I seem to specialise in dramatically changing the course of my life every few years, mainly for the sake of keeping it interesting. When I was young I did it every five years or so. Now that I am older, it is every ten years or so. This year I decided to change my life again. I sold my beautiful loft to downsize in London and upsize in Sicily where I plan to build my dream house. It wasn’t a rash decision. I have been wanting to build my dream house for a few years now; and I toyed with different ideas of where to do it. Syria was once an option! Then I considered California, also France and even Spain despite not speaking any Spanish. Then one day, I decided to go to the olive harvest on Mary Taylor Simeti‘s farm in Sicily and while there I decided that Sicily was where I would make this happen. The landscape and way of life there are very close to those in Lebanon and Syria where I grew up, but more orderly and with no risk of ISIS ever coming close. I had been to Sicily before but living on Mary’s farm in my own little casetta made me feel that the island was where I could feel I was going back home without actually doing so. And so it was. Mary introduced me to a friend of hers, Giovanni Matta, who took me to three different plots in one single day and the last one turned out to be the perfect spot. I must have been born under a lucky star!
I wonder if I will miss London once I leave. I will certainly miss bumping into friends, and sometimes friends I haven’t seen for years as happened the other day when I saw Paul on my way to Joel, my wonderful hairdresser who I like to describe as a hair sculptor. Paul and I met on a press trip to Sao Paolo where I had played truant, missing almost all that was on the program. To be fair I had been before. It was a nice surprise to see him again and we stopped to chat before Paul suggested I go with him to the rare tea lady where he was heading. Joel had called to say he was running late as he often does, so, I went. And I am glad I did. Not only did I bump into more friends there but I also discovered a new passion, dried almond blossom. Henrietta, who I knew virtually, showed us the incredibly beautiful dried blossom saying she was getting them from a new Spanish supplier and then offered to infuse some for us to taste. Flower teas are not new. We have z’hurat (a mixture of dried flowers) in Lebanon and Syria where we also infuse individual flowers, the Chinese have chrysanthemum and other flower teas and the Japanese have sakura but I had never seen dried almond blossom. My plan now is to grow my own almond trees in Sicily (hoping I can on my mountain!) to have my own supply, and to supply Henrietta, making a little money from the land. They are expensive but totally worth it and you will be able to order the dried blossom as of September (I think) from the Rare Tea Company.
Yesterday, we had our first serious Koshari Street event, setting up stall at the Mayor of London’s Eid Festival in Trafalgar Square. It was quite amazing. We never stopped for one minute, serving people of all ages, all nationalities, all sexes who all loved our koshari. And we loved them for wanting it. I particularly loved the two young girls in the picture above, university students who had come up to London for the festival and had stocked up on food from other stalls which they carried in blue plastic bags. I should have asked them to put the bags aside for the sake of the picture but then I wouldn’t have caught them so natural. Another one I loved was the gentleman in the picture below squeezing through the crowd anxiously carrying away his pots of koshari. I also liked his fashion sense although not as much as that of two Italian ladies who also enjoyed our Koshari. I am not sure why I didn’t take their picture. They were just as gorgeous as the two university students. But I took others, all with instagram, which I resisted for years but no longer and if you are curious to see them, you can in our facebook album!
If there is one thing I hate, it is noise. And nowadays, I am plagued with noise. At home with building works at the back, not to mention the drunks at weekends. At airports with horrid music piping everywhere. On the tube with music pulsating out of people’s headphones. And of course in restaurants where very few restaurateurs seem to appreciate that diners may want to talk to each other while eating their meal!