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Friday, October 23, 2009

Upside Down

It's been much longer than I wanted to. I haven't been able to read as much as I'd like, to ride my motorcycle on a twisted mountain road, to walk by the sea or to sit down in the privacy of my own thoughts and blog. Working for a living is the most overrated human activity. To take pride in what we do is acceptable but to surrender our identities to our careers is so pitifully vain. I honor what I do but what I do doesn't add or take away anything from what I truly am. Since my last business trip, work has been pressing parasitically on my personal space. I work for a living that's true but I need to eventually take a firm stand and not allow a job, any job, to turn my life upside down.

And this brings us to the recipe I chose to share with you today: Ma'loubeh or Upside Down is a Levantine eggplant dish. I often post about local recipes in their most basic form for a purpose. I want you, the reader, to be able to acquire, prepare and cook the dish without hassle. This is exactly the case with my Upside Down since there are so many more elaborate variations to this basic theme.

I must confess that as a child I was not a fan of eggplants at all. In fact, I'm not really that fond of them even today. However, I have changed my attitude to not eating something because I don't like to eating it and appreciating the fact that I have food on my table while many people are hungry around the world. You might be wondering why am I swaying left and right when all I intend to write about ultimately is a recipe. I guess this is my own way of getting in the mood for blogging again. I'm wetting my toes before I dive in and shiver in the briskly cool waters of November.

If you're into eggplants (as food or in some other twisted and kinky way) Ma'loubeh will turn you upside down. I wonder why they don't call it 69? Come to think of it, it's equally appropriate:-)

2 cups rice - (long grain)
400 g ground beef or minced lamb
1 kg round eggplants - cut in slices (1” thick)
1 small onion – diced
Salt, pepper and spices as per preference (for the meat and rice)
1 cube chicken broth
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

  • Mix the meat and onions in a frying pan over medium heat until golden brown
  • Separately heat the eggplants in a large pan on both sides (10 minutes each) in the oven (high) then remove and wait for the pan to cool a little so you don't burn your hands. Uuuhhh, if you're the gorgeous woman I have in mind let me kiss that burn for you. If you're a man and happen to burn your hand, stick it somewhere then get back to cooking (don't forget to wash it first)
  • Arrange the eggplants side by side and in layers if needed with the meat and onions
  • Add 2 ½ cups water and 1 cube of chicken broth. Wrap in aluminum foil completely and return to oven for 20 minutes
  • Remove and collect the sauce in a small pot
  • In the same frying pan we used for the meat and onions, heat the butter then stir in the rice for a few minutes before throwing it in the sauce to cook (normal way of cooking rice)
  • Bring in a new pot (its shape will determine the final look of the dish) and spread the eggplants, meat and onions at the bottom. Top with 1/3 the quantity of cooked rice then another layer of the remaining eggplants, meat and onions then the rest of the rice
  • Place the serving glassware on top of the pot and turn Upside Down to get the dish ready for the table
  • Enjoy with salted plain yogurt on the side (add some garlic for great taste)

Sahha W Hana

Monday, October 12, 2009

Amal Hayati

I was out with the guys last night. We laughed and bellowed. We bickered and fought. We ate and drank then we listened to Om Kalthoum.
Amal Hayati (Hope of My Life) 1965, lyrics by Ahmad Shafik Kamel (1919-2008), music by Mohamad Abdul Wahab (1900-1991).
I can only translate, to the best of my ability, most of this magnificent love poem and hope that somehow you get to enjoy the voice, the music and the timeless words.
For you are, Amal Hayati.

Hope of my life,
My endless love
The most beautiful song
My heart has heard
Take my life, all of it
Just let me be
With you only today
In the lap of your heart
Let me dream
Never to wake up again 

My Hope, my life, my eyes
You're more precious than myself
My Habibi of yesterday
And now my Habibi
And then till the end of time, Habibi
Tell me…
What harbor am I missing,
When I'm in your arms
I've never known so much protection
Such as yours
I've never loved my life Habibi
Except for you
I faced my hopes, I faced the world
I faced love
The first time I met you and gave you my heart
You're the life in my heart
More happiness than this I can't take
More than what I have I don't need
After being with you
I wouldn't mind to die

It's enough for me
To wake up hearing your lips whisper
A song
Oh my never-ending love
In the lap of your heart
Let me dream
Never to wake up again
My love for you
has filled the whole world with adoration
When we're together it's just hard
To blink en eye
Even for a second
I can't not see you
I can't not be blessed by you
That's how much I miss you
That's how I long for you
I wish I could find a word
No one had used before
A word as vast as my love
A word as huge as my cravings and my passion
A word like you
If there's such a word
For there's no way on earth
To create anything else like you
In the lap of your heart
Let me dream
Never to wake up again

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

October Rain

Nightly wind puffs
From the mountains swirled
Carrying sickly leaves
Far to the sea
A moist breeze stirred the chalky branches
Under the dolorous stare of a meeker sun
Old Summer wheezed its last breath
Mercy-killed by an October cloudburst
At long last
Rain washed the dusty roads
Cleansed taint souls
Brought the life back to me
A forlorn survivor
Of dog days melting in potholes
Burdens of happiness gone
Less dispirited but longing still
For a downpour to sweep me away
To carry me to a place
I only knew in dreams
to make me whole, to paint me green

By my window a world goes by
Young mothers with babies stroll
Their potbellied men buying groceries
Teenagers smoking addiction
Lean on cars
Lovers running out of space
Watched by solemn eyes
People stuck in stranded schooners
Tilting to starboard, capsizing
Drunk drivers, intoxicated by chimeras
Of heaven and hell
Growing beards, wearing robes
Beautiful women covering up
mentally raped to submission
Generations turning bitter
Shaming us with heavy guilt
A smile gone from the face of a child
Raised to obey not to question
To live in the shadow of fear
Suffocating his original urges
Bringing them to their knees
Giving up, letting go
Too early of his dream

It is October
My month to draw Arak and
Store the wine in barrels
I walk by the sea in a cool zephyr blown
Through the lips of enchanting mermaids
Their faces, their long hair and pink nipples
Disappearing then appearing
Through the oily surface of my sea
By the outcrop of rocks at the end
of the desert road I sit
my heart leaping away catching
A loose rope trailing a steaming ship
Mind soaring with seagulls high above
I fear for them what they trust
For they cannot see what I see
Beyond this place I have grown
Further than the end of time
Way above what they are
What they will ever be
I am flying I am free

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Hymens For Sale

It might come as a surprise to many but hymens are not unique to the human species. Due to similar biological evolution many female mammals, including chimpanzees, elephants and whales retained theirs as well. And no, there is no embedded wisdom or ultimate truth behind the existence of hymens more than their functional role of preventing infections in young females from external sources. There is as much intended purpose behind a hymen as there is in the persistent presence of the appendix in humans in general and nipples in men in particular. That dealt with and out of the way let us address this very interesting and hot topic (might be wet and messy as well).

I first read about artificial virginity on my favorite blog Suffonsifisms written by Isobel . Global Voices' own Hisham also linked to the same subject written in French by the Moroccan Blogger Mounir. In her post titled Artificial Virginity then in Furthermore…as if it wasn’t bad enough, Isobel addressed the subject matter with understandable dismay. She realizes of course that in many paternal societies the dominant males have conspired, due to their own mental impotency, against women and degraded this fold of mucus membrane to the same low level as their fecal honor. She is much nicer than me though and more restrained. The hymen per say is a worthless remnant of less hygienic times. It's a dirty little bugger at best but certainly cleaner than the minds of men who obsessed over the right of women to have an active premarital sexual life. In false pretense they will argue that men too should abstain from having sex outside wedlock. However, since they have impenetrable hymens covering their brains they truly believe that there is a divine message here. Accordingly, a man's sin might go unnoticed and forgivable eventually but not that of a woman. “شرف البنت زي عود الكبريت ما يولعش الا مرة واحدةA girl's honor is like a matchstick. It can only burn once. When a girl ruptures her hymen she becomes fair game for the chimps in her family or tribe. Executing her to preserve their honor still goes on in many parts of the Middle East (and elsewhere) in what is miserably known as Honor Killing.

I am neither advocating nor opposing premarital sex. It is simply nobody's goddamn business. What a man or woman chooses to do with his or her own body is entirely up to them. Screw traditions, morals and customs on a collective basis. They matter to you, very well instill them in your own children. When they become adults they have the right to choose whether they want to remain chaste and pure till they get married or not. Your moral role as parent, father be it or mother, ends when your children reach adulthood. More importantly, you and I have no right to condemn the sexual behavior of others. We see something we do not like, we can shut up and mind our own boxers or undies.

A man's honor deserves better than to hide inside the underwear of women. As to this clever new $15 Chinese device and which is primarily used to emulate virginity so that an idiot of a man never finds out whether "his" woman had her “cherry popped” or not before him I only have this to say: such archaic cultural apes deserve nothing more, nothing less, than an artificial hymen to make them feel like real men. I am glad to add that it is already on sale in Syria.

Xie Xie Zhong Guo, “Thank You China”. I cannot wait for your next invention, an artificial brain in the shape of a dildo. Perhaps this leading Egyptian scholar can stick it up where the sun never shines and dies of an orgasmic fit.