I have spent more time on this vacation explaining my choice to be vegetarian, than how America voted for an admitted sexual predator and Islamaphobe to be our current president.
Food is important when traveling. Although I have been jonesing for a Starbucks since day three- OK day two I have managed for the last eleven days to eat local thanks to the incredible hospitality of Sadika and her family.
I landed in Lebanon with about a week left of Ramadan left. My hostess and her adult children fasted during daylight until June 25 this year. Food wise it was a breeze for me since I wasn’t fasting and even in predominantly Muslim Tripoli, my hostess found gems like this downtown on a Saturday afternoon when everything else was closing for the Eid al Fitr holiday.
Ramadan iftars- the meal where Muslims break the fast were also easy for vegetarians as I always had a delicious lentil or vegetable soup, hummus, mutabul (babaganoush), and baked cheese and spinach pastries and always huge assortment of desserts.
On my first non-jet lagged night in Tripoli, Sadika invited me to an iftar hosted by her daughter-in-law’s parents. I think I heard a version of someone asking Sadika, why didn’t you tell us she (me) was vegetarian. I was confused because my Arabic stinks and there was so much food I could eat.
Bahia’s father of Sadika’s daughter asked me directly, “Why vegetarian?”
Simply put: I avoid food with a face. It was easy to give up fish almost twenty-five years ago, since I still hate the smell of fish and seafood. A few months later giving up meat was when I went to college at University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC), which was vegetarian and vegan friendly. I still eat eggs and cheese, and one of my favorite jobs at UCSC was making omelettes.
While I have yet to try any of the omelettes here, I love the cheeses. From Kashkival, haloum, to cheddar to gouda to feta. I even had a piece of American cheese today.
On the Eid al Fitr in Lebanon when all Sunni Muslims are done fasting, Sadika and her husband visited extended family.
I’m chillaxing at her beach home in Tripoli; reading, crocheting, swimming and floating in the adult pool and blogging.
I’m still recovering from the screaming kid bounce house trauma from last night, and Sadika said chillaxing on my own while she and her husband met up to 40 or 50 family at once might be too much.
Great call Sadika.
In a weird irony, today while Sadika and her family feasted during daylight, I had no appetite until about 3pm after I found my happy place during an hour long relaxing swim-float in the Mediterranean. Then I was hungry.
Walking back to Sadika’s chalet I found this burger place whose menu consisted of this.
I’ve been away from California for about eleven days. My last dinner before flying away was nachos from my favorite cheap Mexican chain Aldabertos. So of course I ordered: a “Mexican burger, but hold the burger.”
One of the two young men working in the hut, that was not much bigger than a food truck responded, “I’m sorry we can’t do that. It’s a burger with cheese, with special sauce, jalapeno, lettuce and tomato. We don’t have a burger substitutes. It may not grill right.”
I responded, “I’m hungry. I’m craving Mexican food, I haven’t eaten meat in almost twenty-five years, I’m not starting today.”
“Fine but it will be same price.”
I agreed and about ten minutes and $10 later. I had my not so glamorous grilled cheese sandwich, fries and a Sprite.
While not the best grilled cheese ever, I may be inspired to try a new version of Mexican grilled cheese at home when I get home.
Bon appetit or as they say in Lebanon when finishing a meal sahteen.