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Acquaintances might be urged to visit, and welcomed into joining family meals. In the past, during the winter, when there was less farm work to be done, families would often visit with each other and entertain themselves by telling epic folk tales. As noted above storytelling was a regular form of traditional entertainment.

Palestinian Food

Sahtein! This is a common expression at meals, wishing two healths upon dining mates. Rather than sad, desk lunches — meals are a social experience, to be enjoyed togethe

Palestinian cuisine shares many features with other Levantine food and the wider Mediterranean area. There are many regional variations and specialties as well. Gazans, for instance, are known for their love of spicy foods. In recent years, Palestinian food has become increasingly well known internationally, thanks in part to the publication of a number of cookbooks by Palestinians.

Bread, rice and bulgur wheat are the staple grains, often paired with legumes and nuts. Traditionally, one of the women of the family would make bread at home for the day or the week. Now most bread is purchased at bakeries. Flat pita bread is most common. Jerusalem is famous for its oblong rings of ka’ak al quds.

Zaatar manakish is a Mediterranean flatbread topped with olive oil and zaatar spread.

Lentils are one of the most common legumes. Lamb, beef, and fish are common where available. Even among Christians, pork is very rarely eaten.

Many vegetable and meat dishes are served with rice, such as maqluba, which takes its name from the way it is served — turned upside down onto the serving platter. Then there are the stuffed dishes — stuffed peppers, stuffed zucchini, and so on — a category collectively called mahshi (which means, you guessed it, ‘stuffed’).

Spreads of appetizers, called mazza, are a focal point of social gatherings and are often served distinct from meals. Shwarmas and falafel are popular as fast food.

Fresh fruits like apricots, figs, date and oranges are commonly served at the end of meals.

Olive oil is the staple fat used for cooking and dipping bread, serving many of the functions that butter is used for in northern Europe and the U.S. Zaatar is a much-loved seasoning blend composed principally of the wild thyme from which it derives its name and to which sesame seeds and sumac are added.

A typical breakfast features bread, cheese, a thickened yogurt called labneh, eggs, olives, and sliced tomatoes and cucumbers. And of course olive oil.

For dessert, you can’t do better than knafeh, a Palestinian delicacy of sweet cheese and shredded phyllo dough drizzled in sweet syrup and sprinkled with pistachio pieces. Nablus is famous for its cheese, made from goat’s or sheep’s milk, which also serves as the basis for its famous knafeh.

Coffee, whether prepared Arabic-style or in other ways familiar globally, is widely consumed. Sometimes people add cardamom. Tea is also a daily beverage for many, often infused with fresh mint leaves or wild sage leaves.

Some Christian and secular Palestinians consume locally produced alcoholic beverages, like arak, wine, and beer.

Traditional cuisine is a major part of Palestinian culture. Both the cooking and eating of delicious, signature dishes bring people together and connect Palestinians to their heritage. The women of the house traditionally prepared the food, although again, you will find variation in modern families. Variations of many of these dishes can also be found in the food cultures of other countries in the region:

  • Hummus: The world famous dip is made from mashed chickpeas and tahini, with lemon juice, olive oil and garlic or other seasonings.
  • Falafel: A popular street food. Balls of ground fava beans or chickpeas and herbs are deep fried and placed into a pita or flatbread.
  • Waraq dawali: Palestinians stuff vine leaves with rice and minced meat to make this savory treat.
  • Maqluba: Maqluba translates as ‘upside down.’ Meat, rice and vegetables are layered in a pot. Once cooked, the pot is flipped over on a plate, and the pot is lifted off. The dish ends up looking similar to a cake. Many consider maqluba the national dish of Palestine.
  • Maftool: A Palestinian couscous made of wheat. The name means ‘hand rolled.’ It is traditionally served with a stew spooned on top with chicken or lamb.
  • Hashweh: This Palestinian comfort food is stuffing made from rice, ground beef and fragrant spices.
  • Makdous: A traditional breakfast food, eggplants are stuffed with roasted red peppers, nuts and seasonings and are then cured in olive oil.
  • Fasoulia bil bandoura: This dish, which translates as ‘green beans in tomato sauce,’ is a simple and tasty meal with rice.
  • Sambusek: These crescent-shaped pastries contain savory fillings like zaatar or meat and cheese.
  • Mujaddara: This vegetarian dish is made from lentils, rice and onions. It is traditionally served with a fresh salad.
  • Qidreh: A spiced rice, chickpea and meat dish that usually contains lamb, but chicken is also common.
  • Ka’ek bi ajwa: These Palestinian date cookies contain date paste along with anise seeds, black sesame seeds and cinnamon.
  • Knafeh: A crunchy pastry filled with spiced cream cheese, often infused with orange. The whole dessert is soaked in a sugar syrup.

Consider making some of these Palestinian recipes at home to try a taste of Palestinian cooking. Many Palestinian meals are served with salad and a cool yogurt sauce, which helps to balance the strong spices.

One of our favorite Palestinian artists, Nabil Anani, makes a delectable falafel (from the Craving Palestine cookbook).

Source: Anera

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