Maha’s Fattet Beitinjan

I was tired from a day visiting farmers, but as I listened to my friend Samer enthusiastically talking about our work, I was slowly perking up.  I was sat in Samer’s lovely house in Nablus eating the plentiful delicious dishes his wife had cooked for us with the soft chatter and banging from his three children in the next room.  Samer’s passion for story-telling and the charming way he giggles as he talks was raising a smile on my face.  ‘Seriously, Phoebe, you don’t understand.  We literally saved the Palestinian Almond.  You and me.  We had a vision and we did it- hundreds of farmers thank us for that’ Samer is referring to programme we implemented with his extraordinary research to stop a  pest from taking over and completely destroying all of Palestine’s almonds.  The situation was so bad that almond farmers where ripping up their trees or abandoning them all together.  I don’t know if he is right about our impact or my role in it, but I hope he is.

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Fattet Hummus

My mother has always told me about how the doctor who attended my birth said he had never seen a family so happy to have a baby girl- after all, in Palestine boys are highly prized and all respectable families have at least a few!  Rumour has it that my father jumped so high that his head touched the ceiling, and I like to think that is true.   ‘I really didn’t think I could have girls you see’, my mother confided in me as we tucked into this dish one lunch time as my new born son slept next to us in the mosses basket.  After her two boys and a few miscarriages, my mother felt like she was simply a mother of boys.  Strangely, I have secretly felt the same in the last two months since Rupert was born.  Even though I had always had my heart set on having two boys, I do wonder if the baby I lost last year was a girl and I do hope that I will one day have one.  Just like my Mama and maybe Christopher will jump high enough to touch the ceiling too.

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Fattoush

Fattoush is a salad.   And this salad tastes like home.  As a child I would finish the dinner on my plate and then finish the rest of this salad straight out of the serving bowl.   I still serve it in the same old cracked bowl my Mama used to, which she handed down to me when my husband and I bought our first home.

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Salata Arabia

When I eat this salad I am transported back to the Jordan Valley, where I spend a lot of time with farmers who are being supported by the livelihoods programme I run.  As I get out of the car at 8am into the perfectly dry heat, I am ushered over to an upturned pallet that has a bowl of this salad on it with a plate of Labneh, fresh and warm bread and sweet sweet tea.  They grow all the ingredients for this salad right here; fresh and proud.  I sigh with relief as I have missed breakfast to get here so early, I have been in the car for hours.  I tuck in, while hearing about how things have been since my last visit.  The good, the bad and the ugly.

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