Ibrahim Omar, the “ambassador” of Palestinian gastronomy in Valencia

Gastronomy plays an essential role for the Palestinian diaspora. That is, for all those whose ancestors Israel expelled from their territory after 1948. Cooking like you’re still at home is a reminder to yourself and others that you’re not ready to forget who you are, and that you’ll do anything anyway. that you can so that your children who were born in a foreign host country know how to connect with their cultural identity through the stomach. For this city, food is a tool of resistance.

Leader Judy Callaauthor of recipe books Palestine on a plate. memories of my mother’s kitchen y: Baladi. A celebration of land and sea food, knows very well how to fight against eradication through food. Born in London to a Palestinian family, Kalla explains that she grew up in a Western country but eats the exact same things her parents ate when they were children. “Our diet never changed, and neither did the recipes, because food helped us bond and create a real sense of family,” she explains.

When Calla moved to Paris to complete her university studies, from longing It caught up with him, but he found a way to comfort himself by starting to pick up traditional Palestinian recipes from his mother over the phone. That’s how he learned to cook infection inab (grape leaves stuffed with meat and stewed), Maklube (spiced rice cooked in meat broth, with eggplant and cauliflower), Molochia (soup whose characteristic green color is due to jute mallow and bush okra) and many other dishes that accumulate hundreds and even thousands of years of history in this region of the Middle East.

For Ibrahim Omar, the son of Palestinian exiles in Jordan, his ancestral cuisine is also synonymous with identity far and wide. A year ago, he moved to Valencia with his wife. Paula Navarro, an aromatherapy expert and belongs to the family that owns Herbalists Navarro. Together, they have transformed an old flower shop into an idyllic home near the Rojas Clemente market, which devotes most of its surface to the kitchen and dining room, which seats about fifteen. In recent months, they have hosted several Palestinian cooking workshops in the area, although Ibrahim’s aim in the medium term is to position himself in the city as private chef at home or as a guest chef in restaurants from the city. The Palestinian-themed dinner he offered a few weeks ago at El Pelegrí restaurant was a huge success. And the restaurant? Is that idea also part of your plans? Everything will work out, they tell us…

Palestinian breakfast

Ibrahim and Paula have opened the doors of their home to Guia Hedonista to show us the colors, aromas and flavors of the traditional Palestinian sumptuous breakfast-lunch where they invite us to drink. black tea and Meramiya: (salvia) while we dip the bread into various bowls and let the churets slide on our knees. They can’t miss hummushe falafel and baba kanush from roasted eggplant, universally popular simple dishes, from which Ibrahim achieves an extremely delicate and delicious texture. presents hummus two slightly different toppings than we find in Western restaurants sumac or sumac (a very interesting spice with a hint of citrus) and another with minced raw garlic and chilli.

If there is one custom that marks the Palestinian awakening like no other, it is this get wet a piece of pita bread in a bowl with extra virgin olive oil and then in another bowl zaatar, allowing a mixture of spices and aromatic herbs (usually thyme, ground sesame, fennel, sumac, and a pinch of salt) to adhere to the buttery bread. Besides being a delicious snack, it is considered a great health ally thanks to its digestive and immune system strengthening properties. He zaatar it can be found in abundance in many markets and is also a good substitute for oregano, which in this part of the Mediterranean we put on toast or pizza.

We continue to get wet, but this time labneha popular cheese made from cow’s, sheep’s or goat’s curd, from which the whey is previously removed in order to increase the density and stickiness, and thus be able to form small balls with our hands, which we will later spread. zaatar or other types of spices. Ibrahim separates the whey from the milk the old-fashioned way, using a pillow case, although he cautions that cow’s milk is more difficult to achieve a thick texture than other types of milk.

“This breakfast is typical not only in Palestine,” Paula and Ibrahim tell us, “but also in Lebanon or Jordan.” It is logical that there are many fusions between their cuisines, since they are countries with large diaspora populations. Similarly, the arrival of Palestinian refugees in countries such as Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the Emirates greatly enriched the gastronomic culture of the Persian Gulf. For example, it is very typical to find there knife, a delicious cake made with angel hair-like noodle pasta, syrup, butter, ground pistachios, and a mozzarella-like cheese that melts when cooked over low heat. He knife It is a typical dessert of Nablus (West Bank), but later it spread to many other countries, representing the so-called: Levantine cuisine From Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Syria and Northern Egypt.

Other examples are dishes shared by many countries in the region kibbea type of fried meatball coated with bulgur paste and stuffed with lamb (spectacular), or full mudams, a humble but powerful recipe based on beans and with a spicy touch. “In Egypt, this dish has tomatoes and is not eaten with bread, but is eaten directly with raw onions in wedges,” says Ibrahim.

We finished our breakfast with traditional coffee with cardamom, which Ibrahim brings with him in his suitcase every time he travels to his country, and the last treat is dipping bread; the tahini was lightly washed with date cream.

Besides that knifeis one of the most authentic Palestinian dishes maklube, which we can describe as paella or baked rice, but with an Arabic version. It is cooked in a pan with chicken, potatoes and cauliflower or lamb and eggplant and always with lots of spices. “The ritual consists of serving it by covering the pot with a circular tray; they carry it on their heads and put it on the table, knocking it a few times to loosen the rice,” Paula explains. They also highlight sariadye (rice with fish) typical of Gaza, or meat“a bread base similar to pizza dough, topped with simmered onions and oven-baked chicken.”

Hummus and appropriation

It is difficult to establish the exclusively Palestinian origin of many recipes traditionally used in this Mediterranean region of the Levant. The richness of Palestinian cuisine is due to other surrounding countries, such as Syria, Egypt or Jordan, and of course the Turkish influence, as the Ottoman Empire maintained its dominance in these areas for centuries. But Paula and Ibrahim, as advocates for the Palestinian cause, bemoan the ease with which Israeli cultural appropriations of traditional Palestinian dishes are accepted in the West. “It really annoys me to see how some restaurant customers are lied to when hummus is presented as an Israeli dish,” admits Paula.

According to Israeli sociologist and academic Daphne Hirsch, the first European Jews who immigrated to Palestine at the beginning of the 20th century used the language very early. hummus to his culinary catalog as part of his practical and symbolic attempts to establish himself in the region. Later, Jewish-Israeli companies industrialized and modernized the production of the recipe, first as a can and later as a fresh refrigerated salad, globalizing hummus with modern factories in Europe and North America.

“Since 1948, Israel has not only occupied and stolen Palestinian lands and homes, but is currently trying to appropriate the Arab gastronomic culture, not only with hummus, but also with other famous ones such as falafel, as well as; certain types of bread or even dishes exclusively of Palestinian historical origin such as maqlobe:Pola concludes:

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