Do you know what you are looking at? Banana fields through a mosquito mesh from my trip to Jordan last week.
We spent a lot of time at a private farm close to the Dead Sea, which to me is the most magical place on earth: 330 days of sunlight a year, low humidity, dry air, 1,200 feet below sea level – it all adds up to making it unique, I would go as far as to call it otherworldly. The light is tinged with copper and it makes everything look rich. Things that shimmer should, the pool for example but also things that shouldn’t. A stretch of date trees, looking like a bunch of fat ladies wearing overlapped necklaces of dates. Sometimes the farm hands put nets around the dates, to prevent the birds from getting at them and to keep the dates from falling to the ground. The fecundity of the land astounds me, eggplants that have been dried by the sun litter the fields, the pickers unable to keep up with the squat bushes production. There is more fruit in the citrus trees than there are leaves. I eat a pomelo a day, every day, for four days. I borrow from the Vietnamese and pick some searingly hot chiles, dice them up, toss them with salt and dip the pomelo segments into it. I set out to convert every person I meet and succeed. My suitcase back to Berlin is brimming with pomelos, as well as seedless pomegranates, chile peppers, cardamom pods, a quarter kilo of sumac, oh – and pine kernels in the shell from Afghanistan.These pine kernels, no relation at all to the soft, almost rancid specimens around here. They are sweet, nutty with a good snap to them. You can toast them sure but there is no need to. If you know me, pester me to give you some of these, they are outstanding!
We spent one day at a house in ‘Ruman’ district (which translates as the ‘pomegranate’ district – don’t you love that?). Everyone seemed to be dithering so I decided to make myself useful and pick the ripe olives, my father had said that if I collected enough, he would take me to a local press to turn them into olive oil. 2 hours of dedicated picking, yielded about 2 shopping bags full. You don’t make a trip to the press unless you’ve got sackfuls, about 5. My father comes out and sees me gingerly picking one olive at a time and starts laughing. I instantly understand why olive picking is a group activity, that takes all day long and is treated like a celebration. “You know olive picking days are where the most romantic matches are made.” my father tells me. “Why? Because all the girls are bending over?” I joke. He rolls his eyes at me and smiles, at this point he’s used to my humor I guess.We go to the press anyway. It’s a heady mix of motor oil and olive oil. The machines make a terrible racket. Read more of this post