Jack’s Palestinian Comfort Food: Snack Attack!

For those days when nothing seems to work right, I usually turn to food to distract my mind. It’s no wonder that, with the times we are going through, I can’t seem to lose any weight no matter what I try.

Like many around the world, diving into a tub of ice cream often does the trick, especially when it’s Ramallah milk-white ice cream made with gum arabic. Although this type of ice cream is part of Syrian and Turkish traditions, Rukab Ice Cream and Baladna, later on, have become main destinations on Ramallah’s Main Street for locals and foreigners alike. But if you don’t want to consume so many calories, a few slices of watermelon with salty Palestinian white goat cheese works too!

I guess what counts for me as comfort food changes with the season, or with what I can find inside our fridge late at night. During cold winter days, or when I end up catching a cold, my absolute favourite is a nice bowl of chicken soup. Not just any chicken soup, but my favourite is simple Palestinian soup made from natural chicken broth. Quite often the simple things in life are the most rewarding. What makes this soup so special for me is also quite simple: a bunch of white rice and a good sprinkle of freshly and coarsely chopped parsley leaves. Finally, a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice makes it just perfect.

To make this wonderful soup you start with preparing chicken broth. You don’t want to cut any corners here if you want to get a thick soup full of flavour. Preparing the broth is fairly straightforward. Drop a about 1 kg of cleaned and cut chicken pieces with bones into a cooker with 3 litres of water, a pealed whole onion, a few black peppercorns, a cinnamon stick, a couple bay leaves, and salt to taste. Slowly bring to a boil; reduce heat. Skim foam. Cover and simmer for 2 hours. Set chicken aside until cool enough to handle. Remove meat from bones and discard the bones; save meat for another use. Strain broth, discarding vegetables and seasonings.

To prepare the soup, pour the strained broth back into the cooker. You can add the chicken pieces if you like. Bring the broth to a boil then add half a cup of rice. Cook until the rice is ready. Just before you turn off the stove, add two tablespoons of coarsely chopped parsley. This will make sure the parsley stays green and fresh looking. Serve hot with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice on top.

Watching the news of our brothers in Gaza taking shelter at the schools; the difficult conditions of refugees in Iraq and Syria due to ISIS attacks, I can’t imagine how even the simple comforting from a home cooked meal is out of reach! I pray for all this craziness to end so they can return safely to their homes.

Here’s another simple hearty recipe I enjoy on evenings when I feel like having a light snack: I pour a good amount of Palestinian slightly sour yogurt into a bowl, cover it with a layer of extra virgin Palestinian olive oil, and sprinkle some salt on top. I toast a piece of Palestinian taboun bread and use it to scoop up the yogurt and olive oil. A cup of tea with fresh mint leaves is just the icing on top of the cake.

If I keep going I won’t be able to stop! There are just too many of these simple, yet amazing snacks to write about in one piece. I guess this is my motivation to write more columns for This Week in Palestine.

— Jack Rabah

ps. Appeared in This Week in Palestine magazine Sept, 2014 issue under TWIP Kitchen column

Virtual Music… Interesting, but where is the buzz?

After listening to the performance of the virtual choir directed by Eric Whitacre, I was confused. From one side I enjoyed the performance and even felt an urge to join in and start clapping or making rain drop sounds, but from another side I was left high and dry 🙂

I believe that technology is doing a lot to bring us together and almost everyone is a skype call away, but when it comes to music and singing I am not sure it will cut it for me. Singing in a choir for me is a holistic experience and not just about sound. Feeling the vibrations, seeing my friends, looking into my conductor’s eyes, seeing his or her face expressions, and reading the body language of everyone there, even the audience, is all part of the choir singing experience.

Maybe I should trying singing in a virtual choice first, but I am kinda certain it won’t give me the buzz I’m looking for…

I know current technology, no matter how advanced, still has the delays which musicians can’t live with and can’t compensate for like Whitacre did in this piece. Can you imagine the Handel Messiah sung this way? I sure can’t! If you think otherwise, please share your thoughts below…

— Jack Rabah

Go ahead.. celebrate love!

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Given that today the world is celebrating St. Valentine’s Day, and even here, where many people can barely survive, you’ll see that the town has been painted red! People buying roses left and right, gifts, and sweets.

Other groups of Palestinians chose to express the fact that things are not so rosy, with the poster below.

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While I understand the motives, I still choose to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day. Let there be one day when we think only about love. We have many worries and many challenges, but one day will not change anything. So, let this be a day for love.

I can’t resist but to quote my favorite book of all, The Prophet by Khalil Gibran when it comes to the topic of love:

On Love

Then said Almitra, “Speak to us of Love.”
And he raised his head and looked upon the people, and there fell a stillness upon them. And with a great voice he said:
When love beckons to you follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you. And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.
For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth. Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast.
All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.
But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.
Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed; For love is sufficient unto love. When you love you should not say, “God is in my heart,” but rather, I am in the heart of God.”
And think not you can direct the course of love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.
Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.”

— Jack Rabah

Mythbuster — The Manara lion watch.

Not many people who pass through the Ramallah Manara Square notice that one of the 4 lion statues surrounding it is wearing a wrist watch! Some of those who did notice, put several possible scenarios as to how this came to be: Image

“… a scaled-down model was sent to China with a decorative ribbon attached to the paw. The Chinese, baffled, assumed it was supposed to represent a watch and carved it accordingly.”

“… a computer expert was entrusted with generating a virtual 3-D model on compact disk to be sent to the Chinese. Aware of the city’s parlous finances, he introduced the watch as a “virus” into the program.”

It is symbolism for the future of Palestine

It is pointing to a specific direction .. like the markers in the Dan Brown Angels and Daemons thriller 🙂

and so on…

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The fact is simply a joke! The Palestinian artist who sketched the lions jokingly drew the watch and later when the sketches were sent to China for execution, they were executed down to the smallest detail including the watch 🙂

— Jack Rabah