This year I got the most beautiful Mother’s Day treat ever: a bouquet of stunning Tulips, my absolute favorite, and a very yummy, freshly made breakfast.
That would’ve been more than enough to make me very happy, but there was a very lovely surprise waiting for me.
Later that day an amazon package with my name on it was delivered to our doorstep.
You know that moment when you’re sure you didn’t order anything but you start doubting yourself and questioning your memory?
Well, after a few attempts at guessing what’s in the box, I finally opened it, and in it was a gift note from my husband, wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day.
I peeked in to find a very special gift that made my day even more beautiful; a gift that checks four boxes of things I absolutely love: books, food, influential people and… (drum roll)… Palestine.
It was a cookbook about delicious Palestinian dishes by a person I really really admire.
The book is “Palestine on a Plate” by the awesome Joudie Kalla.
I’ve been wanting to get my hands on this book for a very long while, but swamped with a series of many unfortunate events, I just forgot all about it.
I’d never expected, in a million years, that my husband would be the one to get it for me, because I recall mentioning it to him only once, a long while back, and well, because I know for a fact he’s not into cookbooks. 😉
Where do I start?
I love this mouthwatering book, love its hard elegant cover, love the design, photos, the choice of colors, plates and cutlery. You can sense the book’s originality and creative style in every single bit of it really, even in the dish names.
I absolutely love how chef and author Joudie Kalla made sure to provide the Arabic dish names before their English translation.
I also found it very unusual for a cook to name many dishes after people who passed on the recipe, which adds a very pleasant personal and original touch in my opinion; and I like it because this is very much how my mom does it; in her small recipe book, you’d find many recipes named after their creators not the dish itself, and I find this very impressive, reflecting a very strong personality and a sense of confidence many women lack.
I mean how many women would actually tell you, that the meal you just went crazy over was not their original recipe? not so many, but a few including my mom (me and my two lovely sisters), and Joudie Kalla would.
The dishes themselves are fantastic, each page I turned took me to places and times I long for.
And although the same dish has many versions depending on what region of Palestine you’re from, which means different cooking techniques and slightly different flavors, but all resulting dishes are scrumptious and carry this distinctive Palestinian touch that makes every single dish stand out in a special way. So even if the recipe on the book differs from how you’re used to making it yourself, don’t be afraid to try it out.
Another thing I absolutely adored was Kalla’s original Palestinian- Western fusion dishes, such as: ‘Figs with Labneh & Honey’, ‘Za’atar Scones’, ‘Freekeh, Fig & Pistachio Cake with Lemon Zest’ and ‘Medjool Date Scones’ to name a few.
And needless to say, my absolute favorite section was the “Vibrant Vegetarian”, which is really an amazing display of the best and most delicious Palestinian Vegetarian _and Vegan_ dishes that made their way to many other cultures, and that, to me, resemble vegetarian cooking at its absolute best.
Besides all of this, I couldn’t have picked a more perfect timing for this gift, for there’s no better way to celebrate Mother’s Day than being immersed in pages of meals from your home country, not only that, but it also happened to be a few days before the start of Ramadan, a month that brings the best out of people’s culinary skills (and their experimental urges) in creating the perfect meals to gather loved ones for breaking fast; it was also a couple of days before the Palestinian Nakba Day, and what better way to commemorate a culture than reviving its heritage and its cuisine that’s being robbed away by its occupier.
As for the author, I’m one of her biggest fans. I’ve been following her on social media for years now, sharing her videos and tweets, and I’m just impressed with her pride in her Palestinian descent and identity, and her persistence to preserve the Palestinian cuisine, heritage and culture.
From insisting on publishing a book with the word “Palestine” in its title, to hosting public dinners showcasing Palestinian culinary masterpieces, to never failing to mention her love for the Palestine that runs in her blood, Kalla succeeded in planting her name, her work and her beautiful spirit not only in our kitchens, but also in our hearts.
I love “Palestine on a Plate”, and highly recommend buying it. An awesome gift idea, and a great way to treat yourself, while supporting Palestine and reserving its culture and cuisine.
It is worth mentioning that Kalla is expecting the release of her second ccokbook BALADI: A Celebration of Food from Land and Sea, in October 2018.