Happily obsolete

I grew up the old fashioned way. In a time of electronic evolution and new technologies, my parents decided to bring me up the way they were, with no added help, no frivolous objects, thus repressing the urge to follow the latest trends and rendering me less of a victim of increasingly elaborate marketing ploys.

I learned to use a vinyl record player when my classmates were walking around with discmans, I had a twelve channel programmable television set and a cassette player when my contemporaries had a hundred channels, cable and the latest hi-fi systems. I also played with elaborate (and definitely non-aerodynamic) paper airplanes and retro electric trains when gameboys and Nintendos were all the rage. You’d probably assume that made me mad, and you’re right, it did…at first.

As years went by, the more I had access to what was considered obsolete and the less I dabbled with modernism, the more I learned to count on myself for entertainment and everyday tasks like reheating dishes in a skillet or oven pan and finding the right technique to not end up with half of my food stuck at the bottom of what could easily become a dish-washing nightmare. And yes, I never had microwave popcorn with all the fake butter and ten thousand useless ingredients; instead, I went through bags of burnt kernels to perfect the corn popping technique, and guess what? I still can’t make a decent batch. Didn’t expect this turn of events, huh? I learned to cook whole meals from scratch while my friends were playing video games but I still can’t make a half decent bowl of popcorn at 27, how ridiculous. Well, it doesn’t end there. Since I moved from my parents’ house, I have had access to microwaves much more often – home still being a preserved haven of health and lowkey technology – and have used them a few times to reheat something in a hurry or make the occasional mug cake. However, popcorn remained a pan-only treat until about a week ago when my roommate popped some in a paper bag. The thought having pleased me, I decided today to try my hand at the matter and followed the relatively childish procedure: put popcorn in bag, close bag, program microwave and…pop! Except she forgot to tell me one thing: how many minutes do they take in there? I was alone and just pressed on 4, a reasonable time in the microwave world, I thought. One thing is for sure, guessing is a bad idea. A burning smell started exuding from the machine around three minutes in, but being in unfamiliar territory, I assumed it was a figment of my imagination, for how could anything burn in a microwave? Famous last words. I opened the door when the timer rang, unfortunate tune of my popcorn’s death sentence: inside the brown paper bag was a clump of black chunks formerly known as popped corn kernels. I’ll refrain from describing the dark cloud that also came out of my unfriendly helper.

Ultimately, I suppose my old-fashioned upbringing had nothing to do with my popcorn-making abilities, I believe I just don’t carry the kernel-popping gene (or the paper plane designing one if we’re being precise). Nevertheless, I think I’ll maintain the tradition of making my future children just as clueless about society’s downward spiral into the technological abyss, teaching them the value of time and what wonders a little elbow grease and creativity can produce. My train and record player patiently await their little hands…or mine until then.


The clumsy chronicles pt.2

If you’ve been following my ramblings long enough, you’ve probably noticed that I have already talked about how clumsy I can be, but in all honesty, I reach new levels each day and therefore have to update this public diary of clumsiness.

I woke up this morning dreaming of the decadent cake my mum had promised to make for my half birthday, my actual birthday almost always ending up a complete failure due to some bizarre curse – I’ll expand on the subject in another post. So I got up, brewed my coffee, added a splash of milk then toasted a nice big slice of crusty bread and slathered homemade chunky marmalade on top. Breakfast in bed is something I particularly relish in and have had since I was a kid (mostly on weekends), so nothing was really different than my regular habits. My phone’s battery calling my attention, I deposited my plate on my bed and went to plug in the weeping device, then sat on my bed’s side as I took a sip of my comforting warm beverage. Looking around, I couldn’t locate my breakfast which I was certain I had brought to my bedroom. Lightbulb. I get up and realize I had sat on it and the plate I was staring at was, apart from the occasional crumb…empty. My sandwich had gotten stuck on my bum! Furthermore, as I tried to detach the sticky mess from my pyjamas, I inevitably spilled half my coffee on my slippers.

Needless to say I decidedly have no better luck on my half than on my actual birthday, and my clothes have already had more sweets than me today.

Random rant

When I started this blog, the idea was to write down on my phone whatever came to mind, be it a fait divers, a rant or a haiku. So, staying true to that, here are the perplexing thoughts running through my mind at the moment and snippets of the events triggering their oh-so-annoying appearance.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my father’s older cousin passed away on the day after Christmas, alone in his house, his body found by the police and left there to decay while they searched for living relatives of the deceased. Well, they found us, and we had to run all over the place on new year’s eve to ensure he was properly buried and his papers were in order. The first part done, we were asked to go back into his house perfumed with five days’ worth of rotting flesh, rummage through his private belongings as I repressed heavy tears from flowing all over the place at the thought of how terribly lonely it must have been to die alone. He wasn’t only family, he was human, a feeling being who left unopened boxes filled with Christmas decorations in his living room, papers strewn on all chairs and tables as he endeavoured to finish his affairs while death crept closer and closer. I repressed my tears long enough to get back home where, nothing restraining the flow anymore, I wept. These events coupled with my uncertain state of mind every time my future is mentioned inevitably caused my body to react and… hello heartburn. After years of struggling with it, how it appears out of the blue or during stressful moments, I still don’t know how to deal with the monster. On a strict diet of rice, boiled carrots and camomile tea, needless to say the kitchen seems to be laughing at my dismay, the internet taunting me with “don’t eat this” and “don’t do that” instead of offering me the one thing I desperately seek: “eat this”, a “this” that doesn’t taste bland or makes me want to sing about dishes of yore, dreaming of my hot cup of nothing.

There is no point to this post other than to relieve some of the tension acquired from opening the fridge and closing it in vain, this time knowing it isn’t devoid of tasty snacks and dishes as it can so often seem, but stacked with forbidden treats by my too sensitive stomach and upset nerves. 2017, it’s been only a week, take it easy on me, will you?

My friend: the fridge

Screenshot_2016-04-03-14-52-43-1Food. I could talk and write about the subject for hours, and then hours after that. Nay, I wouldn’t stop talking about it unless I was eating, then I really wouldn’t need to talk because the yummy food on my fork would do the job for me. It would talk to my nose, to my palate, to my tummy, to my brain… it would probably whisper to my soul because souls are poetic that way. Food is beautiful.

I woke up early this morning, just like every morning of my life, for no other reason than to torture my body by not letting it sleep. Oh well, more time to dream about food, because you don’t need to be asleep to think of cake and melting cheese and boatloads of rice drizzled with soy sauce. Yes, I have a huge appetite at 7 a.m too. I got up, made my ritualistic tea composed of water, English breakfast tea, a splash of skim milk and that fake sugar that looks like a pill and tastes like something you shouldn’t ingest but still do because sugar is bad for you and chemical sugar is obviously better (I have my stupid moments). Then, armed with a pretty knife, I sliced a piece of the molasses cake on the table and dipped it in my tea. As I bit into it, moist and slightly chewy, I started thinking that if I had used more milk, of the full fat type, and put honey or sugar in my tea, then eating cake would have been somewhat of an unhealthy choice, but since my drink was so light, it’s as if I had cut the cake’s calories in half. This, with the help of my twisted logic, made me cut another slice because apparently I was having “diet” cake. I have issues.

Food is such a pleasure, especially when you are able to make your own, crave a dish and make it a reality with just two hands, some utensils and a bunch of ingredients. I believe diet fads are a ploy to take away one of the simplest pleasures in life, the thing that can make you smile even when alone or tired or angry. Being skinny isn’t as comforting at 3 a.m as a piece of leftover fried chicken followed by chocolate fudge ice cream. Fitting into size 0 pants doesn’t cure the Monday blues, doesn’t make your fingers tingle at the thought of buckling its buttons like it does when you split a crispy mozzarella stick and the melted center oozes out on your plate waiting for your senses to be enthralled.

I like salads, I’m the biggest veggie aficionado out there, give me anything from lettuce to eggplants, even Brussels sprouts and stinky boiled cauliflower, I’ll eat them all with a huge grin. Mum even describes my eating a bowl of spinach like a kid given a tub of ice cream. Loving food isn’t loving bad food, fatty food or fake processed food. Being a foodie is knowing what to eat and how to eat it, choosing quality and understanding what’s on our fork. I don’t eat hot dogs or squeeze “cheddar” out of bottles with a thousand ingredients I can’t even pronounce; I eat what I understand, what nature has given me, and I enjoy it. Some would say I enjoy it too much, but I don’t see the problem in doing so. I’m not obese, I don’t have health problems, or at least none related to my fridge-raiding habits, and if there’s one moment in the day you’ll find me smiling naturally and unconsciously, it’s when I’m in the kitchen stirring a big pot of curry.

There’s nothing wrong with loving food, waking up with recipes screaming at me, vivid images of dishes I once had the pleasure of trying, meals planned out for the day, week or even a month from now. Some obsess over celebrities, I obsess over perfectly cooked eggs. Yum.

The fruit of death

I haven’t posted in a week. The reason? Death. No, nobody close to me has died recently, I haven’t been grieving any particular loss, I’ve just been in deep contemplation of the idea of dying, the mourning process, and the aftermath. How does one live after death?

Cher asked “do you believe in life after love?”to which I always answer moodily, depending on when the song starts playing. However, do you believe in life after death? If so, how does one continue, and what scars does parting bestow on those still living? It is unarguably easy to die; once you’re gone you’re free, whether you’ve spent the last ten months in a hospital bed, or fell asleep to never wake up, when the light goes out it’s over, for you and whoever is left. I was five the first time I became aware of someone’s passing. I had been sitting with her a day earlier in her bed. She was attached to machines, yet when she saw me holding a pack of fresh figs, her favourite fruit, she sat up and peeled some for both of us. At 5 years old, you just don’t get it, the tubes and the blood bags…you’re just aware of the lingering smell hospitals are so known for – I hate that smell. The next day, I was in the stairway ready to find her room when they told me I wasn’t to see her anymore. Ever. I remember that staircase so well, the white banister, the hermetically closed window… you don’t forget the places where all of a sudden your life derails from its tranquil course. My grandmother also loved figs, she had a big tree in her garden and when we’d walk by it, she’d pick a few and share her tree’s bearings with me. When she passed, nobody told me; being in the middle of my exams, nobody wanted to distract me with the news I’m still struggling with 8 years later. Figs… we pick strange things to remember, strange things to hold onto, strange things to move on with… Whenever I eat figs I need silence, and until recently, I had never understood why, the reason I so naturally slipped into a meditative state every time I had any. As I watched a small video on death and how people continued after witnessing loved ones depart from their presence, it hit me: I haven’t moved on, I haven’t forgotten, I live with death every day and I smile. Not because they’re gone, but because through the simple act of peeling a fig and sensing its sweetness in silence, I am once again the little 5 year old with the two old ladies that marked my childhood so evidently.

Nostalgia is mourning the death of the past, it is lived through our senses; smells, sounds, textures, sights and tastes all hold our memories, patiently waiting to revive what we thought had left us forever. Maybe in the end we’re only memories, pacing through others’ minds, and when we’re not being remembered, we sleep, unaware of our short-lived existence having ended. I suppose death is not so frightening after all.

Daily dread

This morning, just like every other, I started my day skimming through the latest news. As usual, there were completely useless uses of words and visual space, and like every day since the beginning of time, there were bad, sad and completely devastating news.

I had never heard of Madaya till today. Turns out it’s a currently¬†besieged town in Syria, a country that has been suffering for more than two years from war and innumerable daily deaths. It feels as though all we talk about these days is death, it sneaks up in all conversations, even during parties, and there is no running away from it. Today, the remaining inhabitants of Madaya find themselves deprived of the most basic thing of all: food. They’re not the first, with people in Africa – and other regions we unfortunately do not take the time to read and learn about – dying of hunger as well, but pictures of their emactiated faces are all over the media, eyes desperately calling whoever is willing to answer. They need us, but who is this “us” and what can we do? We undervalue what we have, the 3 to 5 meals we swallow without the slightest afterthought, the heaters we turn on automatically, the taps always flowing with fresh water – well, as fresh as Lebanon can provide in our case. We live, comfortably in denial, as others die, unknown and forgotten.

I remember stumbling once upon old magazines my father had saved, magazines reporting the Lebanese civil war and its effects on the country; shockingly similar photographs to the ones I saw today in the news were spread all over the pages, the same heart-wrenching images of concave faces and protruding bones, bulging eyes filled with hopelessness and headlines reading humans like us had had to resort to eating grass, animals and, praying this hasn’t happened yet, each other. Typing these words, I can’t help but shed a few tears; the world is sick, the world is crumbling, and maybe we are all next. Everyone is sharing the images on Facebook and Twitter and whatever platforms I haven’t checked, but soon after they’re all having dinner, meeting up and laughing because this is only happening somewhere else. I’m writing about it but who am I? What help am I offering here, hiding behind my screen, definitely not as hungry but almost as helpless as those Syrians fighting to stay alive in a world that does not care if they do. The occidental definition of a Syrian today is an invader, a terrorist, a stranger, a danger, a menace to the western world. A Syrian in Lebanon used to be the guy you called to do the same job for half the price, the darker-skinned people who were hired to do the dirty work on construction sites. Today, they’re everywhere, in our streets, in our offices, invaders as well in a country not so different from theirs yet still not their own, in a country that has grown tired of being their crutch when it needs a crutch, and maybe even a wheelchair, of its own.

I always run away from the news, as if it will stop existing if I don’t look at it, but it always catches up, and my thoughts find themselves clouded with today’s darkness. People are dying, of hunger, of war wounds, of age, of despair, of fear…and I’m dying of shame, for I sometimes feel as useless as the “share” and “like” buttons.

Heart, have you seen love?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve heard stories of people falling in love, falling out of it, dreaming of past lovers and dreaming up new ones… I was however never told what it’d be like to just…not.

A friend just got engaged, two just got married, three had kids, one’s thinking of divorce, and oh, look! a show on first loves! World, swallow me whole. I had always thought that by now my heart would have had it all figured out, memorized the steps to the dance of love, trained my tummy’s butterflies to flutter all the more magically to the music of “el amor” – well, for one, I detest butterflies (yes,really). Secondly, my heart seems to only jump at the sight of cheese or melted chocolate, which, let’s be honest, one would agree isn’t so bad. Unfortunately, at 25, I find it hard to swallow that love lost its way while on its perilous journey to me, a perfectly cushioned and warm landing area. Where art thou my lover? Where is thy brave heart, thy brain and thy tight grasp? Probably stuck in a 1950s Hollywood picture or about to be devoured by a lion somewhere wild and beautiful. They tell you stories about love, its soothing presence, ¬†its despairing disappearance, but they rarely approach the puzzling land of its absence; you simply can’t complain about things you do not know and you certainly can’t perceive the complexity of what you have no experience of. I have dreamt and I have sighed at the sight of couples holding hands, men listening to their wives’ bulging tummies as new life blossoms inside, written a thousand poems and sung hundreds of songs, but to no avail; the dream remains a dream, and that, only life and time can truly heal.

One would want to believe it’s futile to fantasize about love and what it could bring, but if in my short life I’ve learnt one thing, it’s that love is the purest melody our hearts can sing.