Lebanon’s Green Gold: Pressing the Past Into the Future

I explore the origins of an olive oil that comes from 4,000 year old trees in the mountains of Lebanon and discover a progressive woman who is quietly, but systematically, modernizing her country.

EXCERPT: “Taste this,” a friend tells me. She put a dark green glass bottle on my kitchen counter. “Experiment with it while you’re cooking and tell me what you think about it.”

The bottle reminds me of an amphora found in some archaeological dig. The base is pear shaped, remindful of the ubiquitous body-type, the neck tall and slender rising to a cork-stopped mouth of a spout. All that is missing is the dust. It holds olive oil.

“This olive oil comes from the Ayrouni olive in Lebanon,” my friend says. “From old olive trees that still grow in the northern mountains. Trees so old, no one really knows their age.”

“And they still produce fruit?” I ask. “Enough to make olive oil that tastes like ambrosia.”

We open the oil and pour it into small cups. It is the color of amber and rays of morning light. After warming the cups in our hands then swirling the oil inside it for aeration, we sniff its aroma. Almonds and apple come to my mind. The first sip coats my palette like honey. All the scents simultaneously fill my mouth with flavors that meld into buttery sweetness and a bit of bitterness, not as sharp as copper, but just as provocative. I swallow the liquor. It leaves a piquant finish in my throat, peppery and conclusive. I immediately think of the kinds of food this oil will complement.

Read the entire article here:  http://www.texmedbrands.com/

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Making lemonade

I wrote the following post in August, but I didn’t quite have the chops down for posting it here at that time. It is the first lesson I learned during my recent health adventure. There are a number of lessons to reflect upon and I’ll post them, too.

 

8.19.08

I awoke pissed today: angry at my body and the fact that with all my maintenance and care, it’s aging on me.  Six years ago, after much angst, embarrassment, and obsessive research, I had a hysterectomy.  In that procedure I also needed some repairs made because of hereditary factors and the bulldozing babies I delivered in labor (the first child hit the scales at 9′ 13″, the second  a few years later at 10′ 13″). My brilliant doctor used some  new mesh technology to give my insides naturalistic support and function. From my recovery, I had a new lease on life; I was so thrilled with the results, I wished I’d done it years earlier when quality of life symptoms began.  I thought it would last my lifetime.

 

My doctor was conservative in the use of the mesh; he wanted the body to serve itself as much as possible before he interfered—“played God”—as it were.  There was a chance I might incur hernias as time went by. My mother had the surgery at least two if not three times; she didn’t have the benefit of the methods and technology available now, and her problems continued to affect her quality of life.Now with this new and improved mesh technology, I should be good to go healthwise.   I won’t end up being my mother’s daughter on this issue. So I am making plans for the surgery.

There are some positives to the event. It won’t be a disastrous amount of recovery time—one night at the minor surgery center, one week at home, prone as much as possible.  I’ll play the Queen of Sheba with my love slave (husband) and hand maiden (daughter) at my side.  There will possibly be two or three weeks of no lifting—a great bonus since we’ll be traveling to Los Angeles and moving our daughter into her dorm. I get to be the “Boss Man.” The biggest negative will be a “no touchee” rule for up to six weeks; my love slave will get a reprieve.

 

But I’m pissed because I can’t believe my body is doing this to me when I’m so very busy with my life.  It is so full with writing projects: Making Love Songs, the regional cookbook, my writing blog, my writing routines. I have tremendous freedom, creativity, and activity in my life.  I want my body keeping up with my mind and this train?—this horse?—this river?—this flight? I’m taking.  I don’t want to schlep it along or be slowed up after all the years it has taken me to reach this point. I don’t want it to interrupt the flow.

 

So I’ve bitched all morning—to myself, my pilates friends and trainers, and my husband. They’ve all patiently and politely listened. As I walk to my car I receive a phone call from my beloved. He tells me our friend and a company manager is in the office today; maybe I wanted to stop in and visit?  I do. 

It is a surprise to hear that George is at the office.  Exactly two weeks ago he learned his four month long headaches occurred because of a baseball sized tumor in his head.  Last week surgeons removed it and determined it is Stage 4 brain cancer. He and his wife, both fighters, neither one quitters, are in for the long haul.  They plan to beat the odds. An outpouring of friends, peers, and associates will be kicking, screaming, and praying with them along the way. 

 

George looks good.  He should be home, resting, taking care of personal business, spending some leisure time with his bride, Ann.  He’s in his office—a wonderful old stone office with two feet thick Texas stone walls that have stood around handling business and troubles for over a century.  I step into his space. There is comfort for him here.  It is filled with eclectic western furniture, memorabilia from film and video projects, and quirky, lovable and funny items he holds onto. George stands in his jeans, boots, and snap shirt.  A blue bandanna on his head under a ubiquitous cowboy hat belies the rupture in his routine.  Always stylish, George carries off his appearance of normalcy with aplomb.  We visit and I tell him not only has he been in my daily prayers, but I pass along concerns and blessings from mutual friends.  He is so humble, grateful, and full of the grace that will help him battle for his life. I have other friends who have or are battling cancer. George will want all the grace he can get. It is a rough course ahead.  I suddenly realize my pee problem is pretty minor in the big picture of things.

 

My whining is only the anger I feel as I realize that time and aging are beyond my control–more maintenance, another bit of underpinning to put in place so my bag of bones can keep pace with my mind.—hello, Life! 

I need to be grateful—like George—for what is here for me:  the opportunity to fix my physical failings, of knowing with luck, I’ll see many tomorrows and can pursue my dreams, ride and bump along on this current of events. Today this lesson came through George as a reminder to take a reality check on my perspective.  It also reminds me of something a good friend and unofficial guru says when she thinks she’s having a bad day: “There is nothing bad about today if one, I’m not taking chemo, and two, I haven’t lost a child.” It’s a thought I shall add to my list of thank yous in prayer. It is wisdom I’ll whip out as a shield against the whine.

 

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The aborted launch

I have not been writing for a few weeks or responding to questions for a couple of reasons.The first one is my remedial learning curve about operating a blog.  That problem is improving some. Secondly, during my remedial learning I discovered I couldn’t keep permanent headers/introductions to the categories of the blog. I found this info frustrating because I prefer to use the blog not for chit-chat, but as a networking satellite that will eventually link to my professional website(s) and also other associated websites.  I needed to use “stickies” ( I’m catching up to the wonderful lingo in this cyber-world), which wordpress didn’t recently offer.  So I quite the work here to re-vamp my plans.  

Then, suddenly, life interrupted.  I needed minor surgery that turned into a not so minor event.  Recovery and the entire incident has affected the last two weeks of my relatively organized and controlled life.  I will write an essay soon that expands on the lessons I’ve learned from this experience.  But, while I might have had the interest to work and even journal during this re-cooperation, the energy slipped on by.

Imagine my surprise this morning to check in and discover the “sticky” option exists now at wordpress!  Thrilling.  As I get back into the swing of things, I’ll proceed with my original plans and complete my own website as well.

I’ve had a couple of emails regarding my crude attempts to begin the blog. First, thanks to both responders, and please accept my apology for these late responses.  Mr. James, I do have photos of my foodstyling; I will publish some of them as soon as I collect the photographers permissions to post. My specific job is to foodstyle on such jobs; I don’t pull the trigger of the camera. So, I want to give credit where credit is due, even though I know many of the photographers I’ve worked with do not return the favor.  I have a good twenty years of foodstyling under my belt, working for national, regional, and international clients.  

One of the fun things I’ve discovered as I’ve reviewed my portfolio is the different style each photo has.  There is a trail in these photo styles and trends. I think it is an interesting insight between our cultural and its relationship with food. I’ll discuss this thought in my Foodtrails Journal©, too.   Stay posted and be patient with my input. If there is more info that you’d like to learn about my professional background, please contact me again. 

With regards to jgordan, I have added one article about Ireland to the My Ireland section. I will definitely add more essays, poetry, and travel info as time goes by. That country holds a piece of my soul.  I’ve been fortunate to visit Ireland three times, and I lived there for six weeks during one of those sojourns.  If you have any questions about the country, I can address them, albeit my most recent trip was about five years ago. But even with the world’s fast pace in these times, I’m certain many of my experiences will have a currency and the areas of the country will remain similar if not the same to my last visit.  The country’s traditions, temperment, and environment are hundreds if not thousands of years old. It is imbedded with the culture. That timelessness, the good and bad of it, will not vary much.

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The Irish Jewish Diaspora

 

The Irish Jewish Diaspora: Forgotten Ingredient in the Cultural Stew

I have an experience from my first visit to Ireland in 1970, which endeared the country and its people to me.  I found myself lost on afternoon in a deserted and seedy area of Dublin. I was not really concerned about my whereabouts or safety, but I needed to return to a hotel to meet my Dublin hosts.  As I turned down a narrow cobblestone street, I heard some voices and walked toward them to ask directions. 

The voices belonged to some beautiful children, an eight-year-old girl pulling a very old wagon and a younger boy; I assumed they were brother and sister.  Inside the wagon sat what looked to be a large doll.  They were dressed in clothes and shoes reminiscent of 19th century fashions; as I approached them, it was obvious the clothes were worn, torn-very old hand-me-downs-and needed cleaning.  The children, though, were fresh scrubbed and the dingy dressed doll in pantaloons and lace was a baby sister. It was clear that the older girl had her hands full with childcare and the three of them were alone. It was amazing to see this scene juxtaposed next to me in the 20th century. I felt my walking down the alleyway had led me back in time. In the middle of squabbling with the brother, and proceeding on to whatever task lay ahead of them, the eight year old turned around and kindly asked if she could help me. After explaining my confusion, she was able to give me directions and offered to lead me down the street.  I followed this piquant trio a few blocks to a familiar street; we talked about Dublin and America as we walked. I was the first American they had ever met and seemed as mystified about meeting me as I felt toward them.  I offered a tip for their help to them, but the oldest child, being both polite and prideful, refused to take it. They resumed their normal routine, the diversion of a stranger in their midst over.  The selflessness and politeness of these poor children, cemented my bond with a country suspended then in the contextual mode of the 19th century and its great disparities between income, classes, and livelihoods. The cities and country lacked a moderate amount of modern infrastructures for economic development and change. Ireland was a third world country then. But, the country remained a compelling place to visit because of its inherent geographical beauty, the charm of its culture, and the independent humbleness and hospitality of the Irish people, even in their youngest citizens. From such non-hostile characteristics, a visitor could easily desire to call the place home. Continue reading

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new category

Phoebe Ephron’s succinct statement for writers.

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My Ireland

Here is a favorite photo from the living experience in Ireland circa 2003.

 

Me and George Bernard Shaw's joint

Me and George Bernard Shaw's joint

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Learning to create a blog

Today Lem came over to try and teach an old dog new tricks. I’m attempting to understand what I’m doing with a blog without becoming overwhelmed.

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