Lebanese Farmers Market Makes Food Not War

lebanon-farmers-marketAlthough Lebanon’s Christian and Muslim communities live in an uneasy balance, a trendy farmers market has helped bring the nation’s diverse groups together to sell traditional food.

According to Agence France-Presse, 47 families sell fruit, vegetables, preserves and bread in Beirut’s Souq El Tayeb, the first farmers market in the country. Chef and TV personality Kamal Mouzawak started the souq in 2004, and refused to close it during the 2006 war between Hizbollah and Israel. He told AFP, “Whether Christian or Muslim, we all eat the same foods. The differences are more regional.”

Souq El Tayeb is part of a farmers market trend across the Middle East: Eco-Baladi markets Palestinian produce, while Tel Aviv hosts a slow food market at the city’s port.

Mouzawak has also begun a traveling with his vendors to reach other parts of Lebanon. A new restaurant called Tawlet Souq El Tayeb featuring freshly made regional fare will soon open as well. According to AFP, far from pursuing political turmoil, the farmers’ focus on pushing good food out the door:

Their interests revolve more around who can bake the best kebbeh, a traditional dish made of minced meat and burghul (crushed wheat), or come up with the tastiest tabbouleh, a parsley-based salad, or grow the most mouth-watering vegetables and fruits.

One caveat of the farmers market may be it audience: AFP noted that the vendors cater to “well-heeled Beirutis.” Green Prophet writer Jeff Yoskowitz visited the Tel Aviv market last summer and noticed a serious class problem:

This farmers market was so ridiculously expensive as compared to the shuk that I only bought purple potatoes and blackberries and then left after sampling all the free foods I could. The choice to hold the market at the port, in the North of Tel Aviv, pretty much shows the kind of constituency they’re hoping to develop: yuppy Tel Aviv types. Had they held the market more in the center of the city perhaps the ideals would spread. Instead I was surrounded by iphone carrying Israelis enjoying a luxury market.

On the other hand, high prices may be the only way to keep rural farmers in business. Whatever the case, we wish Souq El Tayeb good luck.

:: Photo from Yahoo.com

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5 thoughts on “Lebanese Farmers Market Makes Food Not War”

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  2. Timmy says:

    Fascinating. We would have to hear the views of experts on this subject:).

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