From Beirut to London in 100 Dishes

Kissing Pigeons in Beirut

 

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 My grandfather used to keep pigeons — not for sport — but to eat.  My grandmother made pies and stews with them.  I haven’t put any of them here — as unless you are hunting wild pigeon, it’s not that simple to get hold of them here in England or in Lebanon.  One of the recipes I’ve already posted should, ideally, be made with pigeon — bistilla.  But I’ve always made it with chicken.   Just like in London, pigeons are simultaneously welcomed and repulsed in Beirut.  Certainly, very few people express publicly the affection this old woman does for a pigeon she’s only just met.

 

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 It was in the rebuilt, showy downtown area of Beirut — in Nejme Square or Place de l’Etoile as it’s also still known.  The rarely used parliament is just on the other side of the square.

 

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 The old woman picked up one of the dozens of pigeons that had attracted a little crowd of kids, their mothers and a couple of soldiers.   She held it up for the kids to see it from close…

 

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Then she gave it a great big kiss on its beak…

 

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And flung her arms out…

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Letting it fly away…

My grandfather might have thought it was a pity.

 

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