Food Around the Globe: Palestine

Palestine remembers the old days when the nation was proud of its culinary identity. Centuries long food tradition, with distinct land-to-table recipes and tastes. In the situation of modern Palestine that suffocates from a decade’s lasting crisis and is occupied by Israel, and where the people get separated from their lands and farms, that for generations provided the unique ingredients of Palestinian table, the identity of their cuisine is threatened and might be lost forever.

But there is hope, the real resistance to the occupation is often in quite a nonviolent act: the act of preserving. Lately, in the last couple of years, a number of Palestinian chefs both in 48 (modern Israel) and 67 (the West Bank) the stories began an important work: to reclaim and at the same time modernize Palestinian kitchen. By turning back to the roots and using local, seasonal produce, they working on reviving this under-represented cuisine to prevent it from blending with its Levantine neighbors like Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan.

Palestinian cuisine is a rich fusion inspired by the Many cultures and empires have settled in the region and all of them have influenced and inspired Palestinian cuisine, giving it its unique style which is characterized by its fusion between the middle eastern and Mediterranean pallet. The plant-based mezze (known as tapas in Spain) small plates and barbecued meats are eaten with fresh taboon, which is a kind of a flatbread baked in an oven, are brought by the Ottomans. Dishes like tabouli, (parsley, tomato, and onion chopped in equally small pieces and garnished by lemon and olive oil), and moutabal, a smoky aubergine dip, are common to all of the Levantine region. Mansaf, a roasted lamb and a yellow rice dish topped with goat cheese, is original to the ancient Bedouin culture. With all this rich fusion Palestinians have managed, over the centuries, to make out of this cultural fusion a distinct cuisine of their own, where dishes like maqluba, a unique Palestinian dish (baked aubergine casserole dating to the 13th Century that’s made with cauliflower, carrots, and chicken or lamb) can be found.

One of the most important chefs of the Palestinian cultural revival and the resistance movement is Izzeldin Bukhari, he talked in one of his interviews about the fact the that the Israeli occupation is not only working on disconnecting Palestinians from their land, but also as a part of Palestinian identity rejection is dissolving their national culinary identity.

Palestinians traditionally utilized all that the land could give, “this is the practice of our ancestors” Buchari said. Farming traditionally was done by the whole family and the community. As a result, cooking was often communal, for example, taboon bread, which is made in a clay oven was a reason to keep the fire always on so all the community could enjoy the fresh bread during the whole day.

Palestinian food is incredibly tasty, varied, and inexpensive. Even if it’s fast food, it will be the freshest, not made from semi-finished products. The local cuisine is generally quite bloodthirsty and has a lot of meat dishes, but vegetarians are not in danger of starving to death: there are wonderful olives, cheese, fruits and vegetables, and hummus. The author of this text traveled a little in the Middle East and ate different food there. So, he had the opportunity to try the most delicious kunefe in the historic center of Nablus, and the best falafel – in the so-called capital of Palestinian terrorism, Jenina.

And local Christians brew a pretty decent beer. The owners of the most famous Palestinian brand Taybeh are very proud to be the first craft brewery in the Middle East, bring their beer to themed events in Europe, and even organize their own small Palestinian Oktoberfest every year.

Anastasia Fetter

Anastasia Fetter