Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Produce and Groceries in Beirut

It's the little things. I don't have any photographs to accompany this post, sadly, but I wanted to get something up sooner than later. And maybe I'll come up with a less boring title at some point too.

I've been spoiled the last two tours being in places with pretty phenomenal produce variety and quality all year round.

Uganda's bananas and pineapples and papayas (does anyone actually like papaya? I realize I do not, even though it has little taste) and passion fruits and avocados and jack fruits had me in fruit heaven. The veggies were reliable if not outstanding.

Beirut is an absolute dream post in terms of produce. A lot of the items are locally grown and even the imported ones are not too pricey. I arrived here just as strawberries were coming into season, and I bought 1-2 kilos of these huge, fragrant, juicy berries every week. By the time their numbers started decreasing iI had run out of ideas for cooking with them and was a bit tired of eating them at lunch every day. Now stone fruits are coming into season, and the produce stands are overflowing with beautiful cherries and peaches and plums and all of their lovely, delicious cousins. I made a peach and pomegranate crisp a couple weeks ago - a neat combination of flavors. Now it's time to dig out my cold cherry soup recipe from my summer in Hungary/Slovakia. Though as I posted on Facebook recently, I like the idea of eating plums much more than the reality. They're a little too gushy and sour for me.

The veggies here are equally impressive, especially the artichokes. I bought a steamer pot in 2009 for the express purpose of cooking artichokes. It wasn't until 2015 that my pot was in the same country as affordable, good quality artichokes. I've been making up for lost time. Asparagus season was too short for my liking, but I still buy the imported kind. And I snapped up a half kilo of fresh green beans this past weekend that I'm still scheming of the perfect use for.

There's some great fruit stands here (they sell fruits and veggies), and my favorite one gets frequent visits from me and everybody I rave about it to. There's always a helpful young man to help you select and bag your produce, and they're good at helping me learn (relearn, really) the French and Arabic words for all these things. So far we've always been able to match up what I'm looking for. Swiss chard was a tough one, though. As were chives.

In addition to awesome produce, the grocery stores are well stocked. I'm continually amazed at what they stock, though the supplies and selections do ebb and flow on occasion. I also really like that the deli counter attendants are always willing to let you sample a meat or cheese before you commit; sometimes they continue to feed you even after you've made your choice.

Grocery shopping can become a chore, but I'm trying to establish those all-important relationships with the places I frequent (while trying not to be a predictable target, of course), and I'm well on my way. Bring on the summer fruits and veggies!