cover image Bethlehem: A Celebration of Palestinian Food

Bethlehem: A Celebration of Palestinian Food

Fadi Kattan. Hardie Grant, $40 (240p) ISBN 978-1-958417-28-7

“A desire to show the real Bethlehem, and to celebrate it, is what led me to food and hospitality so many years ago,” writes Kattan, the owner and chef behind London’s Akub and Bethlehem’s Fawda restaurants, in his sincere and beautiful debut. Inviting readers to “share in the memories and flavours of a land far away,” he intersperses his seasonally grouped recipes with profiles of the people and places that play a role in Palestinian foodways, including his favorite herb vendor, Bethlehem’s many bakeries, and Jericho’s date trees. He also offers heartfelt personal memories of food shared with family members and opines about “the tangible impact of colonialism... visible in the effects it has had on Palestinian agriculture, access to land and natural sources of water, and restrictions on foraging.” The appealing recipes are deeply rooted in tradition and range from the complex­—taboun bread is historically baked on embers in a specially designed oven but can be made at home on a baking sheet covered in “clean, washed pebbles”—to the refreshingly simple, including a salad of figs tossed in olive oil and sumac. Spring recipes include mustard greens in labneh (a dish that, Kattan writes, is “full of creamy sunshine”), while winter brings hearty qidreh, a lamb and rice dish that is “the quintessential centerpiece for family celebrations in Palestine.” Augmented with beautiful photos, this ode to Palestinian culinary culture stuns. (May)