Sunday, August 26, 2012

Arrival Lunch in Beirut

by Kathy Davis

My daughter was seven years old during our second trip to Beirut. It was exciting to see the reconstruction since the civil war and recovery of this gleaming jewel of a paradise that at one time was ancient Phoenicia. Lunch was served high above the city in a mirrored dining room with a beautifully set table and the Mediterranean shimmering in the distance dotted by the coastline of sherbert colored Byzantine/Roman architecture of old Beirut. Lebanese cuisine is one of my very favorite in life,but nothing could prepare me for what was served for lunch. There was something that resembled chicken m'nuggets but was not.I inquired as to what it was and was told that the specialty was deep fried lamb testicules and lamb brains. I did not have the heart to tell my little girl who was half Lebanese what she had been eating, but she did seem to be eating a lot of french fries too!

When lunch was finished and I helped her out of the beautifully polished formal chair, I saw that my daughter had been discreetly throwing her portion of fried lamb testicules and brains under her chair and on the exquisite Oriental carpet. She had been able to socialize and seem to enjoy what she was eating, and all of the while not offend the hostess and had simply thrown the unwanted parts of the lunch under her chair!

My daughter was a clever seven year old and knew how not to bring displeasure to our hostess! I learned quickly that I could profit by learning the wisdom of some of my daughter's approach to being non confrontational and maintaining a convivial approach to socializing. I have so many myriad stories to share of Beirut, and I will, but another time.

Kathy Davis Cheryl Tiegs GlamourMagazine 1966

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Treasure Trove

by Kathy Davis

Two of my most favorite things in life are traveling and entertaining. I am drawn to people who like to enjoy themselves and know how to savour the good life.Because I was a model for seventeen years, I had the opportunity to stay for extended periods of time in foreign countries and frequent many exotic locations. While I developed a keen interest in other cultures my palette was becoming finely tuned to the "exotic".

It was always fascinating to me how two different cultures could use many of the same ingredients yet their respective cuisines could be so unique.

Sadly, a lot of cultural diversity has been homogenized by the technological age in which we live. Fast food has become rampant globally. Fast food, however tasty on occasion is the antithesis of communing and connecting.

The pinnacle of the day in many cultures is a long meal enjoyed in the company of family and friends. Dining lends itself to an intimacy that cannot be replaced.

Cooking and entertaining is the medium by which I express my friendship and love. I find great satisfaction creating a beautifully presented delicious meal presented in a dramatic ambiance.The heady aromas of various herbs and candlelight on a gorgeous table can evoke nostalgia of other civilizations. I love bringing other cultures to me by way of their cuisine. I keep many memories close of having stayed with friends in foreign lands while socializing in the kitchen with family matriarchs and secretly noting their recipes.

There is just no better way than to feel the pulse of another culture than by accompanying people during their daily rituals. The panorama is not just before my eyes,the panorama is in my treasure trove.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Early Memories

by Kathy Davis

One of my very first memories is of my second birthday party in the backyard of my grandparent's home. I felt so special, not fully understanding why. My mother dressed me in a fancy short, short organza polka dot dress that revealed my chunky Michelin tire thighs. After all, I was only turning two, and if there is any time in one's life that being fat is permissible, it's when you are two years old.

Anyway, my mother placed me on a garden table for a photo session next to my very fancy white birthday cake decorated with countless waxy sugar roses. With joyous abandon my little fat legs were flailing about. One of my feet kicked through the sumptuous white birthday cake,smashing it to blitherings. It was hardly my desire to be destructive, it's just that the visual treat of my big white sugary birthday cake made my limbs kick involuntarily with pleasure!

A flurry of displeasure ensued. I did not quite understand the response that I illicited.

Many decades later, my delight is just as intense when people I cook for love what I prepare. However, I have since learned to control my limbs and my thighs have not resembled the Michelin tire guy's since.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

My Psyche Already Knew

by Kathy Davis
My grandfather was the only person on the planet that ever made me feel safe. I knew that he genuinely loved me. When I lived with him and my grandmother for most of the first ten years of my life he used to hold me in his arms as I sat on his lap. We would watch Gun Smoke and Bonanza. Life was good from his armchair. Grandpa was my anchor and little did I know that his love and protection would provide me sustainence for many years to come.

Grandpa looked like a big blond Indian, and he was for his mother was Cherokee.He was bullied growing up and called "half breed". I felt sorry for him when he shared with me stories of being taunted and teased, for I could feel his pain.

I used to hide his cigarettes and he would actually cry sometimes because he wanted one so badly but I did not relent. I was a tough little thing protecting my grandpa from his habit. One day, just before moving to Philadelphia when I was ten years old my mother told me we were going to visit grandpa in the hospital. Because the hospital did not allow children inside, they brought him to a patio in a wheel chair. Unknown to me, he had suffered a heart attack and had severe heart disease. My grandpa had changed. He was no longer the big blond Cherokee of a grandpa who could do anything and everything for me. He was crying,and he made no attempt to hide it. His ankles were swollen and large like nothing I had ever seen before. I stood stiff and tall in my ten year old body and felt tight bands choking me in my throat. I was scared of losing him; scared not to have him in my world and not grasping what "good bye" would mean if he died. As the nurse began wheeling him away,grandpa cussed and cried saying "don't take me away from my girl". He repeated it like a mantra and I wanted to chase his wheel chair and throw myself across his lap and pretend that everything could be okay again. It was not to be.

One evening when I was living in Philadelphia my grandpa phoned me. It was a big deal to me that he called. I felt special,and connected to him. I asked him if he was better and if he would be getting out of the hospital.There was quite a pause before he answered and he replied "yes I will be all better". He also stated deliberately,"Kathy my girl, I love you".

The following day when I returned from school,sullen and worried in spite of the phone call the night before, my mother told me that my grandpa passed away in the night. Something inside of me whispered that he would never be leaving that hospital, for since the day I visited him in his wheel chair on the hospital patio, my psyche already knew.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

After The Cease fire

My first trip to Beirut was a few months after the cease fire of '91. I had been dreaming of visiting Beirut since I was a little girl because my mother had been engaged to a Lebanese man whose family showered me with a lot of affection. My father had fallen in love with a Lebanese woman while staying in Beirut performing with the Les Brown Band and he brought me bountiful stories of the Lebanese. I had a best girfriend in my Sophmore year of high school who was Lebanese and I became friends with numerous Lebanese students who had fled the civil war of 1975 while waiting in Los Angeles for the war to end so that they could return to their callings.

I was thrilled to be visiting Beirut in spite of being warned that it was dangerous to do so, but I had a daughter whose DNA was half of the exotic ancient stronghold. The impetus of my visit was to introduce my six month old daughter to her grandparents.

My American family is comprised of Christians, Jews, Muslims and Buddhists so I never defined anyone by their religions. It was a shock for me to witness the disdain I sometimes did while visiting Beirut that one side had for the other.

What Lebanese share is a passion for life and merriment. They make no apologies for their love of beauty and material riches. I found that refreshing in a world rife with false modesty.

With my six month old daughter as a fixture on my hip,and happily so, I reveled in the Mediterranean sea, indulged in the unparalleled Lebanese cuisine and brought home as many beautiful textiles as I could.In spite of the civil war or maybe even because of it, the people I met in Beirut were infectious with joy. They lived life as if there were no tomorrow and maybe for them, that is a possibility due to the political volitility of the region.

It is my hope that for the Lebanese that they will be admired for their contagious lust for life.My memories are myriad of Beirut and my glorious daughter will always be half of this exotic former stronghold in the ancient world.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

A Pause In Time

My mother arrived for our lunch date in her classical little BMW, looking glamorous and chic. Her make up is always perfect and her manners are flawless. She was and is,a little too perfect however, I understand. From my observation it seems that perfection is in relation to the emotional pain that one carries unconsciously throughout life.

My mother has had to suffer more than her share and maintains a beautiful veneer of perfection as if she can will away any indication of fault or flaws with her idealized beauty.

I remember when I was a little girl I would watch in awe as she dressed for a night on the town. Her clothes always had a touch of perfume and she was impeccably groomed with movie star hair and make up. She would leave our home with much fanfare as if the papparazzi were waiting for her exit. I waited on the sidelines mesmerized by her rituals and in awe that the untouchably glamorous woman was my mother.

Today, as we took our seat in the restaurant I studied her features as discreetly as I could and wondered how she maintained her flawless beauty while carrying a heart filled with more pain than anyone should endure. Even though I could not help but express my admiration of her fortitude and beauty in spite of it having been several decades since
the seas parted when she arrived anywhere.

She remained humble in spite of my complements although they really were genuine.It was as if she felt the need to apologize for having not been what she was before. It made me sad that she seem to not feel worthy of my complements.The lush, luminescent beauty that radiates in one's prime, morphs into a more complex kind of beauty with the years.

I find my mother even more beautiful with the passing of the years. She has a quiet dignity and has made peace with her private pain. Even though we spoke of meteor showers and cures for diseases in the up and coming future, it is the subtext of her life that keeps me in awe. I am past the point of blaming my mother for my own short comings as progeny often do. It is simply the " now " that I want to freeze frame. Making the memory of this " pause in time " is all that any of us really have. Memories stored in the archives that comprise what we are made of, is where the truth resides. I have learned to cherish the stories guarded in the subtext of our lives.