ROSE AND ZAATAR

A TASTE OF A LIFE IN LEBANON

Month: March, 2013

Beirut Easter

Yesterday morning a Buddhist with a baby bought Easter eggs at a little shop in a Muslim neighbourhood to take to dinner in a Christian part of town.

She put her baby to bed twice that night, once at home, with the usual lullaby of the mosque at the end of the street calling the little one to sleep. Then again later, after a taxi ride and a walk, in another apartment, where the church next door sang out loud and long after the baby had fallen into dreams. 

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The stop-start-risotto experiment

Last night, against my better judgement, I made a risotto. I don’t make it in the evenings anymore as it’s a dish I like to give my full attention to and now that full attention belongs somewhere else, with my sweet baby who seems to always stir from her slumber at the crucial stock-pouring-stirring-in moments.

But last night I couldn’t resist the bag of mushrooms brought home by my husband as a surprise and the serendipity of the stock I had made in the morning. It had to be a risotto.So I decided to risk it and conduct a cooking experiment.

And I am happy to report, in case you ever wondered, that you can stop and start a risotto in the middle, at least 3 times for luck, and it is still wonderful and worth waiting for in all its earthy goodness.

p.s. This has been a stop-start-blog-post, written during a fragile afternoon nap, broken into at least 3 pieces. She must have known 🙂

sleepless greetings

This morning we are so tired that when my husband comes to say goodbye before leaving for work I say sleep well instead of have a good day. We laugh and then he makes the same mistake, whispering ‘buonanotte’ as he walks out of the door. ‘Magari! ‘I wish!’ I call after him, sighing and rolling over to the little awake one beside me, to tickle and kiss us into the day.

A nearly bald baby

Although your hair is hardly growing at all you are becoming stronger day by day and more affectionate too, grabbing me by my hair when I lean in to kiss you or whisper in your ear. It is your way of hugging. Sometimes I don’t quite manage to extract myself and leave a few hairs behind in your little determined fist. I wonder if you are secretly stockpiling these stray hairs of mine, weaving them into a wig when we aren’t looking, so that one fine morning you will say ‘Look mamma, I have hair!’

Beware the baby monitor

A word of warning for anyone on their way to Beirut with a baby monitor and bags of sweets and boxes of tea, all packed perfectly into a pink petalled suitcase. You may cause a queue at security. You may have to explain the worrying combination of an ‘electrical item and organic matter’ in your hand luggage. Nobody said the word but I knew what they were thinking.

Writing this now I’m reminded of several Lebanese friends last year when I told them that my daughter would be born in Beirut. Their mock horror response ‘oh no she’ll be a terrorist!’ was startling. But maybe they were just thinking ahead to the baby monitor bomb scenario. 

Fortunately my beautiful Beirut baby, emissary of peace, was unfazed by the whole episode, smiling and singing throughout and only batting her eyelids to charm the entire airport.

 

Home

I’ve been away for awhile, packing and leaving and arriving and still unpacking. Journeying from one home to another. Journeying from the warm pocket of one family, an already made bed, to the open space of another, waiting for what I will make it.

Pockets

I used to always wonder why so many baby clothes have miniature pockets.

What do you keep in them?

I know they are not for your secrets- you keep those in your cheeks- says one of my favourite fellow mammas.

So until now, yours have been empty, except for a few cake crumbs, fallen from my mouth not yours, while I eat over your sleeping head.

Then last night, listening to your breathing still heavy with cold, I had a stroke of inspiration and tucked a tissue soaked with Olbas oil into one of those tiny pockets. All of us breathing easier.

A lunch to remember

A thick gold squash soup, with or without a secret ingredient, earthy bread and luscious butter.

A pomegranate jewelled baba ganoush, that I now think of by its Lebanese name, moutabal.

Three salads in the colours of spring: green leaves of goodness, pearl grained quinoa, deep pink beetroot.

Pillowy potatoes baked in their skins and chicken that I can’t stop thinking about (and must remember to get the recipe for).

A wholesome hunk of banana bread, made lovingly late last night, and pressed into my hands as I leave, early and reluctantly, wishing I could be in at least two places at once.

And the company. Warm and bright against the rain, welcoming me back. Then setting me off into the world again, a spinning top, refreshed and lightened.

Hungry for everything

She has the same sense of wonder, whether we are looking through the window at the snowflakes twirling, or watching a soft drift of parmesan fall from the grater and settle on the risotto.

Oh to be so curious!

Firsts

Yesterday was my baby’s first snow, fairy flakes flurrying around her eskimo hood, as we battled our way into London by broken down train. We met my wonderful writer friend and huddled over hot chocolates sharing our stories, warmed by delight. She held my baby for the first time and some day soon, I will be able to hold her book, her baby,  for the first time too.