I can’t remember when my mother moved to Balluneh. I wasn’t happy because I loved our huge appartment in Beirut in a 1920’s building but it had been squatted during the civil war and even though my mother had gotten rid of the squatters (who were neighbours), she no longer felt safe there. So, she bought in Balluneh, away from the chaos of Beirut and close to her brother. I didn’t like the place at first but I do now, for all kinds of reasons including Qal’at el-Rumiyeh in neighbouring Qley’at where they rear their own lambs to serve the best nayeh ever — the only better nayeh is up north in places like Ehden where they make it with goat meat. They also have the most amazing view as you can see from the picture above. And whenever I visit, my mother knows that lunch at Rumiyeh is the first thing I want to do. It was no different this time except that we were joined by my sister and her husband, a rare couple who are still mad about each other nearly 40 years, 3 children and 2 grandchildren later!
Finally back in London and already missing the bustling Arab markets with their abundance of seasonal produce and where I can taste anything I want without any of the vendors being offended as they would be in Europe.
This year, I was lucky to be in the Middle East during fresh chickpeas season, my favourite snack as a child. My mother used to buy us large bunches from street vendors and we would sit on our balcony, popping pod after pod – unlike peas or fava beans, chickpeas come each in its own pod, except for the occasional twin chickpeas in the single pod – to munch on juicy and tender chickpeas.