By Ishita B Saha: The tagline says it all – Stories & recipes through Generation of Palestinian Cuisine. Dima Sharif, artisan chef and food blogger, in her first cookbook aptly titled ‘Plated Heirlooms’ explores the rich culinary history of the region and takes it beyond family recipes. In effect, Plated Heirlooms is not just a Palestinian cookbook but it also resurrects the turmoil and emotional conflict that is part and parcel of tracing back to one’s roots, and harmoniously sews together all the memories that shape Dima’s childhood, her deep love for her grandmother who has also been an inspiration.
Plated Heirlooms ~ a Palestinian cookbook
Plated Heirlooms is not an ordinary cookbook. It is a collector’s item with more than 400 pages wrapped in a hardbound book and has taken three years to collate. It’s beauty is in its minute detailing – the wood free pages, the black and white pictures from Dima’s ancestral family album. Every photograph unfolds like a story that carries memories and nostalgia in Dima’s head. Although there are captions, she doesn’t set out to explain these images, rather leaves them strewn in the pages for the reader to pick up in their own way. The book unfolds through references of art and poetry – some of the art collections belonging to her grand father while others have been taken from famous artists like Sliman Mansour. Poetry of Mahmoud Darwish forms an integral part of the story telling and Palestinian landscapes taken by various photographers repeatedly add pictorial insight into the lost land of Dima’s Falasteen.
The cookbook is divided into eight distinct chapters and starts with an introduction to the Palestinian cuisine. The other chapters delve into – Mooneh or the Pantry, Breakfast and light meals, Roasts and Bakes, Stuffed vine leaves (both meat and vegetables), Rice and Grains and finally the desserts. Mooneh is the most essential part of Palestinian cuisine as people’s life has always been controlled by circumstances of life – so storing became a way of art. This is duly reflected in Plated Heirloom with the Mooneh sec on being the largest sec on in the book. There are more than 200 traditional Palestinian recipes collected from different families and communities around the region and Dima has tried to give a background to the dishes and the recipes. Every regional recipe that came to her hands had to be checked with at least 6 families from one region so as to make sure that the authenticity of a recipe has been maintained.
Dima Sharif ~ “This book is not only about recipes. There are so many stories and they are all intertwined in a way that you must read the book from the beginning. I have resorted to a poetic style to tie all the stories together and lead to the conclusion. Palestinian cuisine hasn’t been documented so far and unless I sat down and did what I did with this book, we stood the risk of losing it completely as the cuisine becomes localised with different variations and substitutions taking place at every moment.”
We have tasted some of Dima’s recipes – like Osmaliyyeh Kadai Pastry Cones or the Qulqas stew at her special Palestinian pop up at Lafayette Gourmet last year. The pop up not only gave us a glimpse into some of the traditional recipes from her book ‘Plated heirlooms’ but also showed us how these recipes could be presented in the modern day context by giving a contemporary twist to them. Dima’s book is not only about Palestinian recipes, it reiterates that Palestine is not about a lost land but about resurrection of real tales from the earth!
Dima Sharif, shares the following recipes from her cookbook Plated Heirlooms for FoodeMag dxb website and e-magazine.