Food & Politics with Blanche Shaheen – 5 Dec 2019

All right, This is Arab Talk on KPOO San
Francisco. This is your host Jamal Dajani & my co-host, Dr. Jess Ghannam is traveling
this week. But we are very delighted today. We’re gonna be talking about food and politics
with no other than Blanche Shaheen. You know, she’s been here on the show many times,
But this time we’re very excited. And of course, we cannot show a book on the air on radio,
but we can show it on Facebook live. This is the cover of the book. So Blanche,
she finally has published her cookbook and it’s “Feast in the Middle East: A personal
journey of family and cuisine.” And this is a long-awaited book that will be talking
about and it’s a comprehensive book, a landmark culinary reference for Middle Eastern classics,
many of which one cannot find in restaurants nor cooking schools. Congratulations. I really
want to congratulate you on having the book. I mean, it’s really like such a delight to
have you with us here at such a delight to kind of like watch you develop in a way, you
know, and for many off our listeners who don’t know Blanche. She’s been on the show several
times. Blanche is a journalist for for many, many years. We worked together, so she’s a
friend and she’s also a former colleague. But also, somehow she found the new talent,
you know, which is great. And it’s exactly your love of cooking and family recipes.
And then finally, this cookbook, How do you feel about
– I’m ecstatic? It’s been 10 years and yeah, I mean, it’s been really fun just checking in with you every every now and then.
I miss our times working together, so it’s been neat to share. I’m finally excited because
it was a very long struggle. I mean, just to put the recipes together, to test, to retest,
look up the historical significance of all the recipes taught, bringing family antidotes
to make it really personal. Everyone wants the beautiful pictures, right? So just getting
these pictures was in and of itself an extraordinary task. But here it is.
It’s done. It’s an anthology. Almost. It has the classics. It has modern interpretations
so that if there’s somebody that wants to keep the tradition alive in their family,
they’ve got the tool that they need to do that. And it’s in time for the holidays.
So for people to actually have a book .Listen, I mean again, I commend you on this. I love
food. I actually when you say Personal Journey. I think I’ve done many personal journeys into
culinary cuisine. The only difference between you and me is that you know how to cook,
and I don’t and I gain weight and you don’t So those are the main
differences. But our love, of course, of Middle Eastern food is shared and also the
focus, and you’ve traveled quite a bit. These are based on your family connection to the
land, to Palestine, Ramallah, your grandparents recipes that kind of made their way here,
which is great. I mean to kind of like rediscover these and make sure that this tradition
is not lost. Absolutely, especially with today’s busy lifestyles. Everybody’s super
busy. They don’t have time to do what like our tetas did and spend four hours to make
a pot of like stuff squash, which is what they would normally do, right. So I really
tried to streamline as much as possible. Sometimes I put like five steps in one, you know, like
for Musakhan, instead of going, Musakhan is the chicken with caramelized onions baked
on bread. They used to make the bread from scratch and put in the underground oven and then
do catch the chicken and do all that stuff. I streamline it so that you could probably
make it in under an hour. And now I have, like some of, my best friend is Vietnamese,
She knows how to make it, and her family loves it. So I mean it. It just brings me so much
joy to see that this is a global cooking community now. And people are sharing in the
love of Middle Eastern food. Palestinian dishes that are from remote villages are being
brought alive and shared in a global community in this fashion. And then the other thing
I mentioned is that this did not come out of nothing, right? So you’ve been on the
air basically on your own YouTube channel and cooking for past 10 years. It’s
really like 10 years. You have been experimenting. You’ve been cooking. You’re getting feedback,
right? I mean, I just me basically, when I asked the on the decision, like what? Recipes
went into the book versus because you don’t 10 years like how many rest is heavy, like
so many and and it’s a building blocks. Like you said, Sometimes people will be like, Well,
can you learn? Can you teach us how to make this from Syria or teach us how to make that
from Lebanon? And sometimes it was like, Well, you know what? I’ve never even made that.
But I’m going to figure out I’m gonna do some research. I’m going to do a lot of recipe
testing and then the best recipe I could possibly find. I’m gonna put in this book. And so it
has been a collaboration because of my YouTube channel to get this feedback from people all
over the world. That’s what’s made it really special is that it’s not just, you know, something
from my family. It’s definitely been like a cooking community from all over the world,
and they have all contributed in their own way, and so I make sure to think my YouTube,
my YouTube family and your channel again, I want to find my channel on YouTube so it’s
youtube dot com slash blotch TV sets B l A and C H E T v so they can find that they could
go to feast in the middle east dot com, of course, together. And we’re gonna get the
book. So if you want to go to the book, the best way right now is to go to feast in the
middle east dot com. And I tell you exactly the instructions. And right now I’ll give
them a discount. If they use promo code friends 10 they can get 10% off. Oh, this is great,
but it’s also available on other platforms. Amazon itself. Yeah, it is available, but
to be honest, it’s best to buy to buy directly guy like Thio circumvent Jeff Pesos at all
costs. Also very costly also. Yeah, definitely. Amazon takes, like, 70% of every sale, so
they’re not very kind to authors, So I know you would just come back from actually traveling
to Palestine. Yes. And, uh, you go there frequently you go there for two. I guess several purposes,
like everyone of us, but added an extra layer is your love for for cooking absolutely walking
the souks and the markets and smell the spices and discovered new recipes and the attachment
to the land. I just actually, just the other day was talking to somebody who actually came
back and who just participated in the olive harvest. Oh, that’s what I participated in.
The source was like, Oh, wow, it’s kind of like this he says. It was it’s a it’s a friend
of mine And I said, Well, how did this feat? Because actually, I’ve never been out there
toe pick up olives. And then he said it was his therapy. It is therapy. Yeah, he said.
He said It was just like for me doing the labor, being connection with the land and
then taking the olives, the press with the people and watch them. So, you know, he’s
really knew nothing about basically eso human, just like hey, just hey, just happened to
be there And it’s just kind of like some of his family members were doing it and said,
Would you like to tag along? And he ended up doing three days or four days worth of
work. Lucky guy. And he said, Yeah, I used to come back exhausted and sweaty, but I loved
every minute. Absolutely. It is a beautiful tradition, uh, shared with Palestinian family.
So I always tell people that the olive trees are like an extension of the Palestinian family.
People value these trees. They take care of these trees. They’ve been in the family for
generations. Some of them are hundreds and hundreds of years old. And the families get
together. I actually did a recent video on my channel. Might my latest video ah, documented
a day in the life of an all of all of harvest. And it could be literally the most beautiful
day of one’s life. And it can also be the saddest one day as well, because, uh, the
colonizers that are surrounding these all of harvest Israeli colonizers have actually
stepped up the violence three times more this year than any year prior. And it actually
it just saddens me so much because it is. It’s really a simple activity where Palestinians
are one with the land and they get their family together. They harvest all day. They make
the most incredible olive oil you’ve ever tasted. So part of my, uh, my mission on my
channel is to support these farmers through various ways, from guiding people to websites
where they could buy the Palestinian olive oil to just increasing awareness about what
happens in these harvest. I mean, what happens is their their harvest gets stolen, they get
attacked. Solidarity activists that come get attacked as well, even if they’re Israeli.
So there, uh, there are Israeli peace activists at Com to protect the Palestinian harvesters.
They get attacked as well. Yeah, and many internationals. And this is a sad thing that
because we did cover this many times, we talked about it. Yeah, that. What do you think about
the word that goes in tow, growing these olive trees in the years that they have When these
settlers basically invaded the land, they they destroy them. They burned that tree down
in front of the farmer. Yes, yes, to kind of drive them away, you know, from from the
land and decapitation of a family member. And it’s like and it sickens me when I see
them take pleasure in doing that and the anguish in the faces, the sadness of the Palestinians,
the families of farmers. There’s got to be a better way. I mean this got this, has to
stop. It’s just unbelieving. It’s horrible, even for they say they’re environmentalists
and they’re doing this kind of thing. It’s just a complete oxymoron. You can’t be an
environmentalist and destroy millions of all of trees in the same time you said the olive
tree is I call it kind of like the source off Life for Palestinians goes to biblical
times to the time off course Jesus Christ. And there’s a lot of connection with even
pre kind off monolithic religion thing. The olive oil has been used in rituals and, of
course, food. So medicinal purposes is all well to cure everything from the common cold
to skin sores to everything so much. What is in your book? That should be. It should
be tripping like How much olive oil do do we use in these recipes when you cook, like
with a fan before our listening? Sefton is like a chicken that is really so smoking with
valuable Semak and and, uh, onion, right, right, and then the bread itself. So many
so many recipes they’re not. Not to mention that our breakfast includes olive oil and
zappa on just herbs right, Right. So how many? Just, if you think if you took a wild guess
like, how many tickets do you have that calls for as an ingredient? Olive oil, I’d say.
75%. And you know what’s really funny? You mention this because you’re being Palestinian.
We know it’s intrinsic to us. We cook with it, and then we have. There’s like a movement
of people like, How dare you cook with olive oil? It’s gonna de nature the olive oil and
destroy the properties and its harmful blah, blah, blah. How old is your mom? How was 93?
92? How old’s my grandma? 97. How will I mean most of the people in our family they get
to be in their nineties, pal. I mean, it’s Israel’s worst nightmare that Palestinians
live in their nineties, and part of it is the olive oil, and we cook with it and it
doesn’t for me. The proof is in that, you know, I mean, not only this, but people claim
it’s way use like soap made out of olive oil and some products you know it’s good for your
skin is good for your air. It’s good for you, like everything kidneys. And And it’s part
off our culture. And we look at it. I really like, you know, this is the thing. We look
at it like good wine. Absolutely. Way. So, Like when you taste like crappy olive oil
off the automatic before us is like, What’s this? What is this? I’m not gonna put this
in my food. Yeah, I guess other cultures would be like the Italians and the Greeks. They
also take a lot of pride in the alley. Was So, um the thing, though without Palestinian
olive oils. When you get true Palestinian olive oil, you’re going to know it’s not adulterated.
So I wrote several articles on this, and I’ve done that. Done a lot of research on olive
oil. And there is a huge counterfeit ah system for olive oil. Sadly coming out of Italy and
grease, they mix the olive oil with other kinds of like base. Very cheap kinds of holes.
Yeah, you’re absolutely right. And so So people get very bad quality thinking they’re paying
top dollar to get thinking. They’re getting good quality Palestinian olive oil. It’s it’s
picked there, it’s it’s hand press at the source. And if you go to, like, cannon Fair
Trades a tune dot or GE equal exchange now selling olive oil, fair trade, you know you’re
getting a top quality product. So I know we were gonna be calling the show food and politics,
and we just finished, actually. And, of course, one of the biggest holidays in this country’s
things giving. And this is when you bake mix food really with politics, and then you don’t
alienate your cousin that you see once a year, you know? Yeah, you know, as long as you keep
that conversation civil. But for Palestinians, I have never been on a Palestinian table when
Palestinians did not discuss food that we’re eating and enjoying it. And also this custom
politics have you know, I haven’t instead of intrinsic to our I mean, even even if we
don’t want to get political, if somebody finds out you’re Palestinian, they’re going to start
getting so let’s get your questions. Yeah, they start asking a lot of questions about
where you’re from and all that. So your last trip? Yes. And you went, uh, with a group
of friends and some of them were journalists and so forth. And actually, we saw each other
just a few days before you were kind enough to come and talk in my one of my classes.
That u S F s u. And so I wanted to get some impressions, not as much as your own, because
you kind of like you’ve been there. You’ve seen it just from those people who went there
for the very first time off. The consensus among everyone that went there for the very
first time was that they had no idea that the human rights violations were so egregious.
Uh, they thought that it was absolutely criminal for them. It’s like, OK, you can You can talk
about politics. You can talk about coming up with a political solution. But even if
you shelve that the top priority should be the elimination of human rights violations
committed against the Palestinians on a day to day basis, things like a lot of did you
know, moments like did you know that Palestinians that live in Yaffa, for example, are considered
Israeli citizens and they pay taxes for everything yet are don’t get garbage collection. They
don’t get the same kind of educational system. They don’t get the same health care system
simply because they’re Palestinian. Or did you know that Palestinians will only get running
water three times a week where Israelis don’t. And so they have thio, oftentimes even pay
taxes or paid municipality. And they only get They all have to have water tanks above
the houses to store water because they don’t get water every day while they’ll have swimming
pools and green grass on the other side simply because they’re a different religion. Things
like that. Just that families are torn apart from each other he brought is still in an
absolute mess he brought is probably if anyone wants to know what the human rights violations
are, they should just pay a visit to he Bron and and it speaks for itself. I mean, its
jaw, its jaw dropping and mind blowing. How bad it is over there. Well, do you think that
I like about your trips that you know your trips don’t go with three assumptions and
then have a new include people who I don’t have a kind of haven’t made up their minds?
Or some of them may be like they’ve made up their minds through the media, you know, and
then you don’t steer them because I because I know I’ve spoken to so many people who have
been on the Israeli responsible, are a pack and expensive husband tours where people are
steer to go to Tel Aviv and avoid Palestinian towns and villages. And we’re told in advance,
Don’t go. They’re dangerous. They’re gonna hurt you. So when when someone you take the
people and they get like face to face with the Palestinians, what’s their first impression?
And then when they cross like something like Qalandiya for our listeners, who probably
money for them are familiar with. This is kind of like one of the biggest checkpoints
that you have to cross between the West Bank and Jerusalem and then line up behind hundreds
of cars. You know, Toby kind of cattle, like out like livestock, and they get held up to
Goto work six hours. I mean, a tour guide. A Palestinian tour guide whose job starts
at nine, will have to get up at 4 30 in the morning for 1/2 an hour trip. Normally, because
of the checkpoints that are enforced even though he’s technically an Israeli citizen
on dhe. That’s what really, really affected. Everyone is like as Palestinians, they have
to have five different kinds of ideas Too little. What kind of a Palestinian are you?
Because we need to make sure we restrict your movement, restrict your rights, restrict your
freedoms based on your I d what you have to wear with you at all times. And if you don’t,
If you don’t bring your i d with you, you’re out of luck. If you get caught by any soldiers,
you can get up jailed. You could end up humiliated, tortured I mean it. It’s an unpredictable
day that day that you don’t remember your identification. So one people who are not
familiar with this they go through it for the very first time. Is this when were these
the turning points? What were the turning point? I would say that people came and say,
Wow, G Blanche, we didn’t know. I mean, we’ve seen it kind of like it hit them right in
the face. Well, the water restriction was really mind blowing like they couldn’t believe
that people could only have three days of water when we went to visit Al Aqsa Mosque.
We took him to the Wailing Wall and Al Aqsa Mosque, and they got to experience the Wailing
Wall and then Al Aqsa, though they noticed several times a day. There were these Israeli
extremists that were guarded by a ton of military that were walking around the compound to incite
people. And they were like, What is this? What is going on? It’s I said, Well, can you
imagine if, like, Muslims came with militias to the Wailing Wall several times a day to
incite people? I mean, could you imagine how crazy that would be? This and last time I
was there, I was actually in the Old City and we were crossing. This is from the neighborhood
called Heart in Madeira B, which is the Moroccan Quarter, where you can come from inside all
TV from the back way, you can go through the Wailing Wall and you could go up the ramp
into our locks up. So I was with what with actually my best friend walking there, and
we came through a checkpoint right just before you enter there. And then they said they actually
they look at me because my wife. You know she’s from the stairs. She’s blonde. She looks
so they just like that just passed through. And they stopped my friend because he looked
Palestinians and stood by the side. It’s a we’re just going We’re just going through
the wailing wall. We’re going, you know, Actually, we wouldn’t even be heading to the Al Aqsa.
We were headed to the Armenian quarter, right? So we’re going there and united and because
it’s a short that otherwise you have to go through the Christian Quarter off the stairs
and you know, and they said You can’t pass like you know, But he cannot like this guy
was born and raised in Jerusalem. He said he has a Jerusalem, you know, they And then
they asked What trust your idea, Of course, his ideas of Jerusalem ideas and Israeli I
D. But it says that he is an Arab on it. It’s like, clear And they said, No, no, you cannot
take this. This is only for use. You have to go take the longer route. And then I said,
Well, I’m not, you know, Jewish. And they said, it doesn’t matter really like your America,
you’re tourists or something like this. It’s terrible. So that’s mind blowing for Americans
have been told that they have equal rights. Is Israelis. Yeah, so it was totally like
blatant, like race is like saying on the lines off religion, you can pass. But they Yeah,
Andi, Itwas And so, of course we didn’t go. We went back with him and took the long route
because we were allowed. So it’s gotta be like reminding me. But when they complained,
the Jewish colonial settlers are allowed to go toe basically antagonized the worshippers
on Al Aksa protected by Israeli police riot police. When I don’t know if you’ve noticed.
But when Before you go, If you go on the other side of the moon Wailing wall, these extremist
settlers, they have a stand and the stand. They have a replacement solution. They have
this old temp phone. Well, they have posters. They have posters everywhere where the locks
and they put the temple in. Exactly. You go there. I mean, this is where they gather.
And this is like they’re telling you like, one day we’re gonna take over. We will destroy
oxide. We will build a temple. Yeah. Yeah, it’s crazy. And then they wonder why Palestinians
get worked up when they see them their way. Don’t do anything, and I just wanna blow up
your place of worship on exactly. And this is what they go. And they say they say, And
this is what really like really irritates me, is when you hear you know they’re propagandists
on the air. They say Jerusalem’s open up all the religions, you know, But it’s the Palestinians
we don’t want allowed used to go to the Holy Sepulchre and everyone I love them, you know,
they don’t look out to the, you know, to the likes of loss that they don’t talk about all
the inside month and in the fear that they create. Yeah, it’s really sad. Well, 11 poignant
moment where you mentioned like that one moment was we had an African American reverend with
us, and he had been on one of those trips to Israel before, where he felt restricted,
and the tour guide would not let him go to a Christian Palestinians bookstore. He wanted
visit him because he had communicated. He’s like, Can I go to the He’s like, No, you are
not allowed to go to that bookstore, you have to go where we’re taking you. And he felt
like he was. His movement was restricted everywhere, and he wasn’t seeing the full picture. And
so he welcomed the opportunity to come see the Palestinian side a few months later and
he walked walked through the empty streets of Hebron, where the streets are completely
close to Palestinians, where Palestinians can’t even like go out there front to the
front of their home. They have to take a ladder to the back of their home because of their
religion, because it’s blocked off by extremists, he said. He felt like it was the Jim Crow
era of the 19 sixties, and he wept like he started crying. He was like, This is bringing
back so many memories for me times I do not want to remember And it’s happening here on
a much larger and grander scale and I can’t believe that I’m experiencing this right now
and it was really I mean, it was I broke down, he broke down. It was a really tough time
for both of us. Uh, and I felt this kindred spirit with him because of the just history
of suffering based on who you are. You know, our guest for the entire hour is a journalist
now, author Blanche Shaheen. And we’re talking about food and politics. Her book, her new
book, Feast in the Middle East. A personal journey off family and cuisine. And you can
get it on the right on her website. We’re gonna be talking to her for the entire hour.
And we want to also welcome our viewers on Facebook live. This is Arab talk on KP or
San Francisco 89.5 FM. So let’s talk a little about the food in the book and especially
since this is a holiday season and people are coming. I mean, this is the time when
you give him with right? I mean, this is a training. I’m having this problem. Especially
when I flip the pages and I come to the kidnapping part. Are you on and on the desert part there
and all So I know. Actually, we talked about that last time. Just this best, uh, a few
days ago, you had the set Barbara holiday, which is? We talked about the bar. Bara. That’s
right. That’s right. It’s a really special home, and this is something like people don’t
like. You know, like if you haven’t been to Palestine, we haven’t bean to be lady share,
which is the basically little event in greater Syria region. People don’t understand why,
you know, like, okay, we have so many San’s. Why do you kind of love you? Guys focus on
this particular saying, and then you have dessert named after their Yeah, it’s an interesting
story. So Abu Baba is Arabic for Barbara, so it’s named It’s the Feast of Santa Barbara,
and I think the story originated in Damascus in Syria, to be exact. But so what we do is
we make a porridge called Barbara to commemorate her. And apparently this recipe I learned
is 2000 years old, and it’s made not only in the Arab countries but in Malta and Cyprus
and a lot of the Christian Orthodox countries. The story goes, it’s a wheat berry porridge,
and the story goes to flee persecution because her father was going to kill her for believing
in Jesus. She escaped through a wheat field, and apparently the wheat grew behind her to
hide her footsteps so that they couldn’t find her. And so what a lot of Orthodox Christians
do is they actually grow the wheat Berries on plates and they place them around their
Christmas tree and it grows like beautiful grass. So my great grandmother, my great my
grandmother, my great aunt’s studio. And so we make the water bottle, which is wheat berry
porridge, and we top it with pomegranates, Coconut walnuts. Uh uh uh, sometimes fennel,
chocolate covered fennel. And and so it’s It’s usually I mean, I just went to church
at unorthodox Masses past Sunday and they were serving Bada Bada has a fundraiser for
it. For the people that went there a little, you know, just that I’ve started with the
sweet stuff. Yeah, way we start with this. This is kind of like the pretty, you know,
like I like how you describe it and supported I look at it more like a desert kind of like
it’s like, Oh, yeah, it’s a healthy Sirio. I was like, Okay, this is like the kind of
like the precursor, because then we move on and we have Kakuma, mul and Tina Fey and all
these good stuff, right? Because now we’re getting close, Theo Christmas. And what, Of
course, some of our listeners may not know that. For example, in Jerusalem we celebrate
Christmas three times. That’s right. So we have the traditional Gregorian calendar Christmas.
The Catholics celebrate. Then we have the getting off looks. Christmas, I think. January
7th 0 approximately. And then followed by the Armenian Christmas. That’s right. So it’s
kind of like the holiday season is two months. Yeah, it goes on from the beginning off December
to the end off January. We just, like, visit people. And every time you visit. Of course,
if you’re not invited to dinner, which is that’s a big feast by itself, you know? So
even if you stop by for coffee what they’re gonna say out of you sweet things like this
Yeah, so I can if I made sure. I mean, it’s a very special page. Yes, yes. So let’s talk
about kidnapping. I’m just, like, kind of like giving everybody that knows me knows
I’m obsessed. So So I know you must have. Did you go to Annapolis? Yes. We absolutely
want to Nablus. Then what did you think? I mean, tell me what I need to tell you this.
Did you go? Okay. So with my group, you know, I found a place. Annapolis Baker ended up
opening a bakery in the Ramallah and it’s called a lack in. Have you been there? Not
only have I been there, actually lived about a block away from there. When I spent a year
in my apartment, I used because if you remember that also the government officers and things.
So my apartment here is a lacquer. That little shopping center has a supermarket say, That’s
what I got because I had my bachelor life. So I went to the supermarket there, had my
barber, had a bakery where they served my Jeanette like a bake like bread like, yeah,
like Savannah nif and cheese and all these things spinach pies, pies and the lack of
I didn’t have to go anywhere else. It’s hard, you know. Okay, so my group s So what they
did was they took the novelist Annapolis. Baker’s originated this desert, so they have
the world record of making the biggest connect on the planet. It’s basically for those who
don’t know what it is. It’s basically like a sweet sheep’s cheese that’s melted, and
it has a buttery layer of shredded phyllo on top with the sugar served and, uh, and
pistachios on top of that. So these bakers went and opened the Mag Most Magnificent bakery
in Ramallah, and I told my group, Listen, guys, it’s six o’clock at night. We could
either eat dinner or we could go for, like, a 20 minute hike in the dark to get to eat
this sweet, and they all wanted to come with me to hike to get Tol aka. So we all went.
We got there are like seven o’clock. We all ordered two slices each. We slammed it and
walk back. They almost cried. It was almost like religious experience. Some of them said
they either want to move to policy line where they want to become Palestinians to eat it.
And so I tried to console them. I said, You know, I know you guys were scattered all over
the United States, and by the way, my favorite event is the fishnet. Oh yeah, so you could
have either like a like a course dough that’s really shredded. Or you could have it ground
more fine, but everybody loved the shredded one just like you, and you could get it now
at Trader Joe’s. But it’s not the same. I actually actually a friend of mine conned
me with one and he said, You know what? And by the way they want a trend of shoot George.
It’s It’s not really kidnap. It’s gotta beefy. Look, it’s actually they bring it up from
Greece will get the Greeks. They bake a TV, which is the shredder. They used the same
thing, but it’s too sweet and they don’t use Oh, she’s right, not the U. S. So it it’s
got like But some people said, Well, if you can’t get it, this is the one. And by the
way, for our viewers on Facebook live, this is the canopy. And, of course, Blanche and
your mother. Yeah, and you know our guest for the entire hour is Blanche Shahinian,
her new cookbook feast in the Middle East. You can get it right, her website or on Amazon
and other places. I’m sure in other bookstores right that they can get it. It’ll be It’s
not in bookstores quite yet, but if they want to get it like a sap they could just go to
feast in the middle east dot com. And what about your cooking show? How is that going?
Yes, So that’s going really well. I’m going to be turning out more recipes that are reflective
of other regions to So I did one recently on Iraq because I wanted to kind of like people
just associate these countries with war. Sadly, another one. I want to work on his Yemen.
I want to bring some Yemenis dishes because I know they’re just dealing with hell on earth
right now in Yemen. Coffee party, coffee. The best coffee in the world. Well, coffee
originated in Yemen. I mean, people think that it originated in Turkey. Turkey made
it popular, but the original coffee beans came out of Yemen. Actually, I’m just gonna
correct that. It’s your your clothes. I found out that, actually, the coffee bean itself
came out off Ethiopia. Interesting. And then if you look at the map, right and you look
at military in now and Ethiopia, which is waas part off the old ancient kingdom off
Abyssinia was one big kingdom. And this is where after even through today, you just have
to cross the very narrow straits to basically cross from the Arabian peninsula to Africa.
And so the beings they were brought just like it’s almost like you’re crossing from San
Francisco to Berkeley. It’s not that far. So this is between the, you know, the basically
to conference because tthe e Arabian Peninsula is in technically is in Asia and that’s Africa.
And so the wild beans were from there. And then it was the Arabs in Yemen, that whole
area that figure this whole roasting process and brought the coffee. So so that’s gone
off. We have to credit Yemen for for Starbucks. Yeah, whatever for a lot. And and people don’t
know this, you know, they just right now they’re suffering terribly. So I’d like to you on
my show, uh, bring about more of the other regions. I’ve done Morocco, for example, And,
um and yeah, I just I want to expand it. I want it is an idea. Do you think about, for
example, producing these shows on site? Yes. You have to travel. I absolutely. So when
you talk about Moroccan cuisine, self do. And are you doing out off your own kitchen,
right? It’s going staking the set to Morocco, Actually, 20 that you say that because I was
thinking about going in the fall of 2020 to Morocco to do some food. Siri’s from there
because I have a potential opportunity. S o. It’s funny, you’re very intuitive. And
it’s a beautiful country. I mean, I’ve been there like, you know, it’s it’s a beautiful
country. I mean, what people don’t know. I was talking to somebody about broke the other
day and I said, This is the only country actually, like aspires in in the Middle East and North
Africa, where you can go to a seafood restaurant and order seafood from the Mediterranean or
the Atlantic on the same on the same menu car. It was more operas. Right? Right there,
Right there. You know, like this is where people are not familiar. Just right at the
tip is Gibraltar. So that’s kind of what connects the idea so that you can you can go, that’s
safe. You’re in 10 gear and you can order. They ask you they would Atlantic food Or do
you want your artificial or Mediterranean? I probably offer the Mediterranean. Yeah.
I mean, yeah, but for people like you could get, actually, swordfish. Yeah, And you could
get the look close those That’s the native fish to the medical opinion. Yeah, you’re
beating me on the foodie front here. While hopefully this is the difference is we both
had our own personal journey When it comes to both politics and food on the differences
that you know how to cook. I don’t. That’s OK. You could do the eating part of the evening
for Theo. Eating parts. Always awesome. Uh, well, the thing is, I When people first found
out that I was going to make a transition from journalism to food, they thought it was
absolutely crazy because people right now, people only associate me with food. They don’t
even associate me with journalism anymore, which is kind of sad because I’m still a huge
passion of mine. Yeah, but it’s also a journalist, because what you’re doing when you put it
in a book, you do a lot of research gone traveling, right? Right? Absolutely. And actually, my
fellow journalists, you can’t b s. Yeah, because people are gonna take your recipe and they’re
gonna try it. It’s either gonna be It’s gonna work, but it’s not gonna work right, you know,
like so you can stretch the fact that, like something you do all the time. No, you can’t.
And unfortunately, there is still plenty of B s and mainstream media. And so it kind of
actually, when I became disheartened with the direction of mainstream media, it seemed
a natural direction for me to kind of take a break from all that to focus on food and
research food. So, like when I say anthology kind of unit, I mean, this book isn’t just
about cooking. It’s delving into the research behind a lot of the dishes so that people
have an additional perspective. And it’s not just about food and food does bring people
together that normally wouldn’t be together, which is what I like to on dso It’s even caused
a lot of collaborations and conversations from people who are like, Well, I thought
this was I didn’t know this was Palestinian and unlike you. Well, yes, it is. And I’ll
tell you why, you know. So it’s created a lot of conversations. Now you’re steering
me towards food appropriation. Yeah, it’s like cultural after appreciate appropriation.
How maddening is it to see like when you know kidnap enough? Sometimes people say it’s Israeli
can appear before used to make a joke about Israeli for lawful, and now they’re even going
like a nappy with anything like this. Our recipes or theme. Northern African, Moroccan,
Tunisian, Algerian. Check Chuka. Now Israeli, right, you know Well, that that’s kind of
part of the reason why I wrote this book was because I wanted to call a spade a spade and
do the actual research and talk about the origin of all of these Arabic words. Ah, where
they came from. And so that’s what I do. I actually didn’t I talk about Chuck Chuka.
There is a recipe for Shake Sugar in my book, and it’s North African origins. And of course,
I go into canasta and talk about its Palestinian origins and hell most that helm us is actually
an Arabic word that means chickpeas on DSO. For me, it’s like the best route to this is
to actually research the facts and the facts don’t lie. And when you have enough substantiated
facts, you really can’t argue with it. I mean, that’s great. If you really love the cuisine,
and you want to call it your own. You can do that, I guess. I mean, no one’s going to
stop you, but when it comes to actually looking at the origins of factual origins, that’s
what I do in this book and that that that was a big passionate You get challenged. I
mean, just like when you are not just because the book I know it’s It’s new on your food
show on YouTube And then you talk about the origins and people make from crazy commands.
The way I get challenged, I’ve had quite a bit of I’ve had my share of hate mail from
people saying, You know what? You don’t exist. Your food doesn’t exist, Palestinians don’t
exist. And I’m just like, you know what? My family has been there. I can actually find
the 500 year old house where my family’s from. And so, uh, you know, I challenge a lot of
people who say that to me to do the same. I mean, you can talk about, you know, the
thousands of years that you know you can trace your lineage to, but find the house, you know,
find the actual house. And so and I will never go out of my way to tell other people that
they don’t exist or that they they’re they’re, uh lineage doesn’t exist. But I s I think
it’s kind of crazy to be a Palestine denier. Also, it comes like to culture and food. I
mean, you know, we eat pizza here. We don’t claim it’s American with its Italian were
probably one of the most popular things, like eating pizza in this country and pass that
were not so valiant way. We don’t claim that this is like a an American invention, right?
There might be some modifications, but for some reason, there is this kind off, like
a procession to claim Palestinian cuisine, not only the land and I want to get because
we’re not going to talk about a lot of things like also clothing, right yet on fashion water.
But it’s also claiming, claiming they posted in cuisine because every time I opened it
like something opened not only in Haaretz or Israeli media, it’s it’s even listed as
such in The New York Times and other publications. So if they I guess they feel if they drive
the alternative facts often enough that it will become truth. But there are a lot of
amazing Palestinians that are doing groundwork. A lot of Palestinian foodies that are taking
it very seriously to bring this cuisine to the forefront. There’s Ah hospital, like a
society in Palestine that’s culturally holding onto these vestiges talking about artisanal
food. There are a lot of bloggers on Instagram Palestinian bloggers. Uh, I can think of Almond
and Fig, for example. She’s Palestinian that are really bringing toe light all of these
beautiful culture and traditions. And while they can talk about it in a menu perspective
and say, Oh, well, this is Israeli, we have the stories we have. We have, like the stories
from our great grandmothers and our great grandfathers and how it connects to the actual
food of the land. And you just can’t. You can’t You can’t beat that. You know when when
you have the actual stories connected to the land. There’s something very special about
that that you can’t erase. And, uh, you know, we were approaching Christmas time now, and
I’ll go back to what’s your favorite recipe for people to cook during the holidays. But
for many people, you know, you know, you think about Christmas and people by the Christmas
Tree and Santa Claus. It’s all this is all kind of foreign in a way, or watching mass,
let’s say from the vet can. But not many people know that Palestinian Christians are the first
Christians. You’re right. It’s actually really sad. I just talked to this couple that travel
there and their Christian and I said, Well, did you go to the Church of Nativity where
Jesus was born and they said No. I said, Why? He said, because we were warned. It’s in Bethlehem,
which is a Palestinian town. We were warned that it was going to be dangerous. And I’m
like, Are you kidding me? You’re a Christian. You went to the Holy Land and you didn’t go
to the church where Jesus was born simply because Bethlehem is a Palestinian town, Bethlehem
is a very safe town. It’s full of lots of tourists, Please. If you are to go to any
church in the world, forget the Vatican. No offense go to the Church of Nativity because
nothing feels more Jesus like than that church. It’s a small, simple church you have to duck
to get into it. It’s not handled like a Disneyland church where they funnel you in. I mean, there
is a line to get in, but what’s your end? You feel that tranquility and serenity that
you’re supposed to feel when you go to a place like that. And please don’t be afraid by any
red signs that say, Don’t go in. Palestinians want, especially Christians. There are only
2% of the population there. They could use all the tourism that they can get, and right
now they are a dying breed. They’re almost near extinction, and they’re the living stones
of Christianity. I mean, they’re literally are the first Christians it happened there
in Bethel have not unlike Texas or Alabama or the other places where they claim to be
Christian. But sadly, they don’t. Well, this is the thing. I mean, this is This is the
kind of the big misconception. Is all the pilgrimage that comes from the United States?
It’s mostly evangelicals, and they go on these different tours. They stay in Tel Aviv or
they stay in Jerusalem. In Israeli hotels, they have Israeli guide standing of the history
off Jesus on the history off the dome of the Rock and the history, you know, they don’t
get Palestinian guides right? And there, Steve quickly in an hour just to kind of like like
like like like cattle. Like just thes Milan. See this and like, check marks when you know
the whole pilgrimage is all about is visiting the Church of the Fifth Nativity visiting
the SEP Liquor going to Nazareth, going to the Jordan River Part of the reason why many
don’t go take them to Bethlehem. It’s because they’ve got that hideous wall that they’ve
built all around the town. I mean, you think this is the town where Jesus was born and
they have this hideous apartheid wall built all around it, and so they want to avoid it,
and they are able now to have these tourism. These guides take people from the United States
there without seeing a single wall. So it’s like designed for a reason so that they could
go see the tourist sites and get out without having to see the nuance without seeing the
oppression and the sadness and the lack of freedom of many of these Christians who cannot
go to the church of the Holy Sup liquor unless they get a special permit months in advance.
They’re not free to worship where they want. So, uh, so when your guests. But I call it
the people who traveled with you guys are guests really guests, you know, they were.
I’m sure they visited posse in homes and warmly. Absolutely. What waas Their last impression
kind of like once they left. What’s kind of like, How do you describe that feeling they’re
feeling was that they felt that the Palestinians were a the most hospitable people they’ve
ever met in their lives, and they could not believe the welcome arms that they were received
everywhere in homes, in churches, in cultural centers, even buy some pot Palestinian like
the mayor. They were treated warmly and respectfully, and they didn’t know they thought policies
were gonna be hostile to Americans. But Palestinians are able to differentiate between the government
and citizen at citizens, and they welcome Americans to go there and tell their story.
The other thing they were deeply affected by was the Palestinian resiliency that they’re
able to deal with so many difficulties on from their daily life. from, you know, six
hour commute times to water not turned off on every day. Two families that have been
imprisoned and tortured and they still managed to have a smile on their face. And to see
the beauty of life despite all of their struggles and still embrace Americans despite ah lot
of this tax dollars going to fund this oppression. Uh, that was really probably one of the most
pregnant points to them. Uh, that they remember. No, I think I think this is very important
what you’re doing with with your group. And of course, I think I think it’s very important
for people to visit not only for Palestinians to visit him, to stay connected, but to invite
a guest or guests with them. Because unless people are blind once they see the truth,
he just can’t argue. You can’t weigh, Have few minutes left on like you see fireflies
When you when you come on. This is it always. You know what’s your favorite present before
the holidays? What can I find in this book if I I’m lazy, which I owe if you’re lazy?
Well, my lazy on gonna cook something greater. I wouldn’t impress. Impress somebody say like
I know my stuff and I’m going to serve you a great meat for the for the holiday Middle
Eastern meal. If I were to pick one of my favorites, it would have to be McClure, which
is upside down that does have more steps entailed and meet MacGruber means turned upside down.
So if you could imagine a big pot filled with rice, caramelized onions, roasted cauliflower
either Lammer chicken and it’s cooked in like beautiful, aromatic spices, all spice of it
acumen that it’s inverted upside down. So it’s like a big, fat, savory cake that everyone
can dig into. Nothing says communal eating more than MK Luba. In my opinion, that’s definitely
one of my all time favorite, and it’s it’s, um, it’s for the novice, no way down so that
a novice candidate for absolute and what good condiments go well with With Mick Liuba, I
suggest a dollop of good old fashioned yogurt like full fat yogurt that they like to mix
in with the rice on longer and salute Obadiah Palatable idea. I mean, it goes with anything
which means a salad of the land against their salad of my land? Or how would you directly
translate? Someone found some home? Yeah, The cucumber tomato salad with some onions,
olive oil, lemon juice. It goes with everything on. I would suggest that with them and for
dessert can off. Of course. Use a Mexican farmer. Cheese. We’re here in California.
That works great in terms of and we have a lot of these ingredients here. We’re lucky
we’re so lucky. California Mexican farmer cheese like Mexicans got going on with this
cheese man. I use it all the time with the can. If it’s great, it’s a great sub. Well,
you’ve been listening to Ban Shahan, her new book, Feast in the Middle East. Get it? Go
to your website, get your copy for the holidays, and I’m telling you ever was looking at it.
And I was looking at all these great recipes and has beautiful pictures, by the way, step
by step, giving you all the guidelines, especially for the novices. And if you’re not in love,
us, you know, try toe at least, uh, contribute toe this creation because, like, I’m sure
when people cook something and they say, Well, they can reach you on your your YouTube Children
say, Ask your questions. Well, how do you do it? For example, Vegetarian or vegan? Can
we have a clue before vegetarians? Oh, absolutely. You just take out the meat part. You could
make a great vegetable broth and do put put a bunch of like, roasted eggplants carrots
on cauliflower. But the thing is, this is for for, uh, cooks that are novice but also
cooks that have been cooking for many years. It gives them different options, different
ideas, something to just inspire them to get cooking for the family. So well again. Thank
you. It was always a pleasure. Always a pleasure to see you. Yes. And this is Adam. Talk on
KP or San Francisco. We will talk to you next week and same time, Same place. And the last
thing we wanna ask you is make sure you support K p o.

Maurice Vega

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