Saving Palestine’s Forgotten Food | AJ+
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Saving Palestine’s Forgotten Food | AJ+

is that Israel has disconnected different cities and regions and geographies in Palestine, the food practices that differ one place to the other. My name is Mirna Bamieh. I’m an artist, a cook, and founder of Palestine Hosting Society. Palestine Hosting Society is a live art project. It seeks to create a platform for people to construct a relationship to geography, politics, history, but through food. You have Israeli chefs dealing with our food culture without actually knowing the backstory of those dishes. When you oppress that story, you are using food as a tool for oppression. After picking the topic or the city that I want to delve more into I go to the place and I spend a month of two in that place and I meet people. [The] pre-1948 Nakba generation — the ones that have experienced this very sudden rupture from the land, and have moved all over the world. With them, food moved. But as well with them, food was forgotten. And I meet mothers as well, to understand what dishes they still cook and they don’t cook. But as well, I meet men. Whether in small shops in old cities, old restaurants. Most of the people that I interviewed were exiled. One of the dishes that I was happy to put on the menu of the edible
wild plants table was loof. It’s a very Palestinian plant. Even the scientific name of it, Arum palaestinum, it has “Palestine” in the name of it. So, loof is a poisonous plant when it’s eaten as it is straight from the land, it numbs the mouth, and it can even have more serious complications if it was consumed without being treated. Our grandmothers knew how to treat that
plant by curing it with salt and olive oil and then cooked over a long period of time. The recipes have this power of movement that most of us Palestinians are not having. I discovered during my research, bseset al-kharoub, and bsese is a very, very old ancient dish. It’s roasted semolina with olive oil, with carob molasses and some people add tahini and sesame to it. It used to be the food that travelers and pilgrims carry with them when they travel because it has all this richness of
nutrients and energy to it. Every table we create is very detailed. From the napkins that we have on the tables, from the center pieces, from what we place the water in. When I present the menu, I do the performance. It’s the artist who becomes the vehicle of transferring this knowledge on the table. They’re not plated one by one because I want to maintain this sharing aspect of food, which is very much in our culture. For Palestinians as a farmer nation, we always had this very intimate connection
with the land. Our grandfathers knew the land really well. It was their world. My generation are those that lost this knowledge. We’re the generation that had to assimilate
in their new places, whether refugee camps, whether outside of Palestine, whether in new cities. The people who attend the tables of
Palestine Hosting Society are from different backgrounds. And with each new table, we have new people who attend. When we as Palestinians see our ingredients being sold under the name of “Israeli” produce, it’s a very hard moment for us. Somehow it refreshes the trauma of us losing the land, of us not having power over our existence. The land, not the space that you live on, but the place where you practice your being
as a human being, as a Palestinian, as a culture, as a lineage of ancestors. And it’s a story that we have to reclaim now in the present, so we can pass it to the future.


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