I don’t know why being in Athens makes me want to blog more about Lebanon. Maybe it is this early morning, 7am light coming through the window of my hotel room…Not that that has anything to do with Beirut or Lebanon….So let’s talk about the food in Lebanon. Like the stereotypes of falafel and kebabs, these places exist there and, trust me, the worst there is better than the best anywhere else, but there is so much more! Salads much like the way salads are thought of here on Greece, as side dishes. Eggplant, tomatoes, onions, etc…tabbouleh…Also plates of grilled meats (no pork) on sticks and the wonderful, fantastic kibbeh nayyeh (nigh-yah). I may be weird, but there is nothing quite so good as prepared raw meat, either lamb or beef. Mixed with salt, pepper, spices, olive oil….amazing! I have only one photo and it doesn’t show details, but I have included a link that has good pictures and a solid recipe should anyone wish to try it.
I feel that this dish is a symbol of what can be right with the world. You need meat that is fresh, handled by as few people as possible, from a source you know and butcher who knows what you want, i.e. no processed, packaged brand name big store shrink wrapped meats. Buy local, stay healthy–in mind, body and planet!
Let’s talk about the government for a bit. This is what I know: Lebanon is a ‘failed state’ and, as such, has no government. Yes…they have a president, a parliament, etc…they even have diplomatic relations with many countries like the USA, France, Greece…so on that level they are legitimate. But the government doesn’t run the country. The country is run by a group of families–let’s say 20-most of whom have been in power of some sort since the Middle-Ages. Now, these families are very wealthy and most own the very legitimate and wealthy banks. They are also the patrons of the very good and well-known hospitals and universities in Beirut. They are the patrons of everything. Think of it as the Five Families that run New York in ‘The Godfather’ and you’ll get the picture. They run it all and, for the most part, the people like it that way.
Regarding militias…all but one militia have officially disarmed. That is good. These patrons, these wealthy families, are not all associated with militias, but the militias are all associated with wealthy patrons. Make sense? So whether you are Christian, Druze, Sunni or Shia–you have a friend somewhere making sure that your children go to good private schools, your parking spaces on your street are kept up, your fuel oil is delivered in the winter, you have medical care for your family, churches and mosques are kept up and polished, etc…
Let’s talk about the Power Ship! Electricity is scare on Lebanon, hence the air pollution problem one sees everywhere. Private home generators are needed to compensate for daily brown-outs which as a tourist, you’ll never notice. In 2013, a Turkish company floated this amazing thing over to Lebanon and leased it to them for a few years. There is a better article about it and the company here. It is a pretty interesting idea–and one that is supposed to be temporary. The problem is that the Families that run the country cannot agree in where to put the new stand-alone, on-shore, full-time power station. No one wants to miss out on the money and no one wants to donate the free land for building, etc…so the Power Ship sits, expensively sending its energy to the country–and everyone loses.
My friend Thanassis took the photo of supper and the Power Ship photo came from the web somewhere. That wide angle lens on the iPhone really distorts the image a lot…