My first time…eating tofu

I know, for a second it seemed like I was about to tackle a completely different subject, but certain food items can sound just as taboo. My tofu chronicles as I call them started around a year ago – I’m not vegan or vegetarian although more than two thirds of my meals would make you think I am; I’m just guilty of loving vegetables… a bit too much.
I enjoy being in the kitchen, and I love cooking just as much as any other art form. Eating is just a bonus I don’t have when I paint or make things; I’d take a bite out of my canvas but I’m not sure they season them well these days, and I’m quite positive coffee tables aren’t actually coffee-flavored. Right now you must be thinking I belong in a gingerbread house like the one Hansel and Gretel fell upon, and I agree, unlike my clothes which keep screaming at me and asking for mercy every time I open the fridge. Mmm, cheese…
So, uhm, getting back to that tofu, I was at the supermarket one day and saw they actually sold quite a variety of the product, and having never really searched for tofu in Lebanon, I wrongfully thought the country was devoid of the delicacy. Well maybe “delicacy” isn’t the appropriate term for the interesting ingredient I was about to experiment on. I bought a pack, “extra-firm tofu steak” oh yeah, I was drooling already, Internet images racing through my mind. It’s safe to say I had never tasted tofu before, and had only read the raving comments of food bloggers posting eye-catching caramelized chunks of my soy-based friend.
I returned home, found a basic recipe I could tweak at ease and started the process. Being a big fan of curry, I made a spicy vegetarian version and dropped my now crisped up cubes of tofu into the mix to absorb all the flavors. Sounds good till now huh? Some rice noodles, spiced tofu & vegetables in a light creamy yellow sauce and… no. As soon as I had swallowed the first chunk of what I can only describe as chewy boiled egg-white omelet, I knew I had to revert to plan B: fish them all out of my bowl and pretend they never existed. Flavored soggy cardboard would have done the job just fine, I believe.
I spent months convinced that tofu was a horrid invention and that those bloggers were insane for shoving such a thing into their mouths, my refined palate was appalled – well, some people think they have style whileas I believe I have gourmet tastes, and yes my palate comes equiped with a full range of emotions.
A few months later, I spent two weeks in Germany, and venturing on risky ground, had what I’m convinced was the best tofu dish ever. Battered and swimming in a caramel soy sauce and shiitake mushrooms… my tummy demanded more and my palate was in a state of pure ecstasy. Needless to say I went back again! Then I left Deutschland and its culinary wonders, and plunged into a gloomy pool of despair, deprived of my sweet beloved… I read too much Poe, I know.
Since then, I’ve had a tofu-based dish once, and I enjoyed it, but still haven’t dared cook the tricky thing myself. However, I now feel ready to try and take on the monster again and this time, it’d better be edible…closer to tissue paper maybe? I think I’ve had my dose of cardboard for a while…

Inde-penance day

I woke up this morning to the sound of drums and our national anthem being bellowed through loudspeakers. I had completely forgotten our independence day was coming up, why would I remember such an event anyway? What are we independent from?
In 1943 the French mandate was ended after 23 years of ruling. I remember my grandfather telling me the story of when they all left, a glorious day to some, but not to him. On 22nd November 1943, a young man was found roaming the streets of Beirut with a huge French flag fluttering over his shoulder; my grandpa had always been a rebel – well most of my family is unconventional, so there’s nothing really surprising about it – but what he did next took courage. In front of all his bewildered neighbors, he climbed onto the building’s roof and planted the French flag screaming: “you have just ruined the country!” Well he said something like that in Arabic anyway.
The French colonial occupation bothered the Lebanese patriots for it deprived them from claiming the land as their own, from governing it the way they saw fit. Today, 72 years later, most of those patriots are deceased, and I’m sure if they had witnessed the evolution of the country, they died biting their lip…hard.
During the detested mandate, Lebanon was a prosperous land, one of life and calm order, however disturbing the truth really was; the people still weren’t occupied of their own volition, for who the hell would choose such a masochistic dole? So fed up, we were freed, and slowly but surely, it all went downhill. It is a sad fact that most of my compatriots wish they had the French passport, I (shamefully?) do too, and many have gone out of their way to leave this “free” place we all desperately try to call home sweet home. Bittersweet home is a closer reality to our lives here.
Some will say “look at what happened to Paris last week, what difference would it have made?” Unfortunately, the difference lies elsewhere; it isn’t which country was bombed or where this or that isolated incident occurs; the glitch is flagrant on days when our cities are safe from terrorists, it’s in our garbage crisis, our electricity cuts, our lack of decent hospitalisation and retirement plans…the difference is everywhere. The French government, no matter how flawed it can be, still remembers its role; the people first and foremost. Our governments have failed us, we have failed our country, and although we pride ourselves in our ability to live through every horrible situation we’ve ever been put through, our lives here aren’t examples of health; our country is sick and the marching bands could keep celebrating till dawn, they still wouldn’t be celebrating anything substantial.
I sigh deeply as I type these words, as I notice we deem occupation more blissful than heroically-claimed freedom. The French mandate was ill-fated, but our present doesn’t feel much brighter; we took out a poisoned needle and stuck a contaminated syringe in its place.
So happy independence day Lebanon, whatever that means, and cheers to the day we’ll be independent from our vain victories.

The bombs will bring us together

There have been such big clouds of negativity swarming over us lately due to the world’s blatant mess, with people talking about it, people writing about it, people singing about it and now nobody can forget about it, or so we’d like to think. We shouldn’t forget it. We probably shouldn’t even consider it, a terrible sense of shame would haunt us; for why would we get the right to outlive tragedy when tragedy had forbidden unfortunate others from doing so? The eternal internal conflict: realize you’re lucky to be alive, but don’t live just yet, it’s rude.

No. This is what they want. This is the havoc they aim to create. They kill, you cry, you move on…and they slowly but surely win. We are human, we are built to deal with the worst, live through death and our miserable condition of powerless ghosts roaming a rotting planet; but to be human isn’t to stand idly as corpses amass in forgotten corners of our minds. To live is to fight; we live on, because they can’t.

As I am writing this sentence, hundreds are dying; a few hungry children have just run out of food, an unemployed man has been shot for not paying the rent, a family have drowned after their car has been thrown off a bridge by a drunken truck driver, a refugee has been manhandled for having a daesh-looking beard whatever that is… The world is dying and I’m in front of my screen, comfortable and safe, watching it all crumble to pieces, helpless. Or am I? Are we all really bystanders with no power? Can’t we banish greed so as to feed, warm and heal the less fortunate only “less” because we claimed more? Can’t we lend a hand or give a hug to the drunk drowning his sorrows away? Can’t we promote brotherhood and help eliminate prejudice and mad misconstrued stereotypes? Can’t we really do anything, or is it just a comforting lie we repeat to ourselves in order not to shake our stale routine of pale luxuries?

As a kid, my parents often found me crying in my room, sometimes calmly, others hysterically. Wondering why, they’d always get the same answer: people are dying everywhere and there’s nothing I can do to help it. I was terrified of life’s most basic truth, and no monster hiding under the bed could top the horrible feeling this provoked: my fiend was one that had no face, one I could not fight.

Today, I don’t feel much different, but with each passing day I become more aware that we all expire at our own pace, from reasons often with no face, sometimes even from demons once angels fallen from grace. However, now I know we are all actors in this farce of a life, we all have a part we can choose to play out or ignore. Our planet is wounded, in more ways than one, and in a twisted manner of thinking, I hope its wounds will some day soon be the trigger that wakes us all from this numbed state of being. This planet is in dire need of love, but everyone’s too busy pointing fingers and spreading hate. If we all stood together, the bastards wouldn’t so easily blast us apart, no matter how many pieces they made of our bodies. Someday, we will all wake, and the bombs will bring us together.

Excuse me while I digress

Two days have passed, no new scare, the dead can be mourned and the living breathe again…for now. Someone has to say it, a few days of “peace” while everyone waits for the other shoe to drop; where will the monsters hit next?

I was watching TV today, absent-minded, when an ad caught my attention; we’ve reached mid November and the Christmas madness is only a few days away. I’ve always loved Christmas, for many reasons but mostly for the joy it brings, even to the outsiders. Twinkling lights and coloured decorations cover up the sound of screaming bills, the smell of garbage piling up higher, the taste of contaminated vegetables; it’s a season happy by default, no matter how old you get…unless you’re left alone. Suddenly the world becomes real; wars, pain, death… being left behind is everything but celebratory. I write this as I think of the little kid who lost his parents in the Beirut bombing, he won’t hear his mother’s voice calling him for dinner anymore. There’s a woman who lost her husband in Paris, they will never celebrate their wedding anniversary again. A man lost his mother in an explosion, he will never again  taste her love in her walnut maamoul. Countries have lost their children, whose voices will no longer be heard, whose potential accomplishments we will never know of.

Loss. In an ever-evolving, ever-growing world, it is a word we hear too often to not turn to existential questions: how is it we are told of gain when all we read and hear about is deprivation, dissipation and no salvation? We are the products of anguish and greed, we feel pain and unexplicably ask for more – and no I’m not talking about s&m. There is a worldwide tendency to follow those who wind up hurting us, sweet talking and misleading our steps into temples of rubble; suicide bombers with their evil gods, gold diggers with their paper devils, and the rest of the world taking up the roles of well-dressed sheep with their malevolent leaders. Religion is often portrayed as the culprit, but alone, religion is just a word, just like a glass of milk is healthy till it’s baked into a cholesterol-filled cake devoured with no second thought. Everyone wants to blame something or someone, but nobody wants to admit we’re all to blame. We are to blame for segregation,  we are to blame for disparity, we are to blame for extremism and every barbaric concept you can think of that makes society the way it is today. We are to blame for this child orphaned for the only crime of existing. We have made this world unlivable, and it can only get worse with attitudes like those shown for example in the small world of social media the last few days. They announce war and people decide to fight, how do you expect things to get better when you only make them worse?

We are all suicide bombers, we are the puss in the world’s untreated wounds, we are the war… If people would only choose their fight instead of becoming the reason there is one at all. Don’t “hashtag” peace, be it.

Beirut in black, Paris on fire

Yet another attack. 120 dead, they said. That’s 3 times 40, but apparently 10 times more important. Don’t think my old math teacher would understand that either.

Last night I went out to breathe, to remember to breathe, to live as more than 40 others had stopped. I came back home with a hundred more departed souls weighing on my mind, the smell of death haunting my every step.

Since childhood, Lebanon and France have both been home to me. I roam te streets of one as naturally as I do the second, I speak one’s language as fluently as the other. My heart goes out to you Paris, or what’s left of it after the Beirut bombing. However, I remain puzzled. Reading the news after both attacks, I can’t help but notice the gigantic difference between the way each event is treated. On Facebook, it somehow seems the same at first, people posting the latest reports, some checking on others…till I get a notification saying my friends in Paris are safe. Wait, Zuckerberg, did you create an option just for France? What about us here? Do we, to the world, matter less? At least, that was my first reaction. Then I scrolled down and started reading what some people had to say…and they left me speechless. It’s the Charlie hebdo vs. Syria drama all over again. People died, innocents, the world is on fire and all the social media self-proclaimed geniuses have found to do in this time of crisis is to compare and weigh which country’s victims are to be mourned more. I grew up with the saying “quality over quantity” and I believe it applies here too: nobody is more important than anyone, all humans are of same quality, of same importance,  whether they’re 2 or 1 million, whether they’re your cousins or some unknown group in Guadalajara.

Today we mourn the world, as we seem to be doing so often these past few years. Under the ruthless siege of fanaticism, we mourn the disappearance of compassion & the departure of common sense. After thousands of years on Earth, why can’t Man stand by Man, united, instead of creating more ways to stand apart?

RIP beautiful world, and welcome to 21st century degeneracy.

Ski in the morning, die in the evening

I don’t love you enough.

How hard it is to say it aloud; I don’t love my country enough and I must admit I’ve rarely felt ashamed of it. I was born at the end of the civil war, grew up with my father’s stories about the grand Beirut, the Switzerland of the Middle East, The Paris of the Orient, walked around the war-torn city and painted the beautiful ruins of a once glorious country. For the longest time, I saw this place through the nostalgic eyes of my parents, grandparents, the black and white photos preciously kept by every proud old Lebanese. Then I was hit by a fragment of reality at the age of 14, a second time at the age of 16, 17 wasn’t all that blissful either and by 24 I was left completely disillusioned.

Our elders tell us we’re lucky, we didn’t go through the big bad war, we didn’t live the horror they were so ruthlessly submerged in. No, we didn’t. We didn’t live the golden age either, where the streets were clean, the food uncontaminated, the water…well, flowing. We were just thrown into a life of uncertainty, a constant battle feeding a barely disguised urge to run away and find peace. Hummus toast & cedar coffins.

Yesterday another bombing occurred, more death, more rubble, more fear, yet an umpteenth needle shoved in our hearts. Our life here is like a thriller movie, suspense, you just never know when they’re going to hit or who they really are. One day they’re targeting a politician, the other a group of innocent victims who happened to be in some random area. Worst thing is, as I read about the fallen, I noticed many were refugees; they sought a country more peaceful than theirs to then be torn to pieces in ours. The irony.

I don’t love you enough, Lebanon, but really, how can I? I fear your name for it sounds like bombs, I fear your image for all I see is ashes, I fear you for you taste like blood.

However, deep down I know that despite how morbid our days become, our people will always prove resilient; we are 10452 sqkm of faith, faith in a more serene tomorrow, no matter how far tomorrow is, and someday, we will know peace.

I don’t love you enough, but I haven’t given up trying.

Something bold, something true, something buried, something new

There is something quite difficult about starting anything; I always find myself deeply confused at the commencement of every new journey, new adventure, relationship of any sort, or in this case new blog. I have tried to keep a blog a couple of times before, but somehow always managed to put it aside, forget about it or even worse, stop relating to it as if someone else had created it and just put my name on it haphazardly. I suppose it’s the same for every decision we make; we act and then we question, we find excuses before actually finding the problem we’re so eager to justify. However, we’re human, no matter how plain or insignificant that can sometimes seem, we do have to start somewhere, and perhaps for once, worries will come a bit further down the road instead of ruining our endlessly renewed beginnings. So here goes nothing!

Hello. My education, no matter how eccentric it sometimes seemed, taught me that good manners will never go out of style. So hello. Hello, you who are reading, hello even if nobody’s paying attention, just hello. My name is – that’s the logical second step isn’t it? First hello, then formal introductions. Well today my name is Bonnie, like Bonnie and Clyde. Maybe tomorrow it’ll be Rebecca or Vivienne, but that’s a whole other day with a whole different bunch of dreams. I guess her crazy life seems exciting right now as I type, sitting at my desk, dreaming up a brand new adventure, one I may never go on, one that may seem less thrilling once I do.

I am ever-changing, and it frightens me sometimes; the way my heart beats as a new direction stands glaringly in front of me, taunting me to take it, forever insatiable. I have been dizzy for as long as I’ve breathed, I have twirled and spun myself till I fell, but still got right back up and went at it again. You see, nothing has ever been stable in my 25 years here, places, friends, emotions, needs, fantasies. I haven’t hung on to favorite songs or pinpointed goals or even chosen one alternative name for myself. I want it all and I want nothing at once, I want cold weather and summer dresses, I want adventure as well as safety, I want a home and I want the world.

Now how’s that for a start? I really never know what I’m going to write, or paint when I stand in front of a brand new canvas. I just let things happen, the way I’ve always let the world happen to me. There’s beauty in being lost, a calming certainty that no matter how lost you feel or how far away you wander, nothing is truly lost forever.