Eating Lebanese is believing

Eating Lebanese Food is believing


I found out an interesting fact the other day. According to the FAO, (the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, for those not in the know) the Lebanese, every day, consume roughly 132 percent of the minimum food intake recommended for an average, healthy human being. Considering that in this country few shops have jeans in sizes bigger than "zygote," I was most shocked to learn this.

Intrigued, I set out to learn more. What, for example, was the United States' percentage? As one of the porkiest countries in the world, I surmised that it would be around 300 percent, if not more. Well, cut off my limbs, throw me in a river and call me Bob if the U.S. didn't come in at just 136 percent. Even Tonga, whose king put the whole country on a diet and offered his people incentives to lose weight, registered at just 129 percent. Completely dumbfounded, I set out to find the truth behind these rabble-rousing statistics. After some rudimentary research, however, I realized that Lebanon was perhaps deserving of its 132 percent charge.

Besides their moody political situation and propensity toward facial hair, the Lebanese are famed the world over for their food. Indeed, there exist few Westerners who do not know the delights of a shawarma sandwich after a night of heavy drinking. And few socialites would dare host a party without the dips-de-mode - hommous and babaghanoush. Amongst hippies and leftists, falafel also gets a vote for being the munchie of choice. With such gastronomic pleasures as these, it's no surprise that the Lebanese lean a bit toward the gourmand side.

And to back up my claim, here's yet another statistic. Out of all the other countries in the world, Lebanon comes in at number four of the world's top 10 consumers of fruit and vegetables per capita, being just nipped at the post by Uganda, Gabon and Papua New Guinea. Surely for a country whose top 10 appearances are only for things like death toll on the roads and botox consumption, this is not a distinction to be sniffed at. (continued below)

And indeed, what imagination the Lebanese have with their humble fruit and veg. Where most people would see a simple aubergine, for example, the Lebanese see a food that can be fried, stuffed, pickled, baked and mashed until it begs for mercy. In England, an aubergine is one of those fancy-schmancy new cars that Citroen has just released. In Australia, it's something that can be used as a makeshift groin guard for when you're playing cricket.

Go out to dinner in Lebanon and you'll find no less than six million different dishes set out in front of you. Just when you think that you've eaten so much that your stomach can now be seen from space, the main meat dishes come out, and it's time to start the eating process all over again. The most dedicated Lebanese also continue on to other venues for sweets, 3 am being the preferred time to do this.

With such a variety of cheap and scrumptious food available, and with everybody's mother being a chef extraordinaire, it's no wonder the Lebanese choose to overindulge in their eating. So if I have to bear a gluttonous international reputation in order to enjoy my rakakat and baklawa, then that is a price I will happily pay, and patiently wait for the plastic surgery industry to catch up.

Fida Slayman is a freelance Lebanese writer.

Copyright (c) 2005 The Daily Star
Saturday, March 26, 2005

Authentic Lebanese Recipes - many pages. Click here Page 1 |  Pg 2 |  Pg 3 |  Pg 4 |  Pg 5 |  Pg 6 |  Pg 7 |  Pg 8 | 


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