February 09, 2009

Suburban Lemons

Where I come from, they sell the lemons three to a net for €1.29 (that’s $1.66 or 2,500 LBP). So that’s 50 cents a lemon. Sour deal, no? They come without stems or leaves. Three yellow lemons in a yellow net. I remember one year I found two lemons attached together with a stem, and one leaf. I was totally mesmerized by that. The realization that lemons are from trees was a foreign concept to a Dutch city girl.

Here in Lebanon we’ve got massive lemon orchards down south, and if you’d buy your lemons three at a time, I think the grocery guy would take pity on you, and give them to you for free. “Poor girl, can’t afford a kilo of lemons. Here, have ‘em for free.” Lemons here go for 950 LBP/kilo (€0.48 or 0.63$). I just got back from my sister in-law, who lives on the outskirts of Beirut. Actually, Beirut has no outskirts; it has become one huge metropolitan area, stretching all the way from Jounieh in the north to Khaldeh in the south.

Anyway, as I sat in her garden, I realized the kids were targeting each other with yellow balls. Turns out she’s got a lemon tree in her yard, and the yellow balls were lemons. I never noticed, because the thing never had any lemons. But for some odd reason, in mid-winter, it suddenly has started growing lemons, and it grows them by the hundreds. We gave them a job, and now I’ve got kilos and kilos of lemons in my car. And so here I sit, in suburban Beirut, under a lemon tree. How idyllic.

Some local red-neck lemon pickers in the back of a pick-up truck

This modern, metropolitan multi-million dollar megapolis is sometimes such a hicksville.

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