We will be traveling to Gaza this month – July 2010 – to do research and documentation for what will become a book on food and cooking in Gaza. The book will bring together recipes and life stories told around kitchen tables, as well as a history of Gazan cuisine and an analysis of the consequences of the current siege in terms of food economy, production and access.
Why do we want to talk about food and cooking?
Because food is the essence of the everyday. Beyond all the discourses, the positions and the polemics, there is the kitchen. And even in Gaza, that most tortured little strip of land, hundreds of thousands of women every day find ways to sustain their families and friends in body and spirit. They make the kitchen a stronghold against despair, and there craft necessity into pleasure and dignity.
Gaza has a rich food tradition and a unique cuisine combining Levantine and Egyptian elements. The history of its population can be traced through its recipes, which reflect the influence of exile from all over Palestine as well as a changing society and customs. A cookbook which brings together these recipes serves as testimony to this heritage and history.
What is more, today’s kitchens can tell us much about the difficult and paradoxical realities of Gaza after 3 years of unrelenting siege: which products are available and where they are coming from (tunnels, local agriculture, humanitarian relief), how cooks manage with extreme shortages of gas and electricity, how families reorganize to compensate for destroyed homes and near-universal joblessness. To spend a day with a Gazan woman doing the shopping and cooking is to understand the Palestinian reality from an entirely different – more material, more intimate – perspective. It is to appreciate the strength and endurance which allows these women every day to confront a hopeless situation and to create within it small spaces of grace, beauty and generosity.
Please see our initial proposal for a more detailed description of the project.