the fisherman’s friend

It wasn’t a usual summer night that year. Although the cool breeze eased the humidity, there was something surreal about the midnight sea at Ain el-Mreisseh, Beirut’s seafront. August always brings jellyfish, and they appear like plastic bags dumped by some indifferent god into the Mediterranean. But on this August night in 2004, the jellyfish glowed like grayish streetlamps in the navy blue sea. It was there he stood casting his fishing line into the dangerous depths.

The seafront is dotted with rocky footholds and baby islands on which the likes of him gather in search of solitude. But by the time I saw him, the other fishermen (if you can call them that) were already snoring. Or, as we say in Arabic, in their seventh sleep. In short, it was too late to say the man was night-fishing, and it was too early to say he was an early bird. It was the magical hour of 2:45am.

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a metaphor for Lebanon

It’s no hidden fact that Lebanon is a country built by the hands of generations raised on Picon Cheese. Lebanese people adore the cheese. Expats take it with them when they travel.

In the diaspora, Picon is a reminder of home. Picon is a symbol of Lebanese identity. Picon is both a fashion and a status statement.

So why not look at Picon as a metaphor for Lebanon? It makes sense:

  • Picon‘s packaging shows snow-capped mountains in the background and green pastures in the foreground. To the Lebanese people, these might as well be the Cedar Mountains and the Bekaa Valley. Lebanese people always brag about how their country allows you to ‘go skiing in the morning and swimming in the afternoon’. The Picon package testifies to that.
  • Open the pack, and you will find yet another symbol for lebanon. On the outside, it’s a round pack with beautiful scenery. But open the pack and you will see that it contains divided portions. Yes, collectively they make up Picon, but they are divided units that happen to be together inside the pack. They have to coexist due to circumstance, which, against their will, has placed them together inside this pack.
  • Each portion is individually wrapped. Like Lebanon, Picon is made up of individual portions wrapped in a manner that does not allow them to interact with each other. They don’t touch. They don’t communicate. They just sit together inside the box that looks very beautiful on the outside. They like to think they’re different from one another; maybe they’re fooled by their gold-colored wrapping?
  • Don’t forget to store Picon in a cool, dry place. Because Picon, just like Lebanon, will go sour if things heat up.
  • And lastly, Picon likes to believe it’s French. The reality is that it’s actually manufactured in an Arab country under license from France.