It’s been two weeks since we arrived in our new home of Beirut. Two weeks in two small rooms of a hotel with two restless cats and a earsplitting club scene just outside the hotel pulsing until two in the morning. In spite of this, I love it. The chaos fills me with energy and the current of creativity that seems to underly much of the city, is heaven to someone like me.
Just since we’ve been here the New York Times published a beautiful piece on the magic of this city and Anthony Bourdain declared Beirut the city everyone should be visiting in the latest issue of Bon Appetit. And while yes, there is a war not so far away, and the country hasn’t had a president for a couple of years, and there’s a massive garbage crisis, for its sake, I hope that the tourists come running to this little country on the Mediterranean.
While we still haven’t set up house here – it’s likely a couple of more weeks before our things arrive from Amman – I can’t help but go to the Souk el Tayeb (which means the good market) farmers’ market in the Beirut Souks each Saturday morning. The market was organized by Kamal Mouzawak 12 years ago as an initiative to promote local farms and artisans. It reflects the serious foodie nature of this city and is also a metaphor for what I’ve observed in my brief time here: new and old are intermingled, traditional and modern, French and Arabic, devout and…well, not.
Next to a stand with neatly packaged kale chips and gluten-free vegetable crackers there’s an older lady selling jars of bright pink pickled turnips in jars. There’s an upscale fishmonger right next to a couple serving delicious foul (stewed beans usually eaten for breakfast). As I walk between the stalls the sellers smile and say “Bonjour” in French and then beckon “Fadeleh” which means ‘come in’ in Arabic. The produce grown up in the mountains and hills surrounding Beirut looks amazing I find myself aching to get back into my kitchen, planning menus in my head using what is available.
Soon I’ll be back in business (I hope). We’ve rented an apartment with views over the city and a kitchen even bigger than the one we had in Amman so that I can continue catering. Until then, as they come, I’ll share my foodie adventures with you.