With a mission for Palestinian and Middle Eastern food to be viewed in the same league as Italian and French cuisines, Chef and Food Writer Joudie Kalla’s first book ‘Palestine On a Plate’ became an instant hit with critics, charting on The New York Times bestselling list. Her latest book ‘Baladi’ takes the reader on a journey through Palestinian food and culture that is influenced by the diversity of Palestinian food.
I realized I loved cooking when my mother took me in the kitchen with her and I saw how much passion she had for it. It was where she went to relax and be creative. I loved recreating the dishes I had grown up eating when I had moved to live in Paris at age 20. It became a lifeline for me as the nostalgia, memories, flavors, tastes, and smells were so important for me.
The Basis for Palestine on a Plate
‘Palestine on a Plate’ happened naturally—I knew I wanted to make some waves by talking about Palestine and putting the name on the front of my book, but most of all I wanted to highlight not only the food, but us as a people. Palestine and its food deserve to be at the forefront of Middle Eastern cooking. I wanted to change the conversation of Palestine that is often portrayed in the media, to give us a soul and a sense of humanity.
Components of a Traditional Palestinian Meal
The seasonings include lots of lemons, chili, garlic, shatta, tahineh, za’atar, sumac, and olive oil, but it’s what they are served with is what counts—fresh fish, meats, and gorgeous grains and salads. I am one hundred percent embracing the traditional recipes because we cannot forget where we come from and who these dishes were made by; they are important to preserve and share to keep history and culture alive. Saying that, I am a chef and I am creative in the kitchen, but I always put the original dish in the book.
My family is huge and we have such a magnificent array of recipes between us all, but Baladi was created slightly differently. Because of the success of ‘Palestine on a Plate’, I thought I would interact with all the amazing people who bought my book and ask them what they wanted in the book. So hundreds of emails came in and we put those recipes in, giving credit to those families who have now become part of my fabric of life. We also had nearly 15 different location photographers working on this book which really gave it perspectives from other people.