Forward Thinking

Saveur Declares State of Palestine

By Michael Kaminer

  • Print
  • Share Share

Jews and Arabs appaerently still can’t work out terms for a mutually acceptable nation for the Palestinian people.

But Saveur, an upscale food magazine, has it all figured out.

Throughout an opulently photographed feature headlined “Heart of Palestine” in Saveur’s December issue, writer Nancy Harmon Jenkins — who’s written cookbooks on the Mediterranean and Italy — matter-of-factly refers to Palestine as a country. By doing so, she’s taking an unusual step into volatile political territory for a magazine which usually stresses over grilling the perfect steak or truffle-hunting.

“Hemmed in on all sides by an opposing state, Palestinians’ small piece of the world consists of two discontinuous areas: The Gaza Strip’s 25 miles of coastline in the southwest and the Delaware-sized West Bank along the River Jordan in the northeast,” she writes. “In both areas, Palestinians continue to struggle to assert their rights to the land. Amid dangerous conflict, people find hope in the rituals of daily life, none more so than the growing and preparing of traditional foods.”

Jenkins spends a few days in a village called Beit Sahour with Fairouz Shomaly, “the best cook in town, according to everyone I’ve asked.” Shomaly instructs Jenkins on making sfiha, the Palestinian flatbread; maqloubeh, “a layered dish of rice, meat, and vegetables” that dates back to 13th-century Baghdad; and the Palestinian couscous called maftoul.

The rapturous prose about food gets punctuated by a pointed (and eminently disputable) history lesson. “Throughout its history, this valuable land has seen its fair share of conquests… but after the British mandate was terminated in 1948, the land was carved up into Israel and Palestine, the boundaries of which remain in dispute,” she writes.

In a statement to the Forward through a publicist, Saveur stood by the story.

“At Saveur, we are interested in the human story of a place through its culture and cuisine, and this feature was no exception. We are respectful of sensitivities on this issue, so we thought carefully about it,” said Betsy Andrews, executive editor of Saveur. “As of 2012, the United Nations refers to the areas covered in our December article as Palestine, and thus we have followed suit. For the historic references in the story to the area between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, we employed the historic name for the area, which is also Palestine.”

For her part, Jenkins told the Forward that she found questions about her use of Palestine “odd.”

“I suppose politics begins with the local so in that sense perhaps the piece is a political statement. As for referring to Palestine throughout, the piece is, after all, about Palestinian cooking and Palestinians cooking, so I don’t think it’s a stretch to refer to Palestine,” she wrote in an e-mail.

The story’s not yet available online. But it’s not the first time Saveur’s landed in hot water for a “Palestine” reference.

In 2012, a falafel recipe praised “Palestine’s parsley-heavy chickpea versions” of the chickpea patty. A commenter called “JudyEpstein” took writer Felicia Campbell to task for the reference. “The implication of her statement is that this is from the country of Palestine. There is no country of Palestine. Her reference should have stated the Palestinian version referring to the people of Palestinian origin. She should use her head note as a description of falafel, not a political statement relating to the politics of the Middle East,” the commenter wrote.

Saveur has also covered Israel reliably as a culinary destination, including dispatches from Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda and a report on the Galilee by writer Gabriella Gershenson.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: saveur, cooking, palestine, cuisine

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.