“Yeah, people were completely taken aback and pleasantly surprised that someone was going to ask them about something other than the rockets and the siege. Of course, it all figures together, but they were all just extremely delighted that people were thinking about them, and interested in learning about them, as human beings.” –Laila El-Haddad, who grew up in Gaza, speaking in Bon Appetit magazine about the Palestinian families in Gaza she interviewed for her recipe book The Gaza Kitchen. I enjoyed reading the whole interview–a conversation between El-Haddad, her co-author Maggie Scmitt, and Israeli chef and author of cookbook Jerusalem Yotam Ottolenghi–and learned about the politics of naming food, the creation of new recipes when conflict makes ingredients unavailable and the struggle to establish a cultural cuisine in a nation of immigrants.
“The question of ‘is this our food, or is this your food—who gets to name this food,’ is not occurring in a void. If it occurred in a void it would be silly, but it’s not in a void. It’s in this intensely laden political question, with so much life and death material sustenance also being debated. So these food items become sort of symbols of a much bigger, much broader question of ownership.” –Schmitt