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Showing posts from January, 2007

For the Love of Shanklish

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In writing about the joy extraordinaire of my tummy, Shanklish , I first looked where any modern-day researcher starts off, the Internet. I was mildly surprised when I found out that a few good Samaritans had attempted to explain what Shanklish is and how it is prepared. However, and to my extreme delight, none of them had done it completely right. Can you believe that! Out of the millions of people on the web, I’ll be the first to scientifically and emotionally tell the rest of the world about the most scrumptious ball of cheese in existence on the planet. Even Wikepedia had already stated that the top delectable variety is found in the area of Tartous . That, at least, should get my Damascene friends off my case. But wait, I’m coming back at them in a little while. There's no point in describing to the uninitiated the taste of Shanklish. It's unlike anything else you've ever eaten in your life. It's simply much tastier yet defies description. From a geohistorical

Fly Me to the Moon

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More often than not, the purpose of a photo in a post is to augment or to further illustrate the words and thoughts of the author. Not this time, however. Whatever words I come up with would fall pitifully short in keeping up with the beauty of this particular instant captured in bits and bites. I was driving out for lunch with a friend on a Thursday afternoon heading to the village Kamsieh . Pulling out of a tight climbing curve to the left, my peripheral vision registered the vapor trails of a high flying jet. I have already written that this particular apparition magnetizes and takes hold of me . The moon, a rock I always dreamt of visiting but have accepted the futility of my dream, was up ahead in the path of the magnificent machine. I slowed down as I perfectly knew that I only had a few seconds to get my shot. I pulled over to the shoulder amid the questioning stares of my companion. I took out my digital camera from the cup hole stepping out of the car in the bright daylight an

Stuffed Grape Leaves

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Among the many delicious plates we all share in the Levant , Wara’ Inab ( Stuffed Grape Leaves ), also known as Wara’ Dawali is certainly the flagship of Tartoussi cuisine . It is by far the most important entrée, offered on special occasions and enjoyed anytime by the entire family. Everybody likes well prepared, freshly green grape leaves with a succulent heap of mutton meat and bones. I have to admit that this is not one of the easier recipes to prepare. It requires some hard work and plenty of time as with all the good things in life. Groundwork starts either early in the morning or one day in advance. I am certain that those who have had the pleasure of repeatedly eating this dish agree with me that it’s worth all the trouble, but it should be mentioned to those who hadn’t been fortunate yet. Wara’ Inab is a culinary masterpiece and it certainly deserves international recognition as one of the most significant achievements of the human imagination and determination in creating a

rain rain rain ,,,

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Tartous is as charming in the rain as when basking in the sun. It has been a long while in the waiting. Winter has fallen dry this year. The good earth is thirsty, the stone walls, the lonely trees, the narrow alleys, the souls of men. Then a flash of light pierced the sky and thunder shook the ground. Rain had come at last and as the downpour flooded the streets, ancient memories floated swiftly in the gullies of the mind. I was a little kid again, unwillingly marching to school. I made it in a soaking parka and muddy rubber boots. In threesomes, we huddled close together sharing wet wooden desks. The cold classroom was meagerly illuminated by a couple of feeble light bulbs. The pompous teacher proudly walked in and ordered us boys to open our books to page seventy three. He was the master within the confines of a single book. He had been regurgitating its content ever since he was appointed for the thankless job. A bovine preaching a flock of parrots for twelve years in anticipati

“Everything I like is either illegal, immoral or fattening”

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The title of this post is one of my favorite quotations. It is accredited to Alexander Woolcott (1887 – 1943) a critic and commentator for The New Yorker magazine. If we may argue that social evolution is as self evident as its biological counterpart then this sarcastic quotation really raises a serious question. For a social activity, trend or custom to survive despite its being challenged by three formidable and ruthless foes it must provide the individual with an extraordinary payback. It must give him or her “ great and immense pleasure ”. This is the only way through which this “ thing ” can flourish in the social jungle where the survival of the fittest is literally true. But why is that so? Actually the question should be rephrased: Why did the law, religion and nature conspire against our flirting with hedonism? I wish to tackle this intriguing question in reverse order, that is I shall begin with the fattening bit, if I may. In the animal kingdom, herbivores, carnivores,

I Want to Ride My Bicycle

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Inspired by Shannon Just about fourteen months ago I’ve stopped riding my bicycle. The level of physical activity I had maintained up until then came to an almost complete stop. I was diagnosed with a ruptured disk in my lower back. The pain became unbearable and it stabbed down through my right leg. I couldn’t walk any longer, let alone exercise. Instead of surgery, I took the long road to recovery and stayed in bed for over a month. The many x-rays and scans of my back were examined on both sides of the Mediterranean with virtually the same verdict. Surgery was ruled out as I was suffering from three separate injuries to my lower back, the oldest of which dated back to 1996. My body had been complaining and giving me warning signals for some time but I had turned a deaf ear. For four years in a row I was driving a two hundred kilometers roundtrip everyday to work in Lattakia . I would spend the whole day standing up on my own two feet on the job site. I kept lifting weights that

Memories of America

I came of age in America and it’s neither feasible nor proper to capsulate my life there in one or more posts. When I returned home after an eight year sojourn, a part of me stayed there and a part of America came back with me. With every “American” movie I’ve seen since, with almost every song, a powerful yet tender nostalgic wave would take hold of me and I would race backward in time to a particular moment deeply burned in memory. When recalling my adolescence in Tartous , or further back my childhood in Lebanon , mainly my obsessive desire to go to America comes to mind. My father came back in 1966 with pictures from Washington D.C. and New York . I would stare at them for hours. I would ask about every little detail in the visible landscape. I grew up learning and eventually knowing more about the United States than many Americans knew then or even now. It was only a matter of when, and as soon as I had my first chance at sixteen, I crossed the Atlantic . The happiest surprise

You Eat As Much As You Love

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Many habitual readers of this blog, if I permit myself to admit that there are actually people who come again, are not after my political, social or religious insights. They follow along grudgingly and allow themselves to read my boring outlook on the local and international scenes in the safe knowledge that I will come out of this mode eventually and get back to one of the few fields at which I am better at. Food for instance! Shall I talk about quality versus quantity? What about if both were present on the same table? Wouldn’t that be the perfect gastronomic dream? Indeed, and I have proof this time that gaining a few kilos during the festive season on both sides of the new year isn’t that bad after all. You know what I truly think [sometimes]. OK, I am already married with children [my looks aren’t that important anymore, not that I have any intentions of wagging my tail in the first place]. My wife is doing most of the cooking herself, so I can always blame it on her. My health,

My Person of the Year for 2006

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George W. Bush had initiated the tidal wave of hate and bigotry which has swept the world for the last seven years. Luckily, the tyranny might subside with his administration’s eventual exodus. The ongoing raping of democracy by a group of religious maniacs might after all stop. The United States might come out of it with only bad memories if there is a commitment by the next administration to deeply bury the coffin of the draconian Christianitist and Judaist religious politics (why the euphemisms: neo-cons , Evangelists, Zionists - they are Christianitists and Judaists and in no way any better than the notorious Islamists they’ve helped create). Israel will remain the instigator of most political dilemmas in the 21st century as long as it is a “ Jewish ” state. Once, and when, it drops its religious actuality and sheds its Zionist skin, it might get the acceptance of the billions of reluctant people. To do so would very likely put humanity on the road toward true world peace.