Food, Faith & Culture

Making "Fawaffles:" An Experiment with Arab and American Cultural Identity
One voice, calling for tradition and authenticity.  The other voice, calling for playful innovation.  And as I listened, I really heard these two voices clearly, maybe for the first time.  One, the collective voice of the neighbors, relatives and friends from my childhood in Palestine, extolling the virtue of authenticity, the beauty of tradition, vying between them to produce the best versions of classic dishes, laughing at strange variations. The other voice a quieter one, Western and pragmatic, but just as compelling.  It just shrugged and said, seductively:  what if it's great?

On Thanksgiving:  Food as Identity-Forming Story
So, I learned about being an American while passing mashed potatoes and gravy to Swedes, Germans, Arabs, Chinese.  While my Arab cousins poked at their stuffing and asked me,what is this? I knew how to drizzle the gravy over my turkey, how to scoop up a little cranberry with my stuffing, And as I passed the sweet potatoes and turkey, and as I explained what they were and why we ate them, I told myself the story of my people, my other people, and found myself saying:  this is who we are.

Am I a Beginner Arab? And Other Questions of Cultural Identity
Mommy, she said, my skin is lighter than yours, because I am just a beginner Arab. 
Later, she added: You are a middle Arab and Teta is an advanced Arab.
I laughed, and we have joked about it since then. But I can't stop thinking about it. I am haunted by this sentence: I am a beginner Arab

Passing Oranges in the Park (and Other Distressing Cultural Encounters)
I wanted to ask them where they were from, what they were doing here, in the park, and tell them that, I, too, was from Israel. We've eaten the same tomatoes. We've browsed in the same shops on King George's Street. We've hiked the same wadis. Our feet have pressed into the same soil, eaten the same olives, poured the same water. 
And yet.  I stared straight ahead at my children. It really wouldn't do, would it?

Real Food is Real Work:  An Interview
Through food, Jesus communicates who we are and how to live in the world --caring for sheep; feeding the hungry; learning who we are through food.  But he also tells us that humans cannot live by bread alone.  Isaiah 55:2 says, "Why do you spend money on that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?"  What does it mean to buy milk without money?  It means that real nourishment is being given to us, but someone else has settled the cost.
When We Share Our Bread
There is something about breaking off a piece of your bread and giving it to another.  There is something in taking a piece of your allotment, your sustenance, and giving it to another.  Here you go, have mine.  Tomorrow, I have faith, I will find more.  In the meantime, take this.  You need it.

Praying for Nourishment
I remember the first time I prepared a traditional nourishing meal for my children and sat down with them to eat it and prayed this prayer, once again: Father, let this food nourish our bodies. 

An Evening Blessing for Your Kitchen
To work is human.  To dread work, or to overwork is more human.  
But to work, to create out of the gifts that you have, and then to stop, and recognize the work that you have done and to call it good -- that is divine.  

Hunger: A Benediction
As a mother of two little ones, I have a lot to say about hunger. 
About how hunger can be a crisis, if we are delayed somewhere and the little one is suddenly hungry and I don't have something to give him.
About how hunger is a gift, because it allows my children to sit down at mealtimes and diligently eat the food that I worked so hard to prepare for them.
About how hunger can seem to be a curse, because no matter how many meals I prepare, serve, and clean up afterwards, there is still another meal coming, and another, and other.  

Salt of the Earth
Every traditional society has its own cultured food, and often a vegetable. Long before refrigeration, cultures developed methods for perserving foods so that their abundant seasonal supply would continue to nourish their families instead of simply spoiling in a basket.  And what single ingredient was most often used to prevents spoilage?  To turn abudance now into another abundance later?  Salt.  

When the Rain Falls, and a Recipe for Sugared Spelt Cut-Out Cookies
There are moments in life where deep joy and deep grief are twisted together, forming a braid that is as strong as it is beautiful.  Allowing both to pierce your hearts is what keeps your heart soft enough to open, soft enough to love, soft enough to break.
I know this because I know a little something about saying goodbye.  I have said goodbye enough times, to enough people, to enough worlds, to know.  I know that life is full of these moments, when a door shuts, when an airplane takes off, when a mother kisses you goodbye.


  1. Your blog is giving me wave after wave of goosebumps! I, too, am a "beginner Arab!" aka a second generation. I'm struggling with how I can stay connected to my cultural heritage when I'm a vegan, and therefore unable to eat a majority of the food that's prepared for family events. It's caused so much internal conflict for me, and I love my family but am unwilling to compromise on the values that are important to me when we break bread together. But that's my struggle. Just wanted to say, I love your blog!

  2. I just found you site and as you called it I am advanced Palestinian married to an American wife who does not know anything about Arabic food. My mother was an excellent cook and she can make dished like no other, I used to come from school straight to the kitchen to taste whatever she made for lunch. I love this food, I love to cook it and I miss smiling my mom's cooking. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and recipes with us.


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