What is the relationship between food, memory, and cultural survival as a people? How do passed-on recipes also contain the seeds of cultural self-determination? How can the kitchen be a space of possible rebellion?
A recent New York Times article, "Preserving a Palestinian Identity in the Kitchen," by Aina J. Kahn, explores these and other questions. Kahn tells us about the relationship over food and the passing down of recipes, of 82 year-young Miriam Sindawi and her 28-year-old granddaughter, Abeer Abbasi. Food is survival and resistance, and the kitchen is a space of intergenerational dialogue and organizing.
"It's for preserving our traditions and making sure they don't get lost along the way as time passes," Mrs. Sindawi said as she gathered the spices — star anise and cinnamon, among others — to season her chicken, closely watched by Ms. Abbasi."
Kahn also explores the story of a Franco-Palestinian chef from Bethlehem, Fadi Kattan, who, in 2021, "traveled across the occupied West Bank and Israel in between Covid lockdowns, recording a video series called "Teta's Kitchen" in which he met with Palestinian women like Mrs. Sindawi and exchanged recipes and techniques."
"Food is being used to normalize the Israeli occupation by denying the origin of everything from hummus to falafel," Mr. Kattan said. "The images of our grandmother's hands working in the kitchen, rolling the vine leaves, dipping the bread of the mussakhan in oil."
Contextualizing the maintaining of these food traditions within the history of Palestinian-Israeli relations is essential, "Before 1948, when over 750,000 Palestinians were forced from their homes or fled as the state of Israel was created, a mass displacement Palestinians call the nakba or "catastrophe," about three-quarters of the Palestinian population lived in villages centered around agriculture."
You can also listen to this article here. It is 16:53 long.