When I called in to my favourite nut and herb store just outside Beirut, little did I know I was about to discover the elixir of life. For your information, it comes in a large jar labelled Doping – Super Performance. I kid you not.
The picture on the label demonstrates the great power of this concoction: a strapping though balding bloke lifting two whole jars of the stuff above his head, not even flinching at the giant bee which has just landed on top of them. Don’t be put off by the superimposed nature of the jars in the image; I’m sure he really could pick them up if he tried. The sales pitch runs as follows: “For everyone who wants to be young with a strong mind, and nerves for every old man who dreams to have his youth back.”
So what is in it? As with all effective rejuvenation remedies, no ingredients are listed. But a sophisticated tasting test revealed that it is packed with hazelnuts, pistachios, walnuts and almonds and drenched with honey. All good performance boosters, as any cereal bar manufacturer will tell you.
I ought not have been surprised to unearth the philosophers’ stone here in the Middle East. After all, “elixir” comes from an Arabic word, al-iksir, and Lebanese cuisine certainly gives you the desire to live longer, if only to eat more of it.
For more on the shopping scene in Beirut, you can check out the market Souq al-ahad like a true local, sample a little retail therapy for all by escaping to the mall with your domestic help, or play spot the differences between Lebanese supermarkets and their European prototypes in Mops and Shops.