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The Gaza Kitchen: Documenting a Culinary Heritage and a Food System under Stress


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Speaker(s): Laila El-Haddad, Maggie Schmitt

Recorded on 8 May 2013 in NAB 2.06, New Academic Building.

In the summer of 2010, writer Laila El-Haddad and food documentarian Maggie Schmitt were able to fulfil a long-held plan to travel the length of the Gaza Strip, documenting all aspects of the Gaza District's notably distinctive cuisine, the lives of many experienced Gaza cooks, and the challenges facing the Strip's food system today. The result is The Gaza Kitchen: A Palestinian Culinary Journey, a richly illustrated volume whose 130 fully kitchen-tested recipes represent the first-ever codification of Gaza's rich culinary heritage. The book's numerous sidebars also take the reader into the kitchens, garden-plots, and farms of Gazan families, showing how the resilience and resourcefulness of the Strip's residents-- including the 80% of them who are refugees from parts of the Gaza District that were captured by Israel in 1948-- have helped to keep Gaza's food heritage alive today.

The Gaza Kitchen has a Foreword by former New York Times senior food writer Nancy Harmon Jenkins and has received plaudits from many experienced food writers, including Claudia Roden, Anthony Bourdain, and Yotam Ottolenghi. It was named the "Best Arab Cuisine book of 2012" by Gourmand International, and has been widely reviewed in media outlets worldwide.

Laila El-Haddad, is a talented blogger, political analyst, social activist, and parent-of-three from Gaza City. Her 2010 book Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything in Between won praise from Hanan Ashrawi, Ali Abunimah, and others. Laila was born in Kuwait and raised primarily in Saudi Arabia, while summering in Gaza. She received her BA from Duke University and her MPP from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Maggie Schmitt, is a writer, researcher, translator, educator, and social activist. She holds a B.A. from Harvard in Literature and has conducted advanced graduate studies in Social Anthropology and Mediterranean Studies at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. She works in various media—writing, production, photography, video—exploring and recording the daily practices of ordinary people as a way of understanding political and social realities in various parts of the Mediterranean region.

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