Joint writing between Rozana Association and blogger Fidaa Abu Hamdiya

Every time I talked about Palestinian food, I saw Palestine. It became a goal to narrate our story through our food, and to share with friends – who made my days easy in exile - my habits, joys, and food that is embedded with feasts in its components. The feast used to announce its advent in crowding the markets with delicious food; the same food that, whenever I eat or prepare, takes me back in time and geography to where I came from. I learned how important it is to talk about food, as it is part of the culture of peoples, and how much, we Palestinians, desperately need to talk about it, especially since the "Israeli" occupation, which is not content with robbing only our land, life, water and air, but also strives to usurp our Palestinian culture and heritage.
The beginning of blogging was in Italy. I realized the importance of the idea after observing the way Italians treat their food with pride and intimacy. They treat some of their products as if they were a sweetheart or a child... This feeling is beautiful. But the strongest reason for blogging was that some Israelis were promoting Palestinian food as if it was theirs; as if thyme(zatar), mujdara and musakhan brings back the memories of their ancestors, or as if they own the land from which those recipes were produced. Food is the mirror of the land and peoples. It evolved and moved with them. Meanwhile, the diversity of Palestinian dishes is a symbol of the diversity of what the land produces and transformed by man. These dishes also represent the seasons, and the social and economic life of a society, while in Palestine we pepper them with politics.

Violated Food Heritage

Preserving and documenting Palestinian heritage and culture has become an urgent need, considering the occupation’s cultural fight against all that is Palestinian and Arab. The fight started with the occupation repeated attempts to uproot Palestinians from their land and sever their connection with it; preventing us from garnering the bounties of the land that we know how to treat with tenderness, like thyme and sagebrush; passing flimsy laws that prevent us, as indigenous people, from practicing our rituals and culture by harvesting wild herbs such as yarrow and sagebrush under the pretext of protecting the greenery of hills, though the goal is to erase cherished local memories associated with the land, which is embedded in us, whether living in Palestine, diaspora and countries of refugee.

Through these laws, the occupation's attempts are not limited to eliminating the relationship between the Palestinian and his land, rather they are created to fight him in his livelihood by commercially re-growing some wild plants and herbs and selling them to us in the Palestinian market. Moreover, the disappearance of these cultural and traditional practices contributes to the decline of beautiful social customs in Palestine, such as the customs of the women of the city of Nablus in the gundelia (Akoub) season, where women gather to remove the plucked plant thorns. Such a gathering used to have a positive effect in strengthening the Palestinian social fabric.
A Palestinian must research and document dishes, customs, traditions and everything related to his heritage, to revive it and passing it on to generations. This is what some institutions and individuals do to take preserving the heritage, including food. The work should focus on meeting Palestinians (men and women) who lived in an economic and social situation different from the current one, and who remember customs and food dishes to relay to the new generation with great love and generosity. Such people must welcome researchers in their homes and kitchens, to talk to them talk about the relation of some dishes with events and tell related stories.

Ikbab Aboud (Domes of Aboud)

A few days ago, I received an invitation to share my experience about food heritage and the story of each popular dish that it has in its ingredients. The event was held in Aboud, a rural town northwest of Ramallah. The town enjoys great social and cultural diversity compared to its 3,000 Christian and Muslim population who own large areas of cultivated land planted with olive trees.
The women greeted us with a scene simulating the preparation of a traditional dish that the region is famous for on Easter. The hand of the ‘aunt’, dressed in a work dress embroidered with red and gold threads, rotated the hand-mill (jaroucheh) grinding bulgur, groats and flour, while humming songs of parting and travel, along the ‘tune’ of the rough and sad noise of the hand-mill. Her friend sieved the grounded product to prepare ‘Ikbab’, which is simple in its ingredients and warm in taste.
The Ikbab reflects in its layers the products of the land; wheat and onions, and meat of the Easter feast’s sacrifice after 40 days of fasting (by abstaining from eating meat and dairy products). The Ikbab also translates in its shape the town’s buildings and domed churches; domes are pronounced Ikbab in the local dialect. Ikbab is filled with minced meat and onions and is covered with soaked wheat and colored with turmeric. The women knead the dough until it become solid and stuff it with raw minced meat with onions seasoned with spices. They would shaped it with their hands into little domes.
The women of Aboud continued the preparation of the Ikbab by boiling spiced water. They gently dropped the little domes (Ikbab) unto it. They stir them and wait for them to cook well. While stirring the food, they drew the sign of the cross, to bless the dish and the family. My imagination was filled with paintings I created while imagining the extended family that lived in the yard of Anfus, Azar, or Khoury, and they were living those moments; the preparation, waiting, and then gathering around the dish that was prepared with help of the women of the yard.

I learned, from a discussion among the women of Aboud, that the Ikbab was also cooked by Muslim families on Eid al-Adha, though the Muslims would fry the minced meat and onions, before stuffing it.
Food is part of our culture, life, and heritage. The occupier can steal the recipe and fabricate a story but will not be able to inspire love in the hearts of those who eat their stolen food and listen to their fake stories. There are no feelings, no life, no truth in their stolen dishes.