The Khudarji Report 17: 26/9/09
The Syrian soap operas for Ramadan are showing the colonialist French during the Mandate period in all of their attitude and disdainful mannerisms. It thus is rather ironic when French people from the neighborhood come into the shop right at iftar with dogs in tow looking for their salad fixings.
One of the soap operas is sponsored by a restaurant called "Tifah"--Apple.
Id al-Fitr is the one day when the mahal al-khudra is truly closed; much juggling of supply and demand takes place in order to have as little left in the shop as possible. This year was planned well; left in the shop were potatoes, cabbage, hot peppers, onions, and other "less-perishables". A customer asks: "fii fistooq?" The reply comes: "walla, maa fii shii hajjeh; khallis." Her reply, after a pause: "Bravo aleykum!"
The end of Ramadan brought the first real thundershowers with it. The winter rainy season has arrived.
Much of the neighborhood's workers are in transit at Id; those from the shop who stayed in Beirut had iftar at my house before spending the rest of the day in some of the few public spaces that Beirut affords its imported working class: The Corniche (Ramlet al-Baida or Ain al-Mreisseh); the markets of Sabra; the playing fields around Horj Beirut (during off-peak times only).
Monday and Tuesday were devoted to cleaning the store.
Wednesday was the first full day of morning and afternoon souq; it is nice to see the shop full of produce again. hashayish sold out first thing; other items were hard to keep in stock as well.
loubiyeh (green beans) are at 2,500 LL/kilo. When a customer complains about the price, it is explained that once winter comes, the price will hit 12,000 LL/kilo or more. These beans are from the south; by Friday they were down to 2,000 LL/kilo.
After stowing away the afternoon delivery, a shop worker says: "Winter is coming--that's when the good produce comes."
And he is right: Friday saw avocadoes (3,000 LL/kilo), leeks, celery, and persimmons (9,000 LL/box) arriving; spinach is back as well. Cooking onions have arrived, second to the eating onions. Bikfayya, a sweet white-fleshed peach has arrived.
Watermelon is gone.
Produce that some prefer with no seeds: grapes; with small seeds: eggplant.
Large pistachios are referred to as "ras al-kharouf"--lamb's head. They are at 6,000 LL/kilo.
One of the replacement workers for someone traveling to Syria brought back laban from his dayaa. Unlike the industrial Lebanese version of yogurt, it had a true unique taste, with cream risen and an edible skin formed on top. "That's the tastiest part", he comments.
Somalian bananas are from Guatamala; they carry the Chiquita label.
The Khudarji Report, by Zayd, reflects conditions unique to a neighborhood in central Beirut; the status at your local mahal al-khudra will most likely vary.