Believe it or not, I'd never eaten awarma before I went to Lebanon. When I tasted it for dinner after a shoot one night, it was love at first bite. So when the crew told me we were going up the mountains to learn how to make it from a master, I was beyond excited.
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24 May 2013 - 2:03 PM  UPDATED 6 Sep 2013 - 9:31 AM

Usually, when I get excited about something, it never goes easy. Everyone was ready to go nice and early, so we could make good time up the mountain and avoid some of the thousands of military checkpoints along the way. We were almost ready to leave when we got a call from one of the children of the family we were going to visit. Their father, Hani, was in hospital the night before with a kidney stone.

I'd recently had a major kidney stone removed, so I knew how intense the pain can be. As such, I assumed the awarma segment was a no go. But I guess Lebanese men of the mountains are a lot more hardcore than I am! The shoot was still on and we had been given the green light to start the journey to the mountain.

Have you ever had that eerie feeling when you first meet someone that you already know them? I get it from time to time and it’s particularly freaky when the person they remind you of is someone you loved or was a driving force in your life.

I had this feeling when I first met Hani. He instantly reminded me of my grandfather Nenu. At first, I thought it was the physical resemblance – he was a big strong man who seemed to command respect from everyone around him. But the more time I spent with him, I realised there was more to it. It was the way he spoke, his beliefs, the way he kept his house in order. His passion for food and family brought warmth as soon as I entered his home.

It's moments like these that I remember so fondly from my Spice Journey. Not the food or the amazing places I had the privilege of visiting, but the people. The love and generosity they showed and the connections we shared made me a better man. It was a truly humbling experience getting to know Hani and his family. Seeing how they live and how rich they are in assets the Western world don’t value helped me reconnect with the values I'd been brought up with. It helped me focus on what is important in life and why I am the man I am. It's easy to be blinded when you're constantly made to stare into the light. I lived my whole life hiding in the shadows, so it's easy to be distracted by all that shimmers. These thoughts reminded me of the life lessons my grandfathers instilled in me.

I needed it.

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