The orange tree in our yard produces perfect oranges for marmalade. A special kind of orange. Luckily Abu Hanna’s wife in Nazareth still makes this decliciousness at home and will hopefully teach us. It is a special reward to eat from your own trees.
We are continuing to look for ways to eat locally produced food in Palestine. Of course because it supports farmers and the local economy and tastes better, but also because we spend less money on Israeli products. There is one Israeli dairy company, TNUVA, which accounts for 70% of the dairy products bought in Israel. Milk, eggs and cheese. All commodity production. All grain feed. Full of hormones and antibiotics. Imagining a cow’s stomach twisting around its other organs in order to digest corn feed, all while living in a CAFO is not the dairy industry I want to support. When we first arrived, we simply avoided milk and bought cheese from a small Palestinian producer in a nearby village. Then we discovered the ease to which we could find Helib Baladi (literally, milk from the country) at a nearby butcher. So every week we pick up a few liters of fresh sheep’s milk. We get to know the butcher and circumvent the Israeli commodity system.
Palestinians have what Michael Pollen calls a “food culture”. They have a history of food attached to their land, what they grow and how they process their food. While commodity fetishism has created a dent in this food culture, I think there is hope of reversing that trend. A few weeks ago an article in the New York Times about the movement to re-localize food production in Brooklyn spread through the American organic food movement like wildfire. It was a fantastic chronicle of the rise of hipsters learning how to make artisanal chocolate, ricotta and smoked meats. They do everything from sourcing the ingredients to the production itself. There is a touch of elitism to this new movement, as evidenced in the article, with this movement springing from the gentrification of ethnic neighborhoods in Brooklyn. But this doesn’t have to be an elite movement. It can encompass a variety of food cultures and it can include a political discourse on access to food knowledge and traditions.
Which led me to think about food traditions in Palestine. In the face of a crippling occupation, perhaps food does not seem like a place of priority. But to revitalize food traditions, they have to be learned and passed down. The colonization of Palestinian land has led to a colonization on Palestinian tastes and expectations towards food. But not to the extent we see in the United States in terms of health risks, like heart disease and diabetes. Palestinians still boast a strong food culture through the small amount of land they have left. There are organizations trying to further promote Palestinian fair trade products and Palestinian olive oil. The olive tree is an essential symbol and a productive part of the agricultural system. A recent article in the UK showed that Palestinian fairtrade olive oil has been selling exceptionally well, despite the recent economic troubles.
From the seed to the end product, it is time for a kind of Edible Palestine. To highlight and support the existence of Palestinian food culture in the face of a colonization that seeks to either co-opt the food or destroy the means of producing it.