Bethlehem – Beautiful Resistance Recipes
by Dr Abdelfattah Abusrour and Manal Odeh
This welcoming blue door of Bethlehem – Beautiful Resistance Recipes invited me to look inside. I was surprised to see the gate of Aida Refugee Camp, Bethlehem, with it’s giant key sculpture, symbolising the Palestinians’ right of return to their land. It’s right next to the separation wall which borders the camp. I’d stood there four years ago for a large group photograph, during a study visit organised by the Palestine-UK Social Work Network. Since then, one of the Palestinian social workers who took us round, a third generation refugee in the camp, was imprisoned for 6 months for protesting, defending the rights of Palestinian children and youths detained in Israeli military prisons.
It was clearly more than a cookbook. Alongside Palestinian recipes you’ll find stories, firstly of the co-authors: Dr Abdelfattah Abusrour born in the camp, a scientist who later became one of the founders of the Alrowwad Culture and Arts society in the heart of Aida and Manal Odah, born in Dubai into an immigrant Palestinian family, trained as a maths teacher and now co-ordinator of the Alrowwad Centre’s women’s unit. Dr Abusrour says “I hope within this book you can find a taste of Palestine, a taste of our beautiful resistance.’
Interspersed throughout the book, Manal has conversations with some older residents of the camp, about life in the villages they left in 1948 and now. Other sections outline the historical context, religious festivals, Palestinian fishing and dairy products. There’s lots of stunning photos of people, places, crops, food, herbs and spices.
The recipes include well known Palestinian dishes like Hummus, Fattoush and Baba Ghanoush. There’s also ones that feature in Deline’s article about Ramadan in Gaza: Freekah Soup, Mulokhiya, Maftoul, Ma’mul and ‘Maqloubah’ (Upside-down dish and how it got it’s name). It includes some straightforward dishes like ‘Tray bake potatoes with chicken’ (Seneyat batata ma’dajaj) and ‘Aubergine and tomato bake’ (Mnazala). I tested a Palestinian version of ‘Musaqa’a’ which met with full approval of my guests. Warming ‘Red lentil and chard soup (Shorabat addas wa silaq) will be great to use up the chard in my veg box and I’m keen to try the ‘Rose water scented date cookies’ (Ma’mul). All the recipes are attractively and clearly presented and illustrated.
The cookbook is a celebration of the Alrowwad Culture and Arts Society’s ‘beautiful resistance’ through arts, culture and education. It provides a wide range of activities and opportunities for all ages within the camp and throughout the West Bank including a theatre, Palestinian folkloric Dabka dancing, drawing, painting, photography, video training, vocational training, a women’s development centre, a guest house and a cooking school with a restaurant. You might have seen a performance of the theatre company when a group of 14 young people toured the UK and appeared at The Edinburgh Fringe. There’s a video of their dynamic performance in this article: https://artistsforpalestine.org.uk/2016/09/04/beautiful-resistance-meets-cynical-culture-washing-on-edinburgh-fringe/
All funds raised from the sale of the book will support these activities and Dr Abusrour says “teaching people how to cook Palestinian food is another form of resistance..” So by buying the book for yourself or someone else you’ll be supporting ‘beautiful resistance’ as well as extending your repertoire of Palestinian cooking.
Buy it from Hadeel here.
Book review by Sally Evans