image image image image Matthew 5:5, from the Sermon on the Mount, the third beatitude. This scene of three months ago, during the waning days of summer, when Egyptian Laughing doves (Spilopelia senegalensis) gorged on the small figs that dropped relentlessly from Ficus sycomorus, brought to mind Conte Saidon Tidiany’s poem “Martyrs” again, especially the line “In the fog of the seasons’ end.” Who better than a dove to represent a martyr? The doves seemed not entirely willing martyrs, as they kept their distance from recesses and had wary eyes alert for lurking predators.

The fall of fruit was so great as to create a constant patter, and walking by, I was struck upon the head. Though not quite a Newtonian moment, I was inspired to taste one. Imagine a very small fig, dry and without sweet. I spat it on ground already covered with trodden fruit.

Passing below the great ficuses at night, the patter continued, but instead of the gentle doves eating fallen fruit, I heard the screeching and rustling of Egyptian fruit bats (Roussettus aegyptiacus) in the canopy. They gorged as doves, but spat like me. They sound of electrical shorts and angry violence. The building next to the trees are covered with little purplish-brown ellipses of bat spat. Or spoor. What a contrast to the peaceful doves in the dappled shade: screeching bats dropping spit and scat.


image image image image Sometimes, I prefer oblique compositions to capture distal aspects, but often, the oblique conveys an esthetic uncommunicated by the paralleling frames. I had wanted to take this image last week in the middle of the day, but events delayed me to sunset today, which presented much better lighting.

This deserves a haiku:

Gathering sun no more

Autumn leaves continue down



image image image imageimage The fly appears to be some genus of Muscidae, of which there are very many, including disease vectors and obnoxious pests. They are often synanthropes. The grass is pampas grass, probably Cortaderia selloana. Whenever I inspect a plant closely, I find insects.

image image image image For lack of more appropriate images: I did sharpen them all and used most for the stuffing. My favorites are the Japanese carbon steel and the very thin Japanese stainless rectangle, though the Chinese chopper or the very inexpensive US carbon steel chef are very capable, durable, and excellent value. The chopper came with a carbide stone, and I could imagine them lasting a lifetime of heavy use. The European chef is very good, but they are overrated and expensive.

Having recovered from Thanksgiving, and not quite yet overwhelmed by the end of the semester and holiday demands, it is time to respond to a request for the recipe of bread stuffing. This year it was particularly popular, and I am not sure why. I thought it should have far more sage, parsley, and celery leaves, but perhaps I usually overdo the sage for tradition. To accommodate guest food restrictions, it had no butter, sausage, or bacon, and it was lighter. Having the bread rise four times to develop flavor may also have contributed. Making the bread may seem a bother, but batter bread is easy to make and it has a good texture.

Consider a half batch, as this fills a 12 by 16 by 3 inch pan and is enough for 20-40 people. A cheap way to feed many people.

Bread Stuffing
double batch of batter bread, risen 4 times, torn to bits and toasted
6 cup of warm water, 125°F
quarter cup olive oil
12+ cups flour
2 tablespoon salt
6 tablespoon water
9 tablespoon sugar

1 kilo or more, about 10, onions, chopped and fried until well colored
3 or more leeks, minced
1 cup or so shallots, minced

4 or 5 carrots, minced

500 g pitted prunes quartered could use more
2 golden delicious apples, peeled, cored, and chopped could use more
4 cup mushrooms, chopped could use double

minced sage: a bit less than you might think is needed
bunch of parsley or more, chopped
leaves of celery from 3 or more stalks

2-4 cups turkey stock from the carcass and a couple of carrots, celery stalks, and a bay leaf
black pepper, much

First make the batter bread.
Mix half the flour with the sugar, yeast, and salt. Add the warm water and oil. Use a mixer if you have one, otherwise mix by hand with a large, sturdy spoon. When that is blended well, add the remaining flour in portions while mixing. A stiff batter results. Because it was beaten, it need not be kneaded, and this is how it is easier than normal breads. Let it rise covered in a warm place until it has at least doubled in volume. Punch it down and place it in a very large, greased tray (12 x 16 inch) or four 5 x 8 inch pans. Any baking container of sufficient size will work, because the bread will be torn to pieces. Let it rise until doubled again. At this point, it can be baked. This year, I punched it down and folded again, let it rise until more than doubled, punched it down and folded it again, and let it rise until it stopped rising, almost doubled. It seems the yeast ran out of sugar. Then it went in the oven, 375°F. It baked until it was browning on top and had a nice resonance upon being thumped. It probably could be allowed to cool, but I immediately tore it to bits with a pair of large forks. It smelled of hot rum. I was afraid it would flambé. Do not believe those who say bread does not contain alcohol, though I suspect khobz marquq has too little to detect.

Put the torn bits of bread on trays and bake them until dry and browning. This requires some intermittent tossing. I suppose if the stuffing is to be prepared immediately, the moisture would not be a problem, and untoasted flavor could be fine. Sometimes I butter them, but the stuffing may become rich.

Clean and chop or mince all the vegetables. Consider what size you like in your stuffing. Fry the onions, lots of onoins, in olive oil until brown. Add the leeks and shallots and carrots and cook them until softened and sweet. I had shallots, so I used them. Garlic might be fine. Add it to the bread. Add all the other ingredients. Mix it well. I wanted much more sage, more parsley, and though it can become too strong, more celery leaves, but maybe it was better this way. Add enough turkey stock to moisten. Some people like it drier, some wetter. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix it well. This amount was enough to fill a large tray under a large, laid-back (boned, butterflied butterball) turkey as per Julia Child’s instructions. One particular advantage of boning the turkey the day before is being able to make a very good stock in time for the stuffing and gravy. The several advantages to laid-back birds are vast amounts of stuffing fit under (as opposed to not much in) the bird, it cooks much faster, and carving becomes simple slicing.

image When I saw this, my immediate recognition of its intended meaning and that there was an error in the conveyance of its meaning was as accompanied by confusion as to the identity of the error. Perceiving that the sign meant the passage blocked by its supporting sheet was inaccessible, my mind was occupied by conceiving of how such a simple sign could be printed mirror image. Having incorrectly seen the upside-down word as mirror image, I was amazed that anyone today still used real stencils, because it is easy to imagine a (perhaps illiterate) Arabic-speaking, day-laborer reversing the stencil, but difficult to image how one could get a computer to print a mirror word without sustained effort. Only when I showed it to someone else and was corrected did I see it was upside down. I think I obtained a small insight into dyslexia. And only much later did I realize that the sign is not even the correct word, unless is means to be a command to the people barricading.

image Very cartoony.

image image image What a surprise to see one on Abdel Aziz street in Hamra. have not seen one of these since San Francisco, and I would never think they would be used in Beirut. It seems they did not pay their fines.

image Of the countless sights seen everyday in Hamra, scenes like this of comfortable gentlemen strolling on their way (to coffee? to lunch? to gossip? to business?) are the ones that best reveal its feel, a feel so much of a cosy neighborhood as to be mistaken for a college campus.

image image image  Hala Schoukair’s work on display. Inside, where photography is not permitted, even of one of her mother’s sculptures, there are many more. Close inspection reveals mere lines, but from a distance, amazing textures. I could imagine one on my walls, but I did not ask about prices. Some pieces and her mother’s sculpture give me a sense of the pre-Columbian.

image As predicted, he is back. You cannot stop freedom. See: “Postponed Refund,” “Fall Back Dude Again,” and  “AUB Freedom Club.” What is “Skip&Die”?


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 251 other followers