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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Clitoris Delight

I am very fortunate to have caring friends who think of me when they prepare or lay hands on hard-to-find exotic delicacies. From Saeen, Abu Issa reserves a gallon of home-produced Arak especially for me. From the mountains of the Kadmous region, my friend Abu Nour brings me a 2K bag of mature delicious Shanklish. All the way from Australia, Abu Abdo Al Australi sent me a few years back some of the hottest Chile seeds on the planet. I planted them in my garden in Bmalke and they thrived for a couple of years. I was too negligent to amass my own reserve of seeds to keep the bounty going. When he learned about my failing, he thought along the line that it is better to teach a poor man how to cast a line instead of giving him a fish so he dispatched a video tape of his beautiful garden in Melbourne and instructions on how to prepare the best home-made hot pepper paste from down-under. I bought 8 kilos of green and red peppers then and transformed our kitchen into a small Tabasco factory. I became very popular in the neighborhood but they hated me at home where everyone, including myself, suffered a fit of sneezing and itchy eyes that lasted a few days.

Very recently, we were invited at Om Mahmoud’s house for dinner. After sampling her delicious entrees, she went into the kitchen and brought back a small white bag. “This is for you”, she said, “my brother-in-law has them growing in a corner at his orange grove. I picked them with my own hands. They are sooo hooot, so you’d better be careful.” Like a little kid opening up Christmas presents, I looked inside the bag with anticipation. There they were, green and red in the spirit of the season and varying in size from 1 to 1.5”, a small bunch of Cayenne peppers awaited my caressing fingers.

But wait a minute; let’s not get ahead of ourselves by calling them “Cayenne”. Peppers in general are not native to the Levant and as such the different varieties were introduced at various times over the course of history and successfully cultivated. One particular genus characterized by its uniquely elongated shape, relatively small size, acutely hot tang is called in Tartous and possibly in other Levantine cities, Zanbour Al-Set = The Lady’s Clitoris. It could be equally argued that Tartoussis are either awfully vulgar or unequivocally savant to give such a name to a pepper. Yet it’s unmistakably a part of our folklore and needs not be obscured or shunned at.

For the purpose of this article I carried out a little online research and found a few sites dedicated entirely to peppers and Chile. They are listed toward the end and I can assure you that you will find them very enjoyable to browse if you were like me, that is if you take pleasure in the Hot & Spicy side of gastronomy. From these sites, and after looking at dozens of photos, I learned that the “LAOTIAN - hot; Cayenne Type; 1.5 to 2 inches long by 0.25 to 0.375 inches wide; thin flesh; matures from green to red; upright pods become pendant; green leaves; 12 to 18 inches tall; Mid Season; Uses: Oriental Cuisine; from Laos; C.annuum” is the closest thing to our Zanbour Al-Set.

So I returned home with my little treasure in hand, a small bag filled with colored clitorides (that is plural of clitoris for the uninitiated in Latin). I was only certain of two things, such little gems need to be oiled perfectly and treated gently. Luckily, I had faultless virgin olive oil from the Qualaat Al Khawabi Village. I was only missing proper glassware.

I went down to Sile, my favorite watering hole in Tartous, and considered my bottle collection. I couldn’t quite climax to that Eureka feeling but instead was convinced that I have to throw away a whole bunch of empty bottles. So I considered my next best option and drove to the Free Shop located inside the port of Tartous. There, amid hundreds of strikingly nice-looking bottles, I came across a Wyborowa Vodka bottle, product of Poland. The glasswork is a masterpiece and there is no way on earth the liquid inside could be less exquisite. Despite the somehow steep price tag, I bought it and headed home, calling a couple of friends along the way to share it with. We did so until deep in the night. I bid them farewell and could only think of the clitorides waiting for me in the kitchen, of all places.

Have I already mentioned the point behind this article? I guess not. Well, it’s really about how to preserve Cayenne/Jalapeño/Chile peppers in olive oil to make the "Ultimate Hot Olive Oil". Since the process is so easy and straight forward the least I could do is write more than a few simple lines after such a long absence away from my blog, hence this moronic post. As a matter of fact, if you just follow the pictures you’ve got it made but I’ll details the steps and ingredients anyway.


-One good-looking bottle of Vodka: Consume it 12 hours ahead with friends and don’t throw away the bottle. Remember that you bought it and drank it because you needed the empty glassware.
-Two handfuls of hot, eager and colored Laotian Cayenne peppers.
-Olive oil - enough to fill the bottle. I recommend the highest quality olive oil you can find.


1- Remove the stems of the peppers, wash them with running water and dry them out completely with tissue papers.
2- Place inside washed and dried Vodka bottle – Do not touch your eyes in the process.
3- Pour the oil slowly until bottle is filled – Cover but do not tighten until next day so that trapped air is released.
4- Tighten cover and forget about the whole thing for at least 3 months.

For the next 2 years (minimum) you will be able to add taste and zest to any and all of your recipes. A few drops of this magical elixir and you’ll morph a dull meal into a most exciting entrée. Whenever the oil level drops, just replenish with more. Depending on how hot the peppers were when you started you might never notice the difference. Every once in a while, treat yourself to a few peppers. They taste out of this world.

You still can’t figure out what to do with the Hot Olive Oil!!! Well let’s see. Pizza, Labneh, Hommos, Fried Eggs, Omelettes, Soups, Salads, Meats, Fish, Poultry, etc. Where Tabasco goes, your Home-Made Hot Olive Oil is certainly a much better choice.

* Due to some controversy arising in the comment section as to which pepper is the hottest, I have added the famous Scoville Scale for the reader's reference.

(Click to Enlarge)

Peppers Complete Guide:
Great to order on-line:
Scoville Scale:

Monday, December 17, 2007

Season's Greetings

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Block

As if we're not already overwhelmed by mediocrity and suffocating from stagnation, the censors' scissors in Syria "apparently" slashed in an indiscriminate manner all over the Internet's landscape. After Youtube and Blogspot came Facebook's turn and then, amazingly, Amazon's. What is it, may we ask, they don't want us to buy? We have almost everything available on the local market, except books and dildos. My educated guess is that they have already stocked well on their supply of vibrators to stimulate their intellect. At the same time, I'm certain that they loath reading. It must be books then they want to eradicate from our shopping list.

Fewer resident Syrians are reading blogs because it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so. My normal browsing day starts in my own private office from 9:00 to 10:00 before I move to another location and work till mid-afternoon. This personal time, enjoyed with my second cup of coffee is one of the highlights of my day. I read my favorite "updated" blogs one after the other. I absorb, reflect and sometimes comment. No matter what their content is, they have become a part of my reading conscience. I don't have to agree with everything I read. There are certain blogs I have been frequenting for over a year without ever commenting. Yet I follow them regularly because I appreciate their underlying message. I used to sail effortlessly between them and in the process find new harbors to add to my calling list. Then came the blocking of Blogspot and my "surfing" agility was hit hard. I have to carefully tread my way through proxies and anonymizers now and instead of this wonderful morning hour being a source of serenity and pleasure it's increasingly becoming a source of irritation and frustration. But wait a minute, isn't it exactly what the censors want? To get "us" bored so that eventually we eliminate blogging (reading, writing and commenting) from our surfing habits. The same line of thought applies to Youtube, Facebook and ultimately to Amazon. Thus the purpose behind this draconian type of censorship becomes all too clear: to sever, to slash, to disconnect and to exterminate the exchange of opinions, ideas, jokes and photos between resident and expatriate Syrians.

We can still access any site on the Internet albeit much slower than before. Is it a coincidence that the growth rate of resident Syrians accessing the Internet is one of the fastest in the world and that their speed of access is among the slowest? If you follow the local IT news you'll find out that the number one issue over the last five years has been the matter of "speed", or more accurately the lack of it. I am having my own serious doubts now and am developing my own hypothesis. It seems that official policy is to extend Internet access to all and at the same time to keep it ridiculously slow. Quantity versus quality. Keep the Internet static so that it loses its interactive role and merely simulate the television experience. Let resident Syrians read and only read whatever they want on ephemeral screens without their input and more importantly without feedback from their expatriates. Official policy doesn't give a damn about what the rest of the world is saying or has to say about us. It's beyond control anyway. Let expatriates express whatever come to their minds (it's beyond control anyway) BUT let there be a divide, a buffer, a no-man's-land, intellectually at least, between expatriates and residents.

Let us not oversimplify reality. Not all expatriates belong to what is vaguely termed the "opposition". By the same token, not all residents are the "sheep" many expatriates believe us to be. Yet it is safe to assume that a large proportion of the Syrian Middle-Class I once lamented live abroad. Apparently, this dispersed class on the outside and its remnants on the inside present the only clear and present danger to the censors. Together they make the Bourgeoisie, that's what they have been pejoratively called by both the more and less fortunate. These are ordinary people whose status was acquired often by hard work, high education and specialized employment. Although they are the majority in any normal society they are not well-liked by the upper echelon and by the lower stratum. Historically, it might be argued that censorship in third world countries has been implemented by those who climbed to power from the ghettos and/or fields of poverty. I don't believe this supposition holds a grain of truth today. All over the third world, in the Arab world in general (both freaky republics and caricature monarchies) and in Syria in particular the established orders have lost their ancient roots of paucity when they bedded the parasitic industrial and feudal overlords. They will always fall short on reaching the Aristocratic status they aspire to due to the fact they have no class at all to start with. Regrettably though, they hold the strings by which the censors are moving in a seemingly random pattern.

Art, literature and science grow in the fertile soil of the middle class. Change, advancement and even rebellion are also conceived in the womb of the Bourgeoisie. Therefore this social group is potentially dangerous no matter which road its members choose to follow, right, left or in the damn middle.

Let dispersed Syrians abroad follow their own dreams of riches or sink deep in shit holes. Let them give up their heritage in exchange of being accepted as equals in their new-found homes or let them forever remain second class citizens. The most important thing is to let them stay out, as the less of them in, the better.

For any real change to happen it must start from within. If we're ever to achieve authentic democratic reform, the Syrian Middle Class is the only hope. To prevent that, block the free exchange of ideas between individuals belonging to this group. Isolate them, break them apart, bore them to death… Block the bastards!