Define Lebanon: sectarianism, racism, classism, corruption, unfettered capitalism, fetishist consumerism, dysfunctionalism, feudalism, politicians feeding on the people who they are supposed to lead, but the food is great! Lebanese food WAS the only good notion that I was able to extract from this sad place. In moments of frustration and despair I always (nostalgically) thought at least there is one good thing about Lebanon. Now that the food is spoiled, it’s safe to say there is nothing good left about Lebanon.
Shawerma, Kabab, Tawouq: all Lebanese delicacies, but fresh meat these days is hard to get hold of in Lebanon. According to Executive Magazine: “frozen meat from India costs about $1.5 per kilogram, less than chilled meat from Brazil or Paraguay, which costs $3 per kilogram, and substantially less than fresh meat from live European cattle, which costs $5 per kilogram”. “Today, only 50% of all meat consumed in Lebanon is fresh”. Suleiman and Samih Mustafa Natour, with their International Company for Meat and Food Trade, decided to maximize their profits a-la-Lebanese-way. Rather than relying on selling fresh meat to the Lebanese market they made their profits through the sale of tons of expired and spoiled food . It was said that they were marinating spoiled meat in wine and vinegar to kill the bad taste: again the Lebanese way of outsmarting everything. Ziad el-Rahbani once said: “the Lebanese is like a smart kid whose parents made a mistake and told him he is smarter than his age thus he turned stupid”. The parents of these two guys must have heaped the praise on their kids for their intelligence!
Since the expired food scandal finally became public, thanks to a politician whose guests got poisoned, the hunt-down started: since then the stench has been filling the whole Lebanese sphere. Expired and spoiled food has been surfacing in Lebanon for a long time, but recently it has become out of control. Many people in Beirut, the north, Beqaa, South, in remote poor villages have been food poisoned. Their stories in the past made the local news briefly but the spoiled-food-business went on unnoticed. As usual the security forces in their various departments only protect and serve when it’s the rich/politician who is the victim. Even Prime Minister Najib Mikati called a ministerial meeting on food safety; can you imagine this happening last year when a whole village got poisoned in Akar, north of Lebanon (recall the Tawouq scandal in Akar)?
The scandal is mounting, and the embarrassment by the dysfunctional government is becoming too big to hide. Especially as the biggest fine for those involved was lowered to $700. A punishment with an eyewink from the judge as if to say: “don’t worry, we got your back on this one”. A state of growing panic for the past 15 days has been the general mood since the spoiled food scandal became public. The most dominant public talk at the moment is about those who sold and served spoiled food. The Lebanese media keeps reporting about big amounts of spoiled minced beef, butter, green beans, fish filet, shrimp, frozen garlic, chicken, sujuk sausages and frozen meat that have recently been confiscated from stores and warehouses in and around Beirut. More stink: more than 500 dead chickens and 400 spoiled canned products were discovered in Akkar in North Lebanon, and last,but not least, spoiled fish was discovered in Sarafand, south Lebanon.
Go east, west, north, and south the whole country is flooded with spoiled and expired food. This time there is no exception, its spread nationwide just like sectarianism.
Beirut used to be described the capital of taste in the Middle East, well, not anymore. In light of the food scandal these days its just the capital of spoiled food in the Middle East: a more realistic term to describe this city built as a shining façade. Behind this veneer there are ugly realities that hunt us every time we look around: shallow, corrupt, greedy, lawless, overpriced, and now poisonous. These are the realities most of us Lebanese refuse to accept and the ministry of tourism wont show in its sexist advertisements to attract tourists.
Beirut is a city similar to a brothel: its people (allow themselves to be) pimped by the politician and the rich. If you have the money you can buy anyone or anything you desire.