I unintentionally recoiled. “Oh no, we are just playing with them.”
“You eat rabbit?” she continued
“Umm, yes.” My Arabic isn’t good enough to explain that, like many city people, I am a total hypocrite when it comes to meat-eating. (The one time I had to gut and de-feather a pheasant at Leiths, I was entirely without appetite when it came to eating the finished dish.)
It doesn’t stop me from fantasizing about having a farm with vegetables, fruit trees and chickens for fresh eggs and maybe goats for cheese. But, well I guess I would have to wait for a lot of the animals to die of natural causes and that would make for some pretty tough meat.
My dream garden comes from the wrong end of the telescope as it were. I saw and was inspired by the bijou vegetable garden at the French Laundry with the neatly printed signs that announced I was looking at a bed of ‘French Filet beans’ or the lush gardens of Monet, even the regimented gardens at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons.
In this garden in Jordan, it’s all so much more real and natural. The gardener’s wife is in her early 20’s but already her fingers are swollen, the heels of her feet are tough and her eyes are crinkled from the sun. They work on the land from day break to night fall and take their lunch in the shade of a tree, sitting cross-legged on a rug and eating with their hands. Left overs go to the dogs, chickens, or rabbits. The sheep bow their heads together in a circle to keep the flies out of their eyes. The earth is a fertile red; a bush of aubergines will produce an abundance of vegetables. I literally can’t keep up with the bags of vegetables that are placed on our kitchen table every morning.
The olives from the twenty or so trees (some of them as old as 600 years) are collected and taken to a stone press in town. The resulting olive oil is so good; I have literally been consuming a cup at breakfast with humus, labneh and za’atar.