About Flying Flip Flops:

Q u e s t i o n .. Everything

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Misnomer in the "M i d d l e"

The middle is a relevant measure in reference to two other points or regions. For example, take my thumb and my little pinkie and somewhere in the middle is my middle finger and named as such, "middle finger"for one obvious reason, it is in the middle of five fingers. Count them if you will, one is the thumb, two is the index finger, it is used to point at things, three is the middle finger, it is used, oh for many things, followed by finger number four and pinkie is number five. So, number three sits snuggly right in the middle.

Now, let's talk about the "Middle East".

To do so, we would have to establish two reference points, the outer points if you will, or more broadly regions of the world and find the center of it or the middle of the "EAST". Fine you say, where is the east? where does it start and where does it end?. Let's pick a reference point of the eastern part of the "EAST", be it right or wrong, but possibly close enough. Let Japan be the farther point east in the "EAST" just like the pinkie is on your right hand.

The region they have been calling the "Middle East" for the past seventy some years or so revolves around what was known as the greater Syria, as in Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. Israel and Jordan were not on the map yet, neither was Kuwait for that matter. Many erroneously reference and map the "Middle East" to include such countries as Morocco and even Pakistan. To exaggerate this sort of definition of the "Middle East" one might as well include Spain, Italy, Greece and the Balkans. But we won't do that.

For argument sake, let us take the current definition of the "Middle East" the way it is currently used and say that Lebanon or Palestine is in the center of the "Middle East", again as it is used by the media. So, we would now assume that as the term "Middle East" is used, Lebanon or Palestine would be in the middle or center of the "East", just like the middle finger is on your right hand. No pun nor disrespect intended!.

So, we have defined the east of the "East", the middle of the "East" and now we need to find the west of the "East". If we go on a map and measure the distance between Lebanon and Japan to be, for argument sake fifty units to the right, then we must measure about fifty units to the left to find the other side, the western side of the "East". This would probably land us somewhere in the Atlantic, even beyond the British isles and the British that contributed to this MISNOMER. Besides we all know that the western world begins somewhere in Europe, where the anglo-saxon languages dominate.

The same people that refer to the "Middle East" as that area that includes Lebanon, Syria and Palestine also refer to the "West" as those countries that extend from somewhere in Europe all the way to the Americas. Whether or not poor Latin countries are included in the "West" is doubtful. For that I think they use the term "Third world countries".

Houston, I have a problem. This argument clearly shows that there is no such thing as the "Middle East" involving Lebanon, Syria or Palestine and certainly not the Arab world nor currently occupied Palestine. The problem is that some people, those who started this "Middle East" error in measurements just don't know their thumb or pinkie from their middle finger. Abolish this term, "Middle East" and let's call it what it really is, Terra dei Miserabili or maybe Via Dolorosa and that would be more befitting.

(The "Middle East" is a misnomer. The US state department refers to this area as the Levant, also known or named "Al Mashreq", as well as "Bilad ash-Sham", a sizeable part of western Asia. That's what it is and not the middle of any east unless you can disprove my middle finger theory.)

(see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Levant)

copyright (c) simon sakkab

Friday, September 17, 2010

Francois and Felix and Blue Cheese

A real fictional story about blue cheese

The story of blue cheese:

Before blue cheese there was white cheese, yellow cheese and "Kraft". There was soft cheese, hard cheese and cheese with holes. There was cheese with crust that you eat and others with crust that you don't eat. but blue cheese??

Truth be told, blue cheese is 2 french guys punking the americans.

When Francois and his brother Felix, cheese makers, forgot a small batch of cheese in a poorly ventilated area that had suffered from water damage 6 months earlier, the cheese went on to develop a different taste caused by too much mold. The mold apprently liked the cheese as a place to grow, and not only grow but even thrive.

When one day Felix (happy) was puzzled by the growing bad smell he looked around and discovered the old batch of cheese rotting and full of blue color ... mold!! Felix called his brother Francois to show him what had happened. Francois, it is worth mentioning, does not like americans. Why? Because he does not like them, that's all. You either like something or someone, or you don't.

So, Francois sees the cheese and asks Felix if he had any suggestions. Felix says that the cheese is not good, and it's a lesson learned. The cheese, he said, would go to the trash.
Francois looked pensive for a moment and then he smiled. "Mais non Felix" he said. This is the best cheese we ever made. And he continued "first, tell no one of this. This cheese has a name now: Rockfort cheese. I name it like that because its smell is strong like a rock. Besides, with a name like that it would sound really nice and would go great with a Rockfeller wine."Felix did not know what to think of all of this but he knows what his crazy brother Francois is capable of. And he asked Francois as to who might buy this "merde".

Francois was ready for this question:"les americans mon petit frere, les americans.. ils bouffent n'importe quoi. The americans, yessss. they eat anything. They will probably call it blue cheese".
There you have it. The blue cheese story.

draft 1 finished.
written by simon sakkab
created by simon sakkab
tasted by simon sakkab

important notice: no fictional characters were harmed by this story.
personally i think the french have the best cheeses, wine and very fine women :P just don't leave any of them in a wet moldy place!!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Praise God and pass the food



In the old Beiruti accent it is Basseym and not Bassam, and Basseym is an old Beiruti because when he invoked the name of God at the instant he reached into the bowl of fava beans to prepare a customer's meal he would say: "bismIlleh" or in the name of God.

I noticed this the first time I walked into his little reataurant off of Sidani Street in Ras Beirut. I was the first customer of the day and aching for a sa7en foul, or a plate of fava beans with "service" of raw onions, a fresh sprig of mint, olives, pickles, tomatoes, radishes and a large
loaf of pita bread. I asked for some hot green peppers too. Those you get only by asking for them.

I watched Basseym as he prepared my food and true to form .. "bismIlleh" as he scooped away my foul. I smiled; this is the piece of culture a tourist would certainly miss out on. It is refreshing to see and sample, not only the food he was making but a taste of Beirut, the little things people do that go unnoticed, even by locals. Sure this, invoking God's name with every scoop, is rare but hence its beauty.

Basseym bissami 2ism Allah each time he scoops away some foul or hummos. He told me so when I asked him. "Bissami" is when one mentions God's name as one embarks on a certain action, like saying: "in the name of God".

A week or so went by and I stopped by Basseym's to have lunch this time and take a couple of pictures. The place, unlike that early morning days earlier, was very busy. So, I patiently waited until things slowed down a bit and asked Basseym if I could take some pictures and ordered some food. I also added:"3ala fikra, ma smi3tak t2ool "bismIlleh" " (by the way, I did not hear you say "bismIlleh" ). Basseym replied that he's been saying it all along but maybe I did not hear him, but now I could hear him say it loud and clear :)

simon sakkab