ROSE AND ZAATAR

A TASTE OF A LIFE IN LEBANON

Month: May, 2013

Don’t worry Be Happy This is Lebanon

In the last 24 hours we have had 3 ‘false alarm’ situations.

First of all, the fridge freezer stopped working yesterday, prompting a major melt down, mostly mine, but the ice cream was involved too. We called someone who knew someone and arranged a repairman for today, only to discover this morning that it had mysteriously started working again.

Maybe it was something to do with the electricity? my husband suggests as a possible explanation (in Lebanon, lots of things are to do with the electricity, you can set your watch by the power cuts).

For once I don’t need an explanation, I’m just happy it works again. But moments later I get my second false alarm in the shape of a rash, red and prickly, which I find on the back of my baby’s neck.

Is it sunburn? Is it an allergy to broccoli? Is it something more serious?

Some Google research and conversations with calm people satisfy me that is just a heat rash and there is no need to take her to hospital or even the pharmacy, just cool down.

Last but not least, a text message arrives via the security people at my husband’s work telling us to avoid an area of the city where clashes are taking place. Normally this wouldn’t cause me too much concern. Beirut is a pot of water on a rolling boil and there are always clashes taking place somewhere around the edges. But today we were planning to travel south to see friends, and the main road would take us right through the middle of that somewhere. I start to make contingency plans but before I get very far another message arrives declaring that the situation is under control and it is now safe to travel. So we do. And spend the afternoon, sitting in a paddling pool on the rooftop of a villa on the edge of the Chouf Mountains, only 20km from Beirut, but feeling a million miles away.

This evening when the landlord comes to collect the rent my husband asks him about ‘the situation’. His answer, his motto as he said,  gave me the title of this post.

Something that inspired me today

Something that inspired me today

A few words

Only time for a little blog tonight, as small as the space between her thumb and forefinger when she tries with all her might to pick up the words from the cover of her book. 

Watermelons

Yesterday we bought our first watermelon of the year and the baby had her first taste. No surprises that she loved it considering my husband is a passionate watermelon eater. It made me remember something I wrote around this time last year when I was 5 months pregnant with her. Here it is:

18/06/12 Watermelons

‘Ah, hai mangiato l’anguria!’  ‘Oh, you’ve eaten a watermelon!’ this is the waitress’s remark at our favourite lunch place in Cagliari when my friend asks her if she notices anything different about me.

I like her analogy. Except that our little one weighs only a fraction of the watermelons that my husband buys from the man opposite, 5 kilos, 7 kilos, the last one- an enormous eleven- 3 times the average birth weight for babies.

And really I’m not eating that much watermelon at all. Growing up in England it was never a childhood ritual the way it was for my husband, a sign of summer coming, like a pale pink moon ripening, and I never long for them, the way he does. Though over the years (nearly 11 of them) I’ve developed a fascination for the way he can eat them, effortlessly, elegantly, eloquently .

In fact the only reason I’m eating watermelon at all is so that the baby will get a taste for it (I am responsible for both English and Italian tastebud development) and so that her father doesn’t make himself sick from eating a whole one (all 11 kilos of it) in 24 hours. Although the wisdom of Google says there’s no harm in doing so, I’ve checked.

And I like it that this summer, we both have watermelon bellies.

Post

We’ve got post! My husband calls to me as he leaves for work this morning.

This wouldn’t be anything unusual if we didn’t live in Lebanon and didn’t have to describe where we live using landmarks like Abdul Nasser Statue, or Hamade Bakery or Park Lane Hotel. Officially we do have an address but I don’t know it and even if I did I would never give it to anyone with the hope of receiving any post. We have two front doors but not a letterbox between them.

All of which is why I feel mostly disbelief, but also a tiny twinge of excitement when I hear my husband’s words this morning.  

It turns out what he meant by post was flyers for a new shwarma take away restaurant, left lying on the floor, one for each of our doors. For a country with no addresses Lebanon has an incredible ‘delivery’ culture. You can have any dish your heart desires, including shwarma, delivered to your door any time of day or night. But only if you can find a way to tell them where you live!

Rhythm

I am back from my blog holiday but I notice that I still feel like a tourist in my own life.

It doesn’t take long to lose a rhythm. I wonder how I ever kept up, how I ever kept time, before. 

But then I watch my baby, who has recently become a musician; banging both hands down, splayed like starfish, turning every surface into a satisfying drum, or making maracas out of anything she can, trying to shake the sound out of objects that are usually silent.

She isn’t afraid of losing the beat or finding it again. Like so often, I need to follow her lead.

 

Automated reply out of office

Please be aware that the blog ‘Rose and Zaatar’ is currently away on holiday and will be back on 22nd May.

If the matter is urgent then please consult any of the following lovely blogs:

http://trishcookingcurrie.blogspot.com/

http://bentlily.com/

http://www.christinechitnis.com/

http://agirlcalledjack.com/

http://www.susannahconway.com/

Be back soon!

Someone else’s words

Someone else’s words

Today I can’t seem to set my mind on fire so here are the words of someone who can. 

Painted Feet

Yesterday I had my first pedicure of the season, already late by Beirut standards as the beach clubs opened two weeks ago, but early by my ‘pre-Beirut’ standards when pedicures were reserved for occasions like weddings or very special treats.

I choose a colour that matches my new summer shoes and because I like the name Tangerine. (Last year my favourite shade was Watermelon- for the same two reasons). My nails look different in every light, sometimes red, sometimes orange, sometimes coral and I can’t quite get used to them.

Are they really me? 

Today’s activity, also involving paint and feet, is a world away from the nail salon. With two other mammas we make pale cakes of salt dough; press our babies’ perfect feet into them leaving slightly imperfect imprints; bake them in the oven while we eat our lunch and then paint them a glittery green like the sea on a summer’s day.

In this friendly living room light I notice that the red poster paint is exactly the same shade as my toenails, bright and definite.

So maybe it is me after all, the perfect colour for a Beirut Mamma.

Things-in-the-fridge-that-need-to-be-finished Feast!

Tonight’s dinner is

-blanched broad beans like shiny green beads dressed with pale curls of pecorino

-balls of left over risotto dipped in flour-egg-breadcrumbs and fried until they look like the little oranges- arancini–  they are named after

-yesterday’s spaghetti and sauce twirled in a bowl with eggs and cheese and flattened in a pan to make a pasta frittata perfectly flipped by my husband
DSCN0942

 

all eaten outside with nearly the last of the white wine and nearly the last of my walnut honey bread and nearly the last of the light as the sun goes slowly down.