“For decades the Palestinian Kitchen and cuisine has suffered because of the occupation and the diaspora as well as the uprooting of olive trees, and complete destruction of farms. However, the Palestinian national cuisine and culture will always remain in the hearts of our people wherever they may be, a legacy carried from one generation to the other.” Dima Sharif
With these words Dima expressed her vision for the Palestinian kitchen as a reflection of culture and history, and respect for the land and its generosity. Dima wanted to document this heritage to carry on from one generation to another, to preserve it and to honor previous generations that invented and excelled.
AWM Platform chose Dima Sharif as an inspirational Arab woman for this issue,
Did your passion for the kitchen start from childhood?
In fact I am not like those stories that show talent since childhood, quite the opposite in my childhood the kitchen was not my priority, my mother tried very hard to teach me, but I’ve always been interested in education and work, what I remember well is that I always loved to eat, especially coming from a family that perfects cooking especially Palestinian dishes. My mother and my grandmother to my father and my mother all are great cooks, especially since my grandfather owned one of the largest farms in Jordan, making the dishes in our family delicious for the great quality of its ingredients and the creativity of the ladies.
Then how did your passion evolve?
Here I’ll tell you an interesting story,
After my marriage and having my first son, I had to stay home for a while to take care of my child, I was not accustomed to staying at home without a job, I felt very bored. My mother came for a visit to help me, before her departure she told me that she prepared for me folders filled with my favorite dishes written by her, she had a deep desire to teach me all she learned from her mother, she felt the need pass on the legacy to me and from me to my daughter, she told me where she kept them and then left.
After some time, while I was cleaning the house I found the recipes hand written by my mom, not only did my mother writ down the recipes but added her own unique touches and comments on the dishes to remind me of certain events associated with each recipe and all those whom ate it. I found the hours go by as I read through the pages, and recalled the wonderful moments; this recipe is linked to a dish I had at a relative’s house, I remembered those present at the time, and their laughter and emotions. I did not pay attention to myself, but after hours to the sound of my son crying.
Here I felt the magic of these recipes, and I realized why my mother’s desire for me to learn them. Those recipes are not just words, they are memories, and there is a close correlation between the cuisine of each country and between its culture and history.
From here my passion started and I began preparing recipes and sharing them on my blog, and I went further to investigate the root and history of each recipe and dish, from where it came and why? From here my journey began, a journey in this wonderful world of cuisine.
Then I moved to live in Dubai, and I got to know friends working in this field, I perfected recipes and dishes, and I had the support of professional chefs who liked my determination on mastering cooking with a personal effort and ongoing research and without an educational background in this field.
When did the idea for the book “Plated Heirlooms” come about?
I wanted to attest the Palestinian cuisine and its association with heritage and history. Food is a reflection of culture and customs of people, in the book there is an explanation of each recipe and how it came about and why, and in this is a preservation of our heritage and our history.
The Plated Heirlooms is a mix of history, culture and my own personal story along with my family members especially my grandmothers, it is the outcome of three years of research, self-help and support of my parents, family and an entire team that work on questionnaires inside and outside Palestine.
I heard about cases of theft of heritage and attributing it to others, do you refute in your book “Plated Heirlooms” what is promoted by the occupation attributing many Palestinian dishes as their own?
Certainly I heard, and my book confirms that all Palestinian dishes come from a particular culture, and this is what exposes the lies falsely alleged by the occupation, you cannot simply steal others cuisine and attribute it to yourself, every dish came as a result of certain conditions, every dish has its story, let me give you an example, “alqalaya” : was popular for peasants for its simplicity, as they worked in their fields they cut the tomatoes and added some olives and garlic and then continued their work.
The importance of thyme and olive oil, for example, began decades ago because of the curfews, as citizens had to find ways to diminish their hunger using something that is easily stored … as well as other recipes. Each recipe has a reason and circumstances and this is what I document in my book, in order to safeguard our rich heritage, hoping that it would be carried on to generations to come.
In our societies we grew accustomed to certain occupations do you encourage readers to think out of the box?
We have large numbers of talented people, what we really need is that for each talented person to believe in himself and not to listen to negative people. We have a great history and a wonderful heritage we must make a well worthy present and future that is fitting for us.
To whom did you dedicate your book “Plated Heirlooms”?
I dedicate it to Palestine … from its grandmothers and its children.
How do you view the state of the Arab woman today?
Everyone realized the importance of women’s role in society. There are many role models of inspirational women, but I believe that the biggest inspiration I offer to my daughter is to be her role model and good example. We should self-develop to be an incentive for them to also be achievers.
I advise every girl to strongly believe in herself, if she believes in herself no one can stop her from achieving and being creative. And to the housewife I say, keep a balance in your life, there is no wrong in enjoying your time but you must also think about accomplishments, do something worthy, begin with keeping yourself updated about things going on around you follow-up and persevere with this inevitably you will find your passion where you can innovate and be creative.
Check out Dima’s blog http://www.dimasharif.com/
Interview translated from Arabic