Personally, I opted for the stuffed grape leaves appetizers followed by a charcoal broiled Beef Kebab over rice. This was served with a crisp fresh salad and by the time I had put away the two courses, I could only finish a coffee.

They did have one expensive range dish that had there been company to share it, I might have sampled it - A Mediterranean Delight which as a sampling of seven of their appetizers. I must return one evening and try this - it did sound exotic.

Kebabs is a family atmosphere with good, tasty, homemade food. There is ample parking both front and back and it is conveniently located at 2768 E. Oakland Park Blvd., near the corner of Bayview Drive. They are open from 6 to 10, Monday thru Saturday to serve a highly recommended dinner fare. Try it for a change - you'll enjoy it!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Oum Ali - A Saj Story

Oum Ali, in her native village Majdalzoum, baking saj bread


This is Oum Ali! I have known her for so many years. She is a wonderful woman who has inspired me and so many others. She is a fighter and has a beautiful story to share. Watch her short film, produced by Slow Food Beirut with film maker Nay Aoun (funded by USAID). The best way to tell a story these days is through video animation. This video is very special, as it portrays a small scale food producer, who against all odds, made a name for herself in Lebanon and around the world.

I live in my bubble in Lebanon, meaning I choose to see a facet that really matters to me. I have chosen to dedicate my life's work to promote such good people because finally they represent the real Lebanon. Authentic people from different communities who share the values of good, clean and fair foods. They express themselves through sharing the foods of their ancestors to keep our culinary heritage alive.

Oum Ali, is a mother, then she is a food producer... and that has made us connect in a special way. We understand the value of family and cook to express our love. The love does not have boundaries, as food is shared to all who have a deep respect for its significance. She has a big heart and will stay hours explaining why she chooses to cook or bake in a certain way. Generosity at its best.

Throughout my journey, the meeting of such good people has made all the difference. And it is important for me to share all that I have learned or have experienced with them... for I also believe that it is by giving to others that one can find true happiness in this world.

Enjoy!





Monday, May 21, 2018

Happiness


A while ago, this text fell into my hands. I put it on my desktop forever. Today, I decided to post it on my blog to share. I tried to research on crediting the author, but unfortunately I did not find the source. Should anyone know about the author, please write me so I can mention his or her name. The text is a reminder of how many choices we have in life - essentially two main absolute truths: To be happy or to be miserable. I choose happiness. I like to read this text from time to time to remind me of the essential. I hope you enjoy it too...  I am including a photo I took yesterday when visiting the Cedars of Lebanon in the Barouk, as I find this forest very humbling and therapeutic. 


22 Things Happy People Do Differently

There are two types of people in the world: those who choose to be happy, and those who choose to be unhappy. Contrary to popular belief, happiness doesn’t come from fame, fortune, other people, or material possessions. Rather, it comes from within. The richest person in the world could be miserable while a homeless person could be right outside, smiling and content with their life. Happy people are happy because they make themselves happy. They maintain a positive outlook on life and remain at peace with themselves.

The question is: how do they do that?

It’s quite simple. Happy people have good habits that enhance their lives. They do things differently. Ask any happy person, and they will tell you that they …

1. Don’t hold grudges.
Happy people understand that it’s better to forgive and forget than to let their negative feelings crowd out their positive feelings. Holding a grudge has a lot of detrimental effects on your well being, including increased depression, anxiety, and stress. Why let anyone who has wronged you have power over you? If you let go of all your grudges, you’ll gain a clear conscience and enough energy to enjoy the good things in life.

2. Treat everyone with kindness.

Did you know that it has been scientifically proven that being kind makes you happier? Every time you perform a selfless act, your brain produces serotonin, a hormone that eases tension and lifts your spirits. Not only that, but treating people with love, dignity, and respect also allows you to build stronger relationships.

3. See problems as challenges.

The word “problem” is never part of a happy person’s vocabulary. A problem is viewed as a drawback, a struggle, or an unstable situation while a challenge is viewed as something positive like an opportunity, a task, or a dare. Whenever you face an obstacle, try looking at it as a challenge.

4. Express gratitude for what they already have.
There’s a popular saying that goes something like this: “The happiest people don’t have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything they have.” You will have a deeper sense of contentment if you count your blessings instead of yearning for what you don’t have.

 5. Dream big.
People who get into the habit of dreaming big are more likely to accomplish their goals than those who don’t. If you dare to dream big, your mind will put itself in a focused and positive state.

6. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Happy people ask themselves, “Will this problem matter a year from now?” They understand that life’s too short to get worked up over trivial situations. Letting things roll off your back will definitely put you at ease to enjoy the more important things in life.

7. Speak well of others.
Being nice feels better than being mean. As fun as gossiping is, it usually leaves you feeling guilty and resentful. Saying nice things about other people encourages you to think positive, non-judgmental thoughts.

8. Never make excuses.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” Happy people don’t make excuses or blame others for their own failures in life. Instead, they own up to their mistakes and, by doing so, they proactively try to change for the better.

9. Get absorbed into the present.
Happy people don’t dwell on the past or worry about the future. They savor the present. They let themselves get immersed in whatever they’re doing at the moment. Stop and smell the roses.

10. Wake up at the same time every morning.
Have you noticed that a lot of successful people tend to be early risers? Waking up at the same time every morning stabilizes your circadian rhythm, increases productivity, and puts you in a calm and centered state.

11. Avoid social comparison.
Everyone works at his own pace, so why compare yourself to others? If you think you’re better than someone else, you gain an unhealthy sense of superiority. If you think someone else is better than you, you end up feeling bad about yourself. You’ll be happier if you focus on your own progress and praise others on theirs.

 12. Choose friends wisely.
Misery loves company. That’s why it’s important to surround yourself with optimistic people who will encourage you to achieve your goals. The more positive energy you have around you, the better you will feel about yourself.

13. Never seek approval from others.
Happy people don’t care what others think of them. They follow their own hearts without letting naysayers discourage them. They understand that it’s impossible to please everyone. Listen to what people have to say, but never seek anyone’s approval but your own.

14. Take the time to listen.
Talk less; listen more. Listening keeps your mind open to others’ wisdom and outlooks on the world. The more intensely you listen, the quieter your mind gets, and the more content you feel.

15. Nurture social relationships.
A lonely person is a miserable person. Happy people understand how important it is to have strong, healthy relationships. Always take the time to see and talk to your family, friends, or significant other.

16. Meditate.
Meditating silences your mind and helps you find inner peace. You don’t have to be a zen master to pull it off. Happy people know how to silence their minds anywhere and anytime they need to calm their nerves.

17. Eat well.
Junk food makes you sluggish, and it’s difficult to be happy when you’re in that kind of state. Everything you eat directly affects your body’s ability to produce hormones, which will dictate your moods, energy, and mental focus. Be sure to eat foods that will keep your mind and body in good shape.

18. Exercise.
Studies have shown that exercise raises happiness levels just as much as Zoloft does. Exercising also boosts your self-esteem and gives you a higher sense of self-accomplishment.

19. Live minimally.
Happy people rarely keep clutter around the house because they know that extra belongings weigh them down and make them feel overwhelmed and stressed out. Some studies have concluded that Europeans are a lot happier than Americans are, which is interesting because they live in smaller homes, drive simpler cars, and own fewer items.

20. Tell the truth.
Lying stresses you out, corrodes your self-esteem, and makes you unlikable. The truth will set you free. Being honest improves your mental health and builds others’ trust in you. Always be truthful, and never apologize for it.

21. Establish personal control.
Happy people have the ability to choose their own destinies. They don’t let others tell them how they should live their lives. Being in complete control of one’s own life brings positive feelings and a great sense of self-worth.

22. Accept what cannot be changed.
Once you accept the fact that life is not fair, you’ll be more at peace with yourself. Instead of obsessing over how unfair life is, just focus on what you can control and change it for the better.




Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Coara - The First Lebanese Vegan Restaurant



Good news folks, the Mouneh book has been published again, this time with Interlink publishers in the US. The books traveled on a boat to arrive to Lebanon (only 1000 copies available). I am waiting for the clearance to get them out there. Very exciting! They will be available at Librairie Antoine in all branches. Also planning a book signing soon.. (more about that soon...). This video has just been produced by Slow Food Beirut to highlight the work of these good people, who are in the book (section Feb - citrus). Learn about them and go eat at their restaurant. It's one of a kind. You will leave with a certain kind of peace.

About the short film:

Walid and Maysoon Nasserdin opened the first Lebanese vegan restaurant in Lebanon serving healthy vegan and bio food in an authentic green atmosphere. Coara sits on a hillside in the heart of the Chouf mountains, in a village called Kfar Katra, overlooking the land which they nurture to grow their precious ingredients. For decades, the couple have put their love into every single dish to create a beautiful and unique concept based on Lebanese food heritage.