How to do life Lebanon style
On Friday, I wrote a scab about my grandmother’s house in Batroun, Lebanon. This is the second part.
She named the house Anareh after “anar” which is “pomegranate” in Farsi (in Iran, pomegranates are symbolic of blessings and abundance). My grandmother is entirely Iranian; after more than 50 years living in Lebanon, she will still “vvvelcome vvvelcome” you as you enter her house, and ask you if you’d like a“kivi” in the morning.
Anareh is a house of bounty, in the summer it gives you cucumbers, figs, peaches, berries, courgettes… and most of all, it gives you olives. Come September, my grandmother readies herself to deliver on her promise of bringing organic extra virgin olive oil to her neighbours and friends. She lays out the olives onto the grey cement floor outside which quickly transforms into a carpet of plump green oval marbles to be pressed into litres and litres of olive oil. My grandmother proudly speaks about her biggest customer: the owner of a Saj oven (a Lebanese breakfast cafe) nearby, who uses the olive oil to make her standard Lebanese fare of flatbreads and dips.
The wintertime at Anareh is promising too: cauliflower and beetroot with giant leaves, dark green bunches of spinach, and potatoes of all shapes and colours. And there is also sweetness in the form of mammoth pomegranate bulbs that could concuss anyone unfortunate enough to walk under the tree at the wrong time.
For the people living on the outskirts of Beirut, it’s quite common to have your own livestock and grow your own produce. In a place where food is a paramount part of the culture, food security and self-sufficiency doesn’t discriminate and is top of mind for anyone. Mainly because people are too used to barren supermarket shelves and random, make-believe inflated prices on staples like chickpeas and bread. My grandmother and many other Lebanese dwellers have shown me that when they go high, we go low and we embrace the fertility of the land, something (hopefully) no corrupt politician can take away.
The aforementioned public danger
The aforementioned carpet of marbles