May 13, 2010

On Food Pirates and Family

Don’t they always say that in Lebanon everyone is related to everyone else? And if they’re not related, than at least they know them from somewhere? Well, I tell you, I am well integrated in this society.
Merijn Tol and Nadia Zerouali in the kitchen of Tawlet
Where am I getting at? Let me start from the beginning. Two Dutch ladies, Merijn Tol  & Nadia Zerouali  are in town to work on their second cookbook of the Mediterranean region. Their first one, Arabia, was a pretty big hit in Holland (they’re working on a French/English version for Lebanon and the region). These two ladies are a bit like food pirates; they roam around the region, raid kitchens, talk/cook with people, pick up interesting recipes, give it a little twist, write about it, and then pack up their bags and move on to the next country. They’ve done quite a few of the Mediterranean countries already (Marocco, Libya, Lebanon, Syria, Sicily and more) and are now working on some more culinary anthropology in Palestine, Algeria, and Lebanon again. Remember, way back when the Romans were ruling the world, they already figured out that it is actually the Mediterranean Sea that is the center of the world, and they wanted to conquer it all. They got pretty close, and ever since, these Mediterranean countries have a common denominator. Several common denominators actually and food is one of them.

Today the two ladies showed off some of their recipes/food to a packed Tawlet, the restaurant connected to Souk el Tayeb, Lebanon’s first Farmer’s Market.
Tawlet, in between lunch and dinner

Because this might be an interesting story for Dutch newspapers, they had contacted some Dutch journalist. Here I come in. I couldn’t make lunch, and already had plans for dinner (this country is absolutely ruthless on your social life) but I could come in between. And so I dropped by while they ladies were taking a breather from the lunch, and getting ready for the dinner crowd at 9:00.

And so here we sit, talk about food, what attracts them to the region, and Lebanon in particular, and the wild & exotic plans they still have in discovering more regional flavors, when their photographer walks in. “Hey, are you not a Galama?” she asks. You bet ya I am a Galama. The Galama’s are a Frisian family, originally rebels, war lords , robber barons, and we even have a few crusaders on the list as well.
Nadia Zerouali , a Galama, another Galama, and Merijn Tol

Turns out she’s my cousin’s daughter. She didn’t know I lived in Beirut, I did not know she was in town, and here, in a city of one million and something, I run into my – what do you call it – second cousin. What are the odds? I must say, she was in good company; two food pirates.  And so, when you live long enough in Lebanon, even here you are somehow related. It's a small world.

They’ll be at the Farmers Market this Saturday, in downtown, so come and check them out!


angie nader said...

i've never found a good authentic lebanese cook book. i guess i will have to wait for theirs to come out :)

Patrick said...

I saw a small white Hyundai Getz in Beirut yesterday. The only one with a Dutch flag. Ik wed dat het vriendinnen zijn van Sietske

The Aqaba House - Good living made sustainable said...

Laat de dames me even bellen als ze naar Jordanie komen, Siets! En doe ze de groeten als je ze nog spreekt!

The Aqaba House - Good living made sustainable said...

If you go for a real authentic cookery-book, but then not Lebanese, but Jordanian, try 'The land and the table' by a Lebanese author. Great stories and a lot of background on how the produce of the land would totally influence what was being put on the table. Highly recommended!

Anonymous said...

I had lunch at Tawlet that day! So cool to read about them now. It was REALLY good! I had no idea they were Dutch.

Anonymous said...

Hé Sietsk, van welke neef of nicht is die dame dan? Groeten, Y.

Anonymous said...

Dat is er een van oom Haye (Anneke en Gerard).

Francine said...

Just today I saw an article on Nadia in "Allerhande".
Good for her / them.
A good book is the famous one of Claudia Roden. Mine is a very old paperback, stern with no pictures, kind of a bible. Hell, but it works :)