The Secret Feast…

Of the Good in you I can speak, but not of the Evil.
For what is Evil but Good tortured by its own hunger and thirst?
When Good is hungry, it seeks food, even in dark caves,
and when it thirsts, it drinks even of dead waters.

— Khalil Gibran

“Get on my bike,” he said, pulling up on his Yamaha.

Earlier, on the beach, he’d told me to meet him at 8 pm at the gate–but never mentioned he’d be bringing his bike.

“Where are we going?” I asked, hopping on the back.

“You’ll see,” he said, before hitting the gas. As we swerved through the streets of Beirut, I had no idea where he might be taking me. But after driving for 5 minutes, he pulled over and told me we had arrived.

Photo by Emily O'Dell

Across the street from where we parked was a Lebanese-style restaurant–with a wrap-around terrace. But there were no patrons inside–or out.

“It’s not open yet,” he said, opening the door. Though the Lebanese tend to eat late, most restaurants are usually open before 8. Inside, stood just one young man–who seemed like he had been waiting for us to arrive.

“This place is amazing–how did you hear about it?” I said my friend, as we sat down.

“How did I hear about it? Well, I own it,” he said.

After waving over the waiter, he ordered a table full of mezze–so I could try all my favorite Lebanese dishes. All of which–were oUt oF tHiS wOrLd. Our private dinner, alone in his restaurant, may have been the best I’ve had since I’ve been in Beirut. The tabouli, hummus, fattoush, garlic cilantro potatoes–each one better than the next. The babaghanoush was garnished with pomegranate seeds–and I had to check to make sure they weren’t my tears–because I was that close to weeping over how delicious everything tasted.

When we got to the main course (shish tawkook), we were joined by one of his friends–a Lebanese man who had moved to Canada.

“How’s Ottawa?” I asked.

“Ottawa is a fine city. And by that I mean you can get a fine for almost anything–including not wearing your seat belt,” he said.

As I listened to their stories about feeding Syrian soldiers during the civil war, I took small bites of my mouhalabieh, a corn-starch pudding topped with a thin film of rose water jello.

The lover’s food is the love of the bread;
no bread need be at hand.

— Rumi

When one of us mentioned Rumi, the friend from Canada put down his spoon–leaned back in his seat–and sighed.

“Ahhhh, Rumi–you know, he is both the sun–and the ocean,” he said, closing his eyes to take a conscious breath–before exhaling a sweet smile.

Then an old man, a keeper of an inn, said, “Speak to us of Eating and Drinking.”
And he said: “Would that you could live on the fragrance of the earth, and like an air plant be sustained by the light.
But since you must kill to eat, and rob the young of its mother’s milk to quench your thirst, let it then be an act of worship,
And let your board stand an altar on which the pure and the innocent of forest and plain are sacrificed for that which is purer and still more innocent in many.
When you kill a beast say to him in your heart,
“By the same power that slays you, I to am slain; and I too shall be consumed.
For the law that delivered you into my hand shall deliver me into a mightier hand.
Your blood and my blood is naught but the sap that feeds the tree of heaven.” And when you crush an apple with your teeth, say to it in your heart,
“Your seeds shall live in my body,
And the buds of your tomorrow shall blossom in my heart,
And your fragrance shall be my breath, And together we shall rejoice through all the seasons.”
And in the autumn, when you gather the grapes of your vineyard for the winepress, say in you heart, “I to am a vineyard, and my fruit shall be gathered for the winepress,
And like new wine I shall be kept in eternal vessels.”
And in winter, when you draw the wine, let there be in your heart a song for each cup;
And let there be in the song a remembrance for the autumn days, and for the vineyard, and for the winepress.”

–Khalil Gibran

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