A couple of Sundays ago, I joined a group of my colleagues for a long walk across the snow up the Lebanese mountains in a well-known winter sports town; Laqlouq. The plan was to take a 3-hour walk across the snow-covered hills, around the high hill with the large white cross overlooking the whole area, back to our starting point. We wore special snow shoes to help us walk better and prevent our feet and legs from taking a dive into the high heaps of fresh snow. We began our journey with enthusiasm and excitement, enjoying the warm first of March sun, that kissed us really badly at the end of the day. I turned off my mobile data and decided that I don’t want to use my phone. I took out my camera and took a few shots every now and then.
We walked until we’re halfway through our planned route, but that’s where our route got masked by snow. We walked, and walked, and walked, looking for footprints suggesting that someone has walked here and got out without the need of thawing. No signs yet. None of us had saved the starting point location on our phones, so our only way out was to walk and be hopeful we’re in the right direction. By the afternoon, clouds were starting to rise, blocking the warm sun and sending freezing breezes and dimness instead. We walked in groups, according to our agility and stamina we have left. Secretly, we were afraid we’d get stuck there, but hopeful we marched. At one point, we were able to see the cross again. We started remembering how it looked when we first started, and began analyzing the proper direction in reference to the angle of the cross. Fortunately, it guided us in the right direction. Saved by the cross. It was a joyful moment to see the resorts and our cars back again. I could feel angels gathered up behind us and sang Hallelujah (our was it us?). We gathered the last bits of energy we had left and walked until we reached the cars.
During our walk, I started asking that if we ever get stuck, who would we eat first?
I learned why men stuck in the snow have their beards and moustaches frozen. They were wet because of my breath.
I recited the emergency numbers in my head.
I walked despite starting to feel pain in my toes because they were about to freeze.
Lastly, we became live example of why you should never get exposed to the sun without protection. Our faces were burnt. Yes, a 6 hour walk, 16km, with most of our faces uncovered, barely protected or unprotected at all, we all got burnt. We suffered for a week and became the talk of the office.
P.S. I had accidentally placed the sunscreen in the bag of extra pants and socks I left in the car. Bad luck. On the way back home, stuck in traffic of course, I had one way of comforting myself and distracting myself from my red-hot face and blue toes; thinking of a warm dish to bring back my energy. I have made a meaty version of this recipe, but this time I thought of trying a vegan version with the dried mushrooms I had in my cupboard. It might not be the traditional chili, but it’s a spicy stew with vegetables, beans and tomato sauce that is filling, light, and delicious.
Vegan Chili Bowl with Rice
- 1 cup dried mushrooms (soaked in hot water)
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 large onion
- 3 carrots
- 2-3 small chilis (add more if you like it hot)
- 1 can beans
- 1 can sweet corn
- 1 can chopped (or plum) tomatoes
- 2 tbsp cumin
- 1 tsp pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp white pepper
- 3/4 tsp salt
- Pinch of nutmeg
- 2 stalks spring onions
- Cooked long grain rice
- Cover the mushrooms with boiling water for at least 30 minutes. Reserve the water
- Chop the onion and dice the carrots. On medium high flame, heat oil in a large pot and cook the onions and carrots until tender
- Make a slit in the chilis and add whole to the pot
- Add the cumin, pepper flakes, white pepper, salt, and nutmeg and cook until fragrant (2-3 minutes)
- Pour in the tomatoes and stir
- Add the reserved mushroom water, add more water if needed to cover the mixture
- Wash and drain beans and corn then add to the pot
- Bring to a boil then simmer for 30 minutes until sauce has reduced
- Serve with cooked white long grain rice, topped with sliced spring onions