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Beyond Hummus and Falafel: Social and Political Aspects of Palestinian Food in Israel

Liora Gvion
David Wesley
Elana Wesley
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Beyond Hummus and Falafel
    Book Description:

    Beyond Hummus and Falafelis the story of how food has come to play a central role in how Palestinian citizens of Israel negotiate life and a shared cultural identity within a tense political context. At the household level, Palestinian women govern food culture in the home, replicating tradition and acting as agents of change and modernization, carefully adopting and adapting mainstream Jewish culinary practices and technologies in the kitchen. Food is at the center of how Arab culture minorities define and shape the boundaries and substance of their identity within Israel.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95367-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface to the American Edition
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Preface to the Original Edition: As If We Were Eskimos—A Most Personal Opening
    (pp. xv-xx)
  5. Introduction: Food, Ethnicity, and Identity
    (pp. 1-24)

    Food is one of the means through which distinct national and ethnic identities are formed and practiced. This chapter illuminates the social processes through which food contributes to the national and ethnic identities of groups that share a single territory but perceive themselves as distant and different from one another politically, culturally, and economically. I also look at the circumstances under which food serves as a bridge between two such groups: Palestinians and Jews who are citizens of the state of Israel. An examination of the processes that shape national and ethnic cuisines and enable continuity, along with incorporation of...


    • [PART ONE Introduction]
      (pp. 25-28)

      Souad seasons a mixture of rice and ground meat with salt, black pepper, cinnamon, andbaharat(a spice blend). Using this mixture, she fills summer squash halfway up and packs them into a deep pot, layers two or three peeled tomatoes on top, splashes some olive oil over it all, and covers the mix with a stainless steel tray. She places the pot over a medium flame, and we sit down in the living room for coffee and conversation. An hour later, Souad stands up. “It’s ready,” she announces. “How do you know?” I ask. “I know,” she responds and...

    • CHAPTER 1 Women’s Ways of Knowing
      (pp. 29-71)

      Culinary knowledge is at the core of social identity for Palestinian women in Israel. Women acquire culinary knowledge and master certain food preparation skills as part of a normal process of gender socialization. First and foremost, women must learn to prepare, preserve, and store foods on a family budget. They must also master the accepted culinary norms and social practices of Palestinian family and society, particularly as they govern hospitality and the practice of hosting guests from the larger community. Women’s cooking is based upon obligation and reciprocity, and it ensures the continuing life of a family and the community...

    • CHAPTER 2 The Social Sphere: The Culinary Scene as Constructing and Reinforcing Power Relations
      (pp. 72-96)

      This chapter addresses three aspects of culinary practice in the Palestinian kitchen in Israel. First, I look at the connection between culinary practice and familial stratification, examining how women carry out their domestic duties in ways that express the preferences of the person who wields authority in the family. Even though cooking enables women to exercise authority in the home, it has not become a lever for redefining their roles or the system of family power relations. Changes to women’s domestic responsibilities have not, on a fundamental level, challenged the division between women’s and men’s traditional roles.

      Second, I discuss...


    • [PART TWO Introduction]
      (pp. 97-100)

      Laila lives in a seventy-two-square-meter apartment in a public housing project in a mixed city. She is forty-five years old, a mother of five and grandmother of two. Her husband, who is also her cousin, is a hired metalworker. Laila works for a Jewish family as a babysitter. Moving from an “Arab house” to an apartment in a long block of public housing was her greatest dream. She felt fortunate to leave her old stone house—a structure with high ceilings and six spacious rooms—and take up residence in an apartment the size of two of the rooms in...

    • CHAPTER 3 Labaneh with Light Bread and Knafeh from White Cheese: Tradition and Modernity Meet
      (pp. 101-128)

      Modernityis a key word for Palestinian citizens of Israel.¹ The modern lifestyle encourages mobility and gradual detachment from the past. For Palestinians, modernization entails a rise in educational level, greater professional opportunity, gradual entry into the middle class, recognition of their equal rights in Israel, consumption of new products, and adoption of life patterns perceived as more Western and more suited to the specific demands and needs of the Palestinian public.

      During the final decades of the twentieth century, social stratification reshaped the face of Palestinian society in Israel. On the fringes of the Israeli bourgeoisie arose a Palestinian...

    • CHAPTER 4 Encountering Israeli Jews: “When There Is No Pride, Cookbooks Are Not Written”
      (pp. 129-160)

      Every morning Fathi arrives at his restaurant, checks the fresh produce, gives instructions to the kitchen staff, and begins to prepare the day’s food. Fathi graduated from the Tadmor Culinary Institute, did his internship at a hotel in the center of Israel, and worked in Acre as a sous chef at a restaurant owned by a Mizrahi Jew that served Mizrahi food.¹ After a year as a sous chef, he opened his own restaurant in Nazareth, serving Arab food mostly to people living in and around Nazareth. “I have about two hundred Jewish customers a year,” Fathi reports. “All my...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 161-168)

    At the opening of this book I described the uncomfortable feeling I had sitting in Samira’s home. I realized she was under the impression that I had come to steal her recipes, and I felt like a colonialist intruder. The uncomfortable feeling brought on by that meeting did not disappear entirely when I was writing this book. Throughout my fieldwork and writing, I kept wondering whether I was successful in grasping the subtleties and particular meanings embedded in the cultural and political worlds of the Palestinian citizens of Israel who were never actually accepted within Israeli society. I opened with...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 169-180)
  10. Glossary of Culinary Terms
    (pp. 181-186)
  11. Works Cited
    (pp. 187-198)
  12. Index
    (pp. 199-208)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 209-210)