The food wars rage on. Hanin Majadli has accused chef Naama Shefi and Ashkenazi Zionists in general of “cultural and culinary appropriation” (“Israel’s guide to foodwashing Palestinian culture,” July 23). Writing in Haaretz, Mor Altshuler takes issue with the narrative that Jews appropriated ‘Palestinian’ food culture. In fact, she says, it is the reverse (with thanks: Lily):
Her (Hanin’s) claim about North African cuisine is apparently about couscous, a dish Ashkenazi Zionists have come to love. Couscous is made of cooked semolina – a kind of flour known as solet in Hebrew – that is mixed with oil.
But couscous was known thousands of years ago as the “grain offering” that was sacrificed in the Temple in Jerusalem: “And when anyone brings a grain offering to the Lord, his offering shall be of fine flour [solet]; and he shall pour oil upon it, and put frankincense thereon” (Leviticus 2:1). Incidentally, frankincense was added to the recipe’s spices.
As for Palestinian freekeh (toasted green wheat), wheat and roast barley, they were all mentioned among the courtship customs of the Biblical Boaz, who gave roasted grain to Ruth the Moabite in the fields of Bethlehem. It was from their relationship that the House of David arose.
Nor is there any need to go back as far as the Bible. In southeastern Turkey, kubbeh, the glory of the Palestinian kitchen, is called “Jewish kofta” – that is, Jewish meatballs.
Jews invented kubbeh because it was their custom to eat meat on Shabbat, but it is religiously prohibited for them to slaughter animals or cook on that day. Before the refrigerator was invented, the solution was to wrap ground meat in dough and fry or bake it on Friday, so it wouldn’t spoil over Shabbat.
Similarly, eggplant and hummus, also ostensibly from the Palestinian kitchen, are mentioned in the records of the Spanish Inquisition as characteristic Jewish foods that could be used to identify people who formally converted to Christianity but secretly remained Jews.