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Resistance through Palestinian food

Kafri: people will use their own craft to speak about the things they love the most, food can be one of these mediums

Jerusalem24 – Palestinian food has been on the rise on the world’s table thanks to chefs and cookbook authors who took on documenting its origins and reclaiming its identity, after it has been called “Lebanese food”, middle eastern, and Mediterranean for too long.

Dr. Riyam Kafri, who’s an educator, baker and recipe developer, shares with Jerusalem24, her own story with Palestinian food and how she got into the anthropology of food.

The journey for Palestinian food has been very interesting during the last decade, originally, in the 80’ and 90’, many Palestinian in the diaspora often were worried of the stigma that comes with it. But now More people are more comfortable to talk about Palestinian food, for the soft power it provides to tell our human story, says Dr. Kafri.

Moving to the US when she was 17, to study for her bachelor degree and finish her PhD in chemistry, she fell in love with cooking as a form of identity. At a certain time on her bachelors, she was asked to cook her authentic food, in which she has never, from there Riyam’s journey began. She says that the whole experience was eye opening, the conversation that came out of that dinner back in school, and the questions that were asked led to questions she never would have been asked at that time, about occupation, Palestine, and how is it to live under occupation.

Riyam adds, food punctuates conflict, suffering, love, family and not only for Palestinians but worldwide. So, her interest in food and what it means has become more meaningful to her, a connection to home through learning from her mother through the phone.

Dr. Riyam Kafri

Through her journey, Riyam discovered food writing and literature, and how people have written about their culture and the human story and been able to offer social commentary through food. She says, the kitchen is an extension to the land, which makes sense to talk about Palestine through its land and produce. “That piece of land we lost is the livelihood of Palestinians, whatever the land is giving us we were cooking. When you lose the land, you lose the control of what you grow, the one thing you don’t lose is the recipes.”

In a time when Palestinian food is being stolen, Riyam believes that resistance through Palestinian food means that we are present, correcting a lot of the misinformation’s, reclaiming our identity, and being resourceful. On social media it seems like we are losing the battle, there’s more western and Israeli presence, so when we use food as a resistance method it’s not just about cooking its about how you connect cooking to the Palestinian story you try to tell.

On the food scene there are many chefs who are trying to tell their stories in a contemporary way, collectively telling the Palestinian story. She confirms that when you come from a place of knowledge and you did your research as a chef and a food artist, authenticity shines across, a balancing game between what’s too much and what’s just right. The beautiful thing about food is the flexibility it offers, it can be written, developed, cooked, baked, taken pictures of. Authentic work always stands time.

It’s important to keep talking about Palestine. People will use their own craft to speak about the things they love the most, and food can be one of these mediums.

For more details follow the link of the full interview!

Nadeen Alshaer

Alshaer is a Palestinian journalist, a Birzeit University graduate with a B.A. in TV and Radio Broadcasting Journalism. Alshaer has 6 years of experience in journalism. She currently works as a reporter, editor and presenter/producer for PBC-Palestine TV and Jerusalem24 radio. She’s a UN and Kelley School of Business alumna.

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