Wednesday, August 28th 2019
I filled with bliss two days ago, as I was walking through Marks & Spencer in Paris, when I spotted what they labelled as “OIGNON VERT”.
They looked exactly like the ones we used to crunch around the table in the morning when I was still living with my parents. We had them as side taste to dishes like “Foul” (pronounced f-o-o-l) they are basically beans with sauce, usually lemon and garlic, for those who are not from my area and don’t know the lingo. They are usually eaten in the morning, for breakfast. The spring onions always added some good flavour and texture to the mix, and I was surprised that they had them in stock here, since I had never seen them in other grocery stores before. All the onions I’ve seen in Paris are either the round white, maroon or purple ones, or the gigantic ones with big green antennas coming out of their stems;
but now I’ve found these little springs of joy and decided to bring them home.
I remembered that I still had a can of “foul”, labelled “with Lebanese mixture” somewhere in my pantry.
Excited, I picked up the phone to call my father in Dubai and tell him that I will make “Foul” tomorrow. Trust me he gets more excited than I do about food, so this conversation is of cosmic importance.
“Baba, I found some onions that look like the ones we eat with “Foul”, I think I’m going to make “Foul” tomorrow! I have all the ingredients!”
“That’s great habibi! You have everything for it? Tomatoes, flat bread, parsley? Raddish?”
Quickly I had realized that my excitement had blinded me from the rest of the ingredients, I was far from done.
“No, no I don’t”.
Silence on the phone.
“Okay I’m going to get the rest of the ingredients”
“Habibi you don’t need to have everything, you can still make it work with just a few things”
“No baba, I’ll do it right”.
Soon enough this became a quest, I planned a day in which I will wake up early and prepare everything.
That day was today.
This morning I went home. I heard my father’s infectious laugh
I heard my mother’s overbearing need of adding more to my brother’s plate, even though he had clearly had a hard time finishing the first round.
I heard my grandmother chopping parsley, knife still in hand, she moves away strands of hair from her forehead with the back of her wrist. The smell of parsley taking over her whole kitchen. It was how its always been. I was where I was supposed to be. I was loved and fed constantly.
This morning was clearly a Sunday on the balcony of my grandmother’s home, surrounded by my aunts, and by a very blue sky, a chirping bird near my ear.
This morning was a Saturday in our home in Dubai. It’s not a school day so we woke up a little later than usual, stayed in bed until our mother called us in because “Foul” was ready. My dad is taking it calmer than usual, he has time to read his newspaper and sip on green tea.
I have always had a big connection with food, particularly Lebanese food, because it is attached to memories I can sometimes only revisit through smell, or taste.
My father used to show my how a “Foul” plate, without the rest of the ingredients, was like a blank canvas.
“You can get creative” He would say
“See, the tomatoes can go around the plate like this” and he would drop some chopped tomatoes all around the beans to make a circle.
“Then some parsley on each side”
He grabs a handful of chopped parsley and trickles them onto the plate, on each side to try to make it symmetrical.
“Radish here, and..”
he would turn the plate over to me
“Oh and don’t forget..”
He takes the tall glass of olive oil and drizzles it all over everything he’s added.
I look at my plate, symmetrical and vibrant, almost too pretty to eat.
I take two breaths and mash everything together, and turn it into a colorful mess.
After all, it’s supposed to be looked at, then eaten. But for a moment it looked perfect.
Today is a Wednesday in Paris, I sit in my pajamas the way I’ve always had in Lebanon, in Dubai, sitting across from the people I love the most. Suddenly it’s a little less lonely in Paris, because I’ve found company in a messy plate of “Foul”. How lucky am I, to be able to come home this easily?