Intern Journal: Cooking, Nablus style

Most people in Nablus are not working at 7 AM on a Friday morning. But Reem, our local cook at TYO, was hard at work preparing a feast for a wedding! I joined Reem as “research” for my nutrition class for mothers this summer in hopes of getting a feel for local cooking techniques and cuisine. (The fact that I am also a serious food lover of course had nothing to do with this interest at all.) Sameeha, the local computer teacher at TYO and my personal translator for the morning, and I set off for Reem’s cooking shop around 10 a.m. for our epicurean expedition. The dish of the day was Ouzi, a rice-based dish with chicken, lamb, peas, peanuts, and a variety of spices (including cardamom, ginger, clove, laurel leaf, and cinnamon). For three hours, Reem explained how she prepared the broth for the rice to be cooked in, the way the chicken was cooked, and the different spices that went into the dish. As she was single-handedly cooking for 150 people, this was quite a stressful process. By observing and participating in the process, I was able to make note of how food is prepared, how much oil is used, what products are and are not in season, how expensive certain ingredients are, and the general timing of preparing a rice and meat dish. The final product was a beautiful display of ten massive platters containing layers of rice, meats, peas, and spices.

All in all, the expedition proved to be a huge success! Not only was I able to learn a thing or two about a popular local dish, but I was also able to spend a morning with two incredibly kind and welcoming Nabulsi women. I hope someone else in Nablus gets married soon!