NGNO: Exploring Life Through Food and Transforming the way we Eat by Houda Harb
Growing up in Australia for me meant learning English and studying the writings of famous English and American writers like playwright and poet, T.S. Elliot. By far, the quote that stands out in my mind the most and that is one of my favorite all time quotes, is from T.S. Elliot’s Little Gidding:
“We shall not cease from exploration,
And the end of all our exploring,
Will be to arrive where we started,
And know the place for the first time.”
It’s taken me some years to fully appreciate the powerful message behind these words. What does it mean to explore life? Do we really comprehend the importance of the people and places around us in terms of their impact on our lives?
Exploring ultimately is a journey one takes to experience new things and find one’s way in what would have previously felt like unfamiliar surroundings. Exploring life can take many forms. There are those who explore life through art and literature. There are those who explore life through science. There are those who explore life through travel.
And then there are those who explore life through food like NoGarlicNoOnions’ Anthony Rahayel. Food is something that everyone can relate to. We all eat, even if we can’t cook. It’s no mystery either that history has shaped what we eat and why.
Food offers an incredible window into the past because what we eat and how we eat it is derived from our culture. Other factors also influence what we eat such as social class, religion, history, and geography. Food experiences occur every day in our life yet despite this, food remains a complex and fascinating subject when we begin to explore life through food.
NGNO’s food journeys have taken us far and wide throughout Lebanon and the world for over a decade, to explore our culture. One of this year’s explorations is #MissionFoul (or #MissionFavaBean). The #MissionFoul journey gives us fascinating insight into the origins of the humble fava bean in the Middle East and Levant regions, and the important part it has played in the area’s history over many thousands of years. The #MissionFoul video series on YouTube is a journey not to be missed and one to also make sure our children learn about and appreciate. What makes #MissionFoul unique is how it has re-connected the Arab-Middle East region and reminded us how similar we are in terms of our food culture and in terms of how much overlap there is across our diverse history to the present day. It’s an important reminder for us to re-focus on what unites, and leave behind that which divides.
Like so many of NGNO’s food explorations, #MissionFoul has transformed the way I eat and the way many others around Lebanon and the Middle East eat. Thanks to #MissionFoul we have a new found appreciation for the fava bean and its cousin, the equally important chick pea. We have also had a wonderful new window open up into our rich and proud past.
When we explore we discover. When we discover we understand. When we understand we appreciate. And when we appreciate we grow. This is how I believe we move forward on the right path in life – when we reach this destination, that is when we will “know the place for the first time”.