In Gaza's KitchensA New Cookbook Bites Into This Spicy Cuisine
By Naomi Zeveloff
Gazans are used to talking with visitors about the political situation with Israel. But it’s not every day that two writers come knocking with questions about local cuisine.
“Everyone wants to hear about borders, the situation, the blockade,” said Maggie Schmitt, co-author with Laila El-Haddad of the new cookbook, “The Gaza Kitchen.” “We said, ‘No, no. We want to talk about lentils.’”
For two months, El-Haddad and Schmitt (pictured here) traveled the densely populated Gaza Strip learning about traditional foods and culinary techniques to create what is likely the first cookbook — and most certainly the first English-language tome — on Gazan home cooking.
“The Gaza Kitchen” is part cookbook and part anthropological study. Zooming in on the lives of every day Palestinians, it argues that diet and cuisine are shaped by Israeli policy. Hamas, meanwhile, is referenced briefly, most notably in a discussion about the merits and drawbacks of the Hamas-led government’s program for agricultural self-sufficiency.
Go there, enjoy and explore.
What follows here is some of the backstory that I put together.
I've been keeping up with Laila el-Haddad for years. Here is a link to my old blog with a variety of other links and this story (curated from Twitter messages) of her unsuccessful effort to join her family in Gaza four years ago.
March 23 – Making Plans
· Need a place to stay in Cairo starting April 8 with the kiddos until Rafah opens. 9:22 AM Mar 23rd from web
· Looking for Palestinians in #Gaza interested in participating in a video blogs project (training included) 3:24 PM Mar 23rd from web
· any suggestions as to where to pitch some short film ideas while in Gaza? 3:24 PM Mar 23rd from web
March 24 -- Getting Ready
· Yousuf's solution to entering Gaza: "why don't I wear my black spiderman costume and scare them all into opening the crossing and then ... 1:08 PM Mar 24th from web
· Boppy nursing pillow can double as a laptop cushion. 6:44 PM Mar 24th from web
· @todaysmama 2 month shots better than 5year shots! took 3 (very large) nurses to catch and restrain him... 6:50 PM Mar 24th from web
March 25 to 31 -- Waiting to leave
· Eating breakfast and checking email in Gugelhupf cafe in Durham; neighbor's wifi is no longer working *sigh* 6:46 AM Mar 28th from web
March 31 – April 4 Off to Gaza
· DC. En route to Gaza (Monday night-Cairo flight) 3:46 PM Apr 3rd from web
· @avinunu Helena is a good friend! she had dinner with us at my dad's farm in Gaza once upon a time :) 8:05 PM Apr 4th from eb
· just booked Cairo hotel on shady site- informed I may or may not get confirmation within 24 hours..hmm. 8:06 PM Apr 4th from web
April 5 – Clearing the Egyptian Embassy in Washington
· Heading to Egyptian Embassy in DC 2morrow morn 2 get a letter of consent for Palestinian travelers to Rafah Crossing after 5 no-show faxes 7:22 PM Apr 5th from web
April 7 -- Arrival in Cairo
· arrived in Cairo- am not being allowed through the airpot. been waiting w/ kids for 4 hours now. can't go back to US-visa expired. 4:35 PM Apr 7th from web
· am living a real life 7dood (Borders-an iconic '80s satire film by Ghawar) 4:36 PM Apr 7th from web
· thank god for free wifi in Cairo airport. despite the interogation and detentino. 4:41 PM Apr 7th from web
· am now being told I will be deported "somewhere"5:11 PM Apr 7th from web
· maybe now time to whip out my digital recorder and flip camera 5:16 PM Apr 7th from web
· sitting next to a snoring sudanese man and a roach yousuf just crushed 5:19 PM Apr 7th from web
· this is weird- I am opening noor's cot in the airport for her to sleep in. i think I'm going to film this. 5:34 PM Apr 7th from web
· hour 6 in egyptian detention. low level official told me they plan to deport me to teh UK-even though I have no visa 7:58 PM Apr 7th from web
· Yousuf asked me: why are they not allowing us through? what did we do? and why did they allow Israelis through but not us? 7:59 PM Apr 7th from web
· He asked those questions to teh egyptian officials, who just said "Rabina kbeer" 7:59 PM Apr 7th from web
· still stuck. managed to avoid early deportation and buy myself some more time- anyone with connections in the egyptian govt ?? 10:00 PM Apr 7th from web
April 8 -- Egyptian Custody, Day Two
· still stuck: hour 15. now told i will be deported back to the US even though I have no valid visa there. told paln are not allowed in 5:35 AM Apr 8th from web
· was told that there is a high order not to allow palns into egypt if rafah is closed-even though egy. consul in DC gave me written approval 5:36 AM Apr 8th from web
· i suggested I could parachute into Gaza and avoid Egypt altogether 5:37 AM Apr 8th from web
· @tomsp i'm recording my ordeal and journey with my flip mino 5:42 AM Apr 8th from web
· this must be a VERY high order because every call I have made has failed. I told them its not my fault egypt is in the way to my home 5:42 AM Apr 8th from web
· i keep getting told "the gaza situation is very special" , as in "you are not human, you have no rights" special 5:45 AM Apr 8th from web
· anyone have an inside connection w/ Egyptian amn il dawla? 5:52 AM Apr 8th from web
· new information: apparently, I am a security and political threat6:00 AM Apr 8th from web
· room full of illegal egypyptia workers 6:11 AM Apr 8th from web
· @marcynewan WHICH airport? this one of the other?8:22 AM Apr 8th from web
· will be shocked if Yousuf and Noor's immune system survives this 24 jolt - eating and sleeping off roach ridden premises included 8:25 AM Apr 8th from web
· waitng and waiting. this man has no answers and my file has been disappeared or cast aside for teh moment. running out of diapers .9:00 AM Apr 8th from web
· now sprialling into the world of the kafkaesque- no one has answers and I don't know how to get them10:17 AM Apr 8th from web
· thinking of going on a hunger strike 10:18 AM Apr 8th from web
· one officer just asked if I wanted a shelter set up - apparently its going to be a while 10:32 AM Apr 8th from web
· now talk of deporting us to the US tonight 10:47 AM Apr 8th from web
· i was placed in a detention room with 17 others for 3 hours then taken to a room and asked "if that's what I wanted for the forseable future 5:00 PM Apr 8th from web
· took my laptop and cameras; everyone was called on by country; 5 south asians were "Pakistan"; Guneaian was "Kenya"; another was Indonesia 5:01 PM Apr 8th from web
· then they said "its very uncomfortable isn't it? we do'nt mind keeping you there you know" 5:04 PM Apr 8th from web
· I told everyone in the detention room I am the only one here because I cannot go home- you are all being deported home, I am denied home 5:04 PM Apr 8th from web
· unfortunately could not film there; though could have tried to hide my flip. oh well. 5:10 PM Apr 8th from web
· favorite line by egyptian mockiccer: "honestly, we did not get any sleep over your orrdeal, we feel for you, really we do" 5:11 PM Apr 8th from web
· i was asked by men in holding cell what I did to be in there, I said "I was born Palestinian" 5:13 PM Apr 8th from web
· getting ready for deportation trip back to US via London. should be interesting explaining this to US immigration. the saga continues. 9:20 PM Apr 8th from web
· i don't think I have ever gone such a long stretch with no sleep. I am beginning to halluciate. 9:20 PM Apr 8th from web
· thank you everyone for your support- I thought I could get in, I exhausted all options. They said I needed security clearance (to go home) 9:22 PM Apr 8th from web
April 10 – Back in America
· quick tweet to let everyone know we were allowed back into the US- and that I am sick to my stomach (lit&fig) and throwing up since 5am 7:35 AM Apr 10th from web
· US immigration officers were sympathetic. One said: "I don't understand. Why did they prevent you from going back to your own home? 7:36 AM Apr 10th from web
· ok need to go throw up again. I will be writing an extensive post later i hope. 7:37 AM Apr 10th from web
I'm just an old guy blogging from a low-traffic site in a distant corner of the Web.
Her story makes me want to scream with rage at the injustice of it all.
I have no words to express how unnecessary this story should be.