Issue No.
47, March 2002 Latest update 9 of July 2007, at 6.25 am
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Traditional cooking is well maintained amongst Palestinians, no matter where they may be, because of their family eating habits, the daily meals they adhere to and the food they usually eat at these meals. The meals of the day are open, daily meetings for the family to discuss important matters or just ordinary events and to spend a joyous time together. The family gathers around the table, "Tabliyeh" in the past, which is a round, short table to suit the height of people sitting down on the floor on one knee. Food is always placed on a surface higher than the ground, yet close to it; a custom carried through from years past.

Palestinians start their day early with a big breakfast to help them through until lunchtime at noon. The breakfast table is laden with a tempting array of dishes, most notably Hummus, Msabaha or Fatteh, and Falafel, which are all made of chickpeas, and Foul (fava beans). Other breakfast delights are Nabulsi or Akkawi white goat cheese, which is either boiled, fried or grilled, along with honey, at least one kind of jam, depending on the season, carob molasses or the famous tahina Halaweh. Eggs are popular too, especially amongst kids. Traditionally, they are fried in a "Fukhara," an earthenware fryer, or made into "Ijjeh," omelettes, of which cauliflower and parsley omelettes are the most popular. The breakfast table is never complete without olives, zattar, labaneh, and ka'ek (Jerusalem sesame bread). It is a customary habit to drink tea at breakfast, an old Asian tradition, flavoured with fresh mint leaves.

Lunch is the main meal in Palestine. It is usually accompanied by some appetizers such as olives, salads, pickles and dips. For the main meal, mothers always surprise us with a different dish every day of the year. The most common dishes are stews made from a single vegetable cooked with meat and served with rice; vegetables stuffed with rice and minced meat called mahashi, or a sort of timbale of rice, meat and vegetables called makloubeh.

Recently, with the economic boom and the ad?vent of affluence, the average Pal?es?tin೿ian in the cities has abandoned traditional eating habits and has become increasingly attracted to west?ern eating styles, the American one in par?tic೿u?lar. Palestinians, too, learned to eat on the run and soon lost the habit of the midday meal, pre?fer೿ring fast food snacks instead. Palestinians do not realise that by doing this they are losing an important ring of their social chain.

Asrooneh is the third meal of the day. The name is derived from the Arabic word "Aasr," meaning afternoon. Asrooneh is fruit time; fruits such as figs, grapes and melon are consumed with "Arayes," Saj bread rolls stuffed with goat cheese or labaneh.

Dinner, the evening meal, is traditionally of less importance than lunch, and usually consists of the leftovers from lunch and other light dishes such as "Shakshookeh," steamed eggs in saut饤 tomato slices with lots of garlic, and "Fteereh" or soup in winter. Dinner is slowly replacing lunch as the main meal of the day because of work schedules.

Party Time
Mazzeh is food for parties. It is Syrian cuisine that is continuously gaining wide recognition amongst food lovers all over the continents. A Mazzeh is a delightful collection of appetizers that are displayed buffet-style when entertaining guests and on happy occasions. A Mazzeh usually includes Kubeh, rolled vine leaves, all sorts of Sfeeha and Fteereh, a variety of dips and salads, and pickles.

The name, Mazzeh, is derived from an Arabic word that describes the taste of dry wine; it also means to sip a drink over a long span of time, appreciating it fully. That is why the word, over the years, has come to mean food that is associated with alcoholic drinks such as Arak and wine.

Sufian Mustafa
Chef and Researcher

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