A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

“of course its good – its from Lebanon!”

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on December 27, 2006

A recent conversation with a Lebanese-American about the tastes of milks around the world (when I was little my favorite first thing to do when returning home from a trip was to pour myself a big glass of milk, milk with the “right”, i.e., central Iowa, Anderson Erickson Dairy, flavor) reminded me of my own experiences with “Lebanese” milk.

When I am in Damascus, I buy Bongiorno “diet” (i.e., skim) milk. Despite the total lack of attractive packaging – the milk comes in flat sky blue boxes with “Bongiorno” printed in red – I prefer it to Fayhaa, which to me tastes too creamy to be truly skim. (Just as those who were raised on whole milk find skim too watery to satisfy, we who were raised on skim milk find anything thicker too thick.)

Not every shop carries Bongiorno, but I know the ones that do, and I amuse the shopkeepers by buying them three at a time. I would buy more, but three is the most I can carry while still maintaining a dignified, not completely bent-over, posture while walking on the street.

One Thursday evening, having just realized that we would run out of milk on Friday, when all our (mostly Sunni) neighborhood’s shops were closed, I rushed to my favorite everything shop to buy another box.

The boy behind the counter handed me … something else. A colorfully designed box of milk with the brand name Silhouette. “But what is this?” I asked, panicking to see something so unfamiliar. “Don’t you have any Bongiorno milk?”

“Don’t worry”, he told me, smiling. “Its good – its from Lebanon!”

It was good – and once I had brought it home, I realized that I had indeed drunk this milk before – at my friend M’s mother’s condo up in Jounieh. M’s mother, a brilliant philosopher whose leather-bound Boston University doctoral dissertation on Heidegger terrified me with its erudition whenever I stayed in their study-cum-guest room, had told me cheerfully: “you can drink as much as you want – its fat-free”. (At the time, I worried that she had detected some displeasing change to my usually petite self. After learning how much time she had spent in France as well as the U.S., I realized that she was making a much-appreciated deduction that while the French might enjoy whole milk, Americans drank skim.)

That fall, I moved to Paris for a research fellowship. Jet-lagged on my first evening, I nevertheless decided to make my first grocery run – to the nearby Geant. I wandered up and down the aisles, taking in the array of products through my decalage-fogged brain. Finally, I reached the milk aisle and … there it was. a taste of ‘home’: Silhouette milk.

Wow, my beleaguered brain cells thought: this really must be good milk, if the French import it from Lebanon. I took a six-pack, made my stumbling way home, put the groceries away and tucked myself into bed.

When I woke the next morning, I made tea. While drinking it, I examined the Sihouette box more closely, curious to see where these Lebanese cows were located.

As it turned out, Silhouette’s cows were actually … French, and belonged to the British conglomerate Candia Farms. What a pity – I was much less enchanted by the idea of drinking British milk in Paris than I would have by the idea of drinking 7halib lubneini.

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One Response to ““of course its good – its from Lebanon!””

  1. […] Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 18th, 2007 Now that I am back in Beirut I can more fully appreciate the milk I described in “of course its good – its from Lebanon!”. […]

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