About

Hello and welcome to my humble kitchen!  Thanks for stopping by.

My name is Jessica, but back home, I was called bint Rhoda, the daughter of Rhoda.    I am half Palestinian - my mother grew up in Nazareth, and is an Israeli Arab.  I am also half American - my father grew up in the Midwest.  I have grown up between worlds, living in both the Arab and Western world.  I am a follower of Christ, and am privileged to be a part of long line of descendants of Arab Christians whose faith was first sparked at Pentecost.

I am also the mother of three, and married to the cleverest and kindest person I know, my husband Jason.  I love the old ways -- old books, classical methods of eduction, ancient faith and now also, traditional foods. 

I am bint Rhoda, the daughter of Rhoda, and that is the title that I wear proudly.  My mother is a gifted cook, a generous hostess, and a bold and courageous woman.  I am honored to be called her daughter.  In the kitchen, she is proficient and creative, and she is widely known as an excellent cook.  She never stops experimenting in the kitchen (if only she wrote things down!), and adds her own touch to every dish, from American to Arab. 

Food as Home


I have so many wonderful memories of real food from my childhood - my love affair with french baguettes, butter, and fromage blanc when we lived in France, the sandy warm loaves of Arabic bread spread between me and my sister in the backseat of our family's Fiat when we lived in Cairo, picking ripe figs, plums, grapes from our garden in Jerusalem, stuffing grape leaves with my grandmother, dipping my bread into bowls of hot strawberry jam with my cousins in Bethlehem, sitting in countless living rooms, where bowls of salted pistachios and oranges, and cups of sweet mint tea were passed around ceremonially . . .

I could go on and on. But I will stop before I get too hungry.

It has also been such a pleasure to have the flavors and foods of my home in my home again.  It has been a delight to see my children develop a love for the foods that I once ate, to scoop their labani up with their khubiz, to eat maqloubi and shorabat addas with pleasure and to declare to others, We are Arabs.  

Exiles write the best books about home, so they say.  I think that exiles also cook the best dishes from home.  And yet, it is bittersweet because these foods are a celebration of my people, a people who love to eat and dance and sing but who are still under occupation. In such a place, we still have to eat, we still have to break our bread, and we still name our dishes and call them our own. 

Food as Nourishment


It was a few years ago now, when I saw my picture with my new family and saw that I was more than just tired. I saw it in the eyes of the woman smiling back at me, in the dark circles below and the faded skin. I felt it in the way I moved about, that there was something missing inside, that no matter how much I rested or tried to care for myself, something was missing.

I started a journey into wholeness, into health, and not in the lose-ten-pounds-so-that-you'll-look-awesome-this-summer kind of way. Through it all, as I read and learned and experimented in the kitchen, I found peace. Peace with my own body, as my strength started to return. Peace with my world, as I could say something about the food industry in the way I spent my food budget. Peace with my roots, as I found myself eating the same foods that my mother and my grandmother fed me.

Peace, as I bowed my head to thank God for my food. And when I asked Him to bless it and to allow it to nourish our bodies, I was finally asking for this sincerely.

I believe in nourishment. I believe that nourishment is about feeding the soul as much as it is about feeding the body.

I believe that the foods that nourish our bodies are the foods that have have grown generation upon generation of peoples into strong healthy nations, not the food that our grocery stores are trying to sell us.

I believe that there is something mysterious about the way food sustains and feeds us. As much information as you can find about food (and there is a lot!), I think that we still eat by faith, much like the Israelites did in the desert, when they ate the bread of heaven and called it "manna," or "what is it?"

I know so very little. I have so much to learn. I hope that you will join me, teach me, nourish me as I walk down this path. I could use the company.

16 comments:

  1. Your blog is absolutely my favorite blog! Your writing style is amazingly eloquent and warm, and still wonderfully informative. I look forward to each and every post you compose. Thank you for making a meaningful contribution to the world!!

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  2. Hi Jessica!

    So glad to have found your blog. We have a very similar story - I'm Palestinian-American (my parents are both Palestinian but I was born and grew up in DC). Your description of fresh fruit, olive oil, hot jam and tea remind me 100% of my own love affair with our shared cuisine. Both of our husbands are also named Jason!

    Anyhow, I am also a Middle Eastern food blogger at WanderingSpice.com. Such a lovely surprise to stumble on your blog, which is really great, and also on somebody who I feel instantly connected to, given our shared heritage. Looking forward to following along!

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  3. Hi Yasmeen! I actually discovered you lovely blog a few months ago and have been following you ever since. I really enjoy your blog! It seems we have loads in common. You don't live in DC anymore, do you? I just saw you tahini-dibbis post and loved it. Takes me right back. It seems like we had the same childhood. :-)

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  4. Hi Jessica - I live in Melbourne, Australia now. I met Jase when we were both living in Amsterdam, and we decided we wanted a life with more sunshine so we moved here in 2010 :)

    Really looking forward to keeping up with your site. Everything looks fantastic and it feels great to connect with someone so similar!

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  5. I am so thankful to have found your blog! I am half Palestinian as well, my father's family being from Jaffa. I have struggled a lot with trying to learn the old ways as my taita is no longer up to the task of visiting the US, and my mother only knows a handful of dishes. You posts are truly a blessing for my family! Thank you so much for what you are doing here!

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    1. I am so pleased to have readers who are in the same boat as I am! I am on a journey to learn how to make all of these foods and I am just happy to share what I am learning along the way. I hope that these recipes bring your family joy. Blessings to you, and your family, Nicole!

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  6. Marhaba Jessica! I'm very pleased to have stumbled upon your blog today. I'm a Palestinian Christian too, born & raised in Jerusalem & Nazareth. Not only that, we both are foodies & big fans of authentic Palestinian cuisine. I live in the Pacific Northwest and have recently started a retail business to do with frozen falafels (www.falafelchef.com). It's a recipe I've been working on for about 5 years and finally decided to share the love with others.

    I look forward to exploring your beautiful blog and read & recall cherished memories of home. Rajaee

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    1. Marhaba, Rajee! So nice to meet someone with a shared background and passion for our food. When are you going to make it out to the East Coast so that I can try some of your falafel? ;-) Your techniques sounds very intriguing. Anything that brings fresh, quality falafels to the world is very exciting to me.

      Good luck with your endeavors and you are welcome here anytime.

      Jessica

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  7. Hey Jessica, Iv'e been following your blog for a while now, can't remember how I found it, probably though Eva. I really think you should start an Instagram account, it would get you some more exposure if that is what you are looking for, plus I love Instagram :) Anyway, keep up the amazing cooking and blogging!

    Rami

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    1. Hi Rami! What fun to hear that you are a regular reader! I am so very tickled. I think that an Instagram account is an excellent idea. I will have to look into that! My time is limited, so I am not sure how many social media sites to plug into, but I will be sure to check it out! Thanks and so very good to hear from you!

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  8. Hi! It's refreshing to see a food blogger who also professes Jesus as Lord and Savior :) I used your sourdough pita bread recipe yesterday to make some whole wheat pita, and I loved it! Thank you very much for your posts; I will be coming back for more recipes, I am sure!

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  9. Hello Jessica,
    Having lived in the Middle East for about 8 years, I simply love the food, because it is simple, nutritious and healthy. I chanced upon your blog and absolutely love it. Please if possible, let me know the recipe for okra/bamiya in tomato sauce. Usually purchase it from a lebanese store, but would love to prepare it myself.
    Thank you So much,
    Andrea

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    1. Thank you for stopping by and for your note! I have to confess that I don't love bamiya, so I have been dragging my feet on that recipe. But you are right, I should do it! My husband absolutely adores it and has asked me to learn, and my mother makes it for him when she visits. I can tell you that it is essentially the same recipe as the fassoulia recipe - the green bean stew in tomato sauce. I have that recipe on my blog, so you can follow that and just substitute in the okra. Good luck and happy eating!

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  10. marhaba Jessica and thank you for saving my life this week. I've been cooking meals to raise money and awareness for Palestine and wanted to make a new menu. I was struggling mightily with kofte and tahini (it kept splitting) but then found your super simple and impressive looking mansaf so I'm going to go with that. the last three meals I managed to make entirely successfully turned out maqluba (alhamdullilah). your recipes are so simple its great. Palestinian food should be better known. keep cooking, Betty from Nottingham UK

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    1. My pleasure! I love the idea of cooking meals to raise money and awareness for Palestine! Can you tell me more about this?

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  11. My mother used to make a zucchini stuffed with meat and nuts and she cooked in a yogurt sauce. Would you have a recipe for that

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Trying this recipe? A question or a comment? I'd love to hear from you!