ONCE A YEAR, MY GRANDMOTHER makes a thick, incredibly flavorful soup called calehpaacheh, which translates to “from head to toe."
It's not as bad as it sounds. Well, that's not entirely true. You'll probably gag when you hear the initial list of ingredients, which includes literally every part of an animal, be it lamb, cow, or goat. And by every part, I mean all those bits and pieces that most people would consider inedible— the heart, the tongue, the neck, the glands, the liver, the brain, the cartilage, the bone marrow. You name it, it's probably in there.
The dish itself only consists of the carefully strained broth that's left over after cooking that offal with tomatoes, onions, chickpeas, and dried lemons. It's a comforting, delicious bowl of soup, and my grandmother serves it with crispy wedges of freshly toasted pita bread, fried shallots, and mint yogurt. In fact, the only reason I tried it when I was younger was because I had no idea what was in it, just that it looked like a thicker tomato soup and tasted 100 times better.
Here's the problem with caleh-paacheh: It takes three days to make. You heard me right—three days. First, the head-to-toe parts cook in a pressure cooker for an entire day; then, it simmers for another two days on incredibly low heat.
And frankly, the waiting drives me crazy. During the year, the soup is out of sight, out of mind, so no problem. But for those 72 hours—when I hear the pressure cooker whistle, see the bright red broth in the giant black pot, feel the warmth of the kitchen, take in the rich aroma of saffron and lemon—I'm continually reminded about what is just beyond my reach.
I guess I need to take a few pointers on patience. And these days, I'm seeing some great examples of patience in the real estate industry. OK ”¦ I know that real estate players have historically had a reputation for lacking, um, self-control. But in the past few years, I've noticed that in at least one area—the purchase of distressed assets—they've managed to take things slow and wait for the right property or portfolio to bite into.
Don't believe me? Just look at the facts. At the end of 2008, Real Capital Analytics reported $11.5 billion in distressed multifamily assets in the marketplace. And experts and economists said that volume would flood the industry with opportunities by the end of 2009. They were wrong. Instead, lenders began to engage in the “extend and pretend” practice of loan repayment extensions, regardless of terms. And as a result, all the vultures and institutional buyers that were hoping to satisfy their distressed appetites went hungry. Not just in 2009, but in 2010, as well.
Still, those buyers were patient. They saw the property soup and knew they could wait to take a spoonful. And wait they did, until this year. Interestingly, as 2011 unfolded, it seemed that these troubled properties were finally going to see the light of day, and the patient investors broke out their checkbooks—the mix included new and emerging companies like Ascension and Harbor Group, as well as old names made new again, such as Kushner Cos. (You can see the roundup of this year's most notable deals in “Buying Time,” written by senior editor Jerry Ascierto.)
Jerry was on a roll with the distress theme this month. In “Distress Test,” he takes a look at the three poster children for distress—Las Vegas, Miami, and Phoenix—how they're holding up three years after the credit markets tanked, and who's finding dealmaking opportunities in those cities. (Jump to "Distress Test.")
It seems that, finally, the distressed-assets famine has turned into a feast. And those who waited patiently for the right portfolios and properties have taken a seat at the table, ready for the feast. I just wish I could show that kind of willpower at my grandmother's kitchen table.