A Tale of Two Rashas
Rasha S is a Palestinian Canadian who grew up in Jordan and was raised on her grandma’s delicious Arabic food. She owes her love of cooking and the value of a well prepared home meal to her grandma (teta), who had an incredible passion for food and flavor. She grew up in homes where the kitchen was always the center of activity. A great portion of everyday life was spent around a big wooden table spread with authentic regional food. After moving away from Jordan, and in the busy hustle of Western life, it became harder and harder to spend the time required to make traditional meals.
Rasha K is a Palestinian American whose enthusiasm for cooking is the result of growing up watching both her mother and grandmother lovingly prepare Arabic food and Palestinian favorites. When not being chased from the kitchen for eating directly from pots, she absorbed the basics of proper spicing, technique, and method. Living far from home, she cooked to imbue her life with a sense of familiarity, comfort, and connection. Palestinian food really is meant to be shared and prepared with others.
After Rasha S and Rasha K met at a film festival, it was culinary love at first sight! We soon discovered our shared cultural pride and mused over the synchronicity we shared a first name, too. Every weekend afterwards, we got together to cook up a storm for friends and family, all whilst engaging in lively discussions about politics, social issues, life, and food. And so, Intifooda was born.
Reflecting the social, local and regional variation in Palestinian society, Palestinian cuisine historically incorporates a wide variety of delicacies, ingredients, and sources, from city to village, urban to rural, coast to hilly interior, north to south. Meals are prepared with love, lots of olive oil, and time-honored traditions. Palestinian dishes are similar to others in the region of the Eastern Mediterranean (the Levant: Syria, Lebanon, & Palestine with some Egyptian influence) in their prominent use of grains, vegetables, legumes, yogurt, olives and olive oil–but also different in their original combinations of ingredients. The food is also broadly influenced by the Mediterranean cultures that surround it, since Palestine itself has been a historical convergence point of trade routes by land and sea.
We initially began the blog to catalog and archive the recipes of our Palestinian families, with the objective of preserving millennia of Middle Eastern culinary heritage and tradition. (Ambitious, huh?) It soon dawned on us that Palestinian food is relatively unknown to most people, often lumped into the broader “Mediterranean” category, thought of as Lebanese, or assumed to be the same as Modern Israeli cuisine–which is itself is a delightful fusion of Palestinian/Arab food and Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Mizrahi Jewish food. We like the enthusiastic attitude of the Israeli chef, Yotam Ottolenghi and his Palestinian business partner-chef, Sami Tamimi, who talk of adopting and sharing food. Our perspective at Intifooda is similar; cuisine is shared, influenced by availability of and locality of ingredients, social and political events, and is ever-evolving as it is diffused to near and distant cultures. However, our blog also represents the importance of acknowledging Palestinian cuisine and culture and resisting its absorption into the wider tapestry of the Middle East. The cuisine of a people is its cultural DNA, and for four thousand years, this is how we’ve cooked.
As diaspora Palestinians, we were both introduced to these dishes in our youth but were pulled away from home-cooked meals because of our busy careers and the conveniences of North American life (shout-out to Trader Joe’s!). We are home cooks who deeply appreciate and desire to generously share traditional Palestinian dishes. We don’t often cut corners in our recipes, so it is rare you will find canned or processed ingredients, and all the baking doughs are made from scratch. The aim of this is to encourage our readers to have a closer relationship with food–the raw ingredients and process–which leads to better cooking, tastier meals, and an emphasis on nutrition. Our blog is for everyone: from novice to experienced cooks who wish to make classic Palestinian meals for family, friends, or yourself, based on the knowledge lovingly passed on by our grandmothers, mothers, and once in a while, someone’s sido (grandfather).