Opinion | Preserving Meals, Preserving Myself


As I rolled small balls of labneh, a thick strained yogurt, I remembered my mom sitting in her kitchen, a bowl of labneh on her lap, a cup of chilly water and a tray positioned on the desk in entrance of her. She would flippantly dip her proper fingers within the water, therapeutic massage her left palm in a round movement, then take out a bit little bit of labneh and roll it. When carried out, she would cowl the tray with a material and let it sit out till it hardened sufficient to be preserved in olive oil. Throughout that fall season, in every single place I appeared within the kitchen, in our breakfast and eating rooms, I noticed trays, jars and bowls crammed with components slowly ready to dry, to be pickled or to set earlier than they have been packaged, labeled, dated and saved. Tasting pickles for the primary time each season was a ritual of types. “Who needs to attempt the pickles to see if they’re prepared?” my mom would name out to my siblings and me, who have been eagerly ready for that second.

Crunch, crunch, crunch, and suck the juice. Crunch once more. I smiled watching my 10-year-old son eat a pickled cucumber, and I remembered one summer time morning in Beirut when I discovered him, a toddler then, his tooth barely in, standing on the foot of the open fridge, making an attempt to climb as much as attain a jar of pickles on the highest shelf.

In his e-book, Mr. Maalouf says that our id is formed by a mixture of our experiences, our pores and skin colour, our race, our ethnicity, our bodily look, our non secular affiliations or lack of, our ideological and political beliefs, our socio-economic standing and our households and nations. I’ve all the time taken that to coronary heart. I can’t be wholly and solely Lebanese, as a result of all through the years I’ve turn out to be way more than what my id card says.

Maybe if I noticed a approach out of the present disaster that may return the nation to what it was, to how I keep in mind it, I’d be much less anxious about my relationship to my native nation. I’d relaxation figuring out that Lebanon will all the time be there, a airplane trip away.

Preserving my vegetables and fruit in tightly sealed jars could also be a approach for me to protect a crumbling id. Lebanon’s future is ambiguous, however this produce will maintain.

My husband handed away eight years in the past, and his stays are buried within the backyard of his ancestors’ home in a village in South Lebanon. He lies between two historical olive bushes that he imagined his grandmother had planted earlier than her exodus to the USA within the early nineteenth century. They have been the very last thing she checked out earlier than she left her dwelling, he would all the time inform me.

The olive harvest in Lebanon takes place within the fall and the branches are normally crushed till their fruit falls off on tarps laid on the bottom. My husband, although, picked them one after the other. They have been the perfect he had ever tasted; he stated this yearly. However I imagined it was not the style of the olives, nearly as good as they have been, that he was craving. It was the connection to an id lengthy misplaced that he was making an attempt to reclaim. The olives have been that tangible bridge to his roots. Simply as my pickles are.

Nada Bakri is a former reporter for The New York Instances and a contributor to “Our Ladies on the Floor: Essays by Arab Ladies Reporting From the Arab World.”

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