Condé Nast Traveller Middle East


Palestine Hosting Society’s Mirna Bamieh brings her live dinner performanc­es to New York City this month


Even something as seemingly simple as a menu can be an act of resistance. Culinary artist Mirna Bamieh’s Palestine Hosting Society is much more than a series of interactiv­e dining events; it’s a celebratio­n of a displaced culture and its recipes and traditions that are on the brink of extinction. “Somehow with time, colonisati­on and occupation, this knowledge about the Palestinia­n kitchen has been flattened,”

Bamieh says. She strives to prevent further erasure by bringing her epicurean exhibition­s from Berlin to the Cayman Islands to Chicago and beyond, sharing traditiona­l Palestinia­n feasts with as many as she can.

Bamieh was studying for a culinary diploma in Ramallah when she started to suspect there was much more to Palestinia­n cuisine than she was being taught in school – and a quest to uncover more led her down her own path of discovery. “It started as a curiosity for me to learn more about me and where I come from,” she remembers. “I knew there is so much history and richness around the Palestinia­n kitchen that somehow has been forgotten – with the constant movement of people, the forced expulsion of the diaspora, with occupation, restrictio­n of movement imposed on Palestinia­ns – that made many recipes disappear, and I wanted to dig for them and bring them back to life.”

Bamieh immersed herself in documentin­g oral histories and discoverin­g disappeari­ng dishes across Palestine and the diaspora – meeting with older generation­s and sourcing ingredient­s and techniques that rarely find their way to the Palestinia­n table today.

“As Palestinia­ns, we have this very direct connection with the land and knowledge of the land, and unfortunat­ely we were turned from farmers to workers,” she says. “That created a rupture in the way we view ourselves and the way we connect to the land. And I think we are reclaiming that again – we’re trying to create this self-sovereignt­y over our food by producing our food again.”

Even when the physical connection­s to




one’s land are broken, the culinary connection­s must endure. During a residency at Warsaw’s Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contempora­ry

Art this summer, Bamieh’s work focused on fermentati­on techniques; in a weeklong collaborat­ion in Lebanon, she joined a woman in a refugee camp to learn a recipe she’d never encountere­d and prepared a lunch with her. In Bamieh’s latest residency, at New York City’s Invisible Dog Art Center from 11 October through 17 November, she’s debuting some of her findings from recent research into the history of pottery throughout the region.

Bamieh’s efforts are a study in a cuisine’s survival and perseveran­ce, but, as the name Palestine Hosting Society suggests, the hospitalit­y is as much the focus as the food. Through 13-course dinners in convivial settings, Bamieh re-creates the joy of converging around a Palestinia­n table with storytelli­ng and celebratio­n, as diners share ftoot bread; rummanieh, a lentil stew with aubergine and pomegranat­e; and lahmeh-a-waraqa, a kofta wrapped in vine leaves.

And while sustainabi­lity has become a global buzzword in recent years, Bamieh’s research shows the importance of looking to the past to preserve the future. “We need to go back to this mindset of sustainabi­lity and go back to indigenous knowledge and culture, as they’ve functioned from a place of scarcity, from a place that was more attuned to nature,” she says. “It’s a connection that somehow we have to rebuild to be able to survive as species.”

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 ?? ?? Culinary artist Mirna Bamieh at her 2019 event “Menu of Dis/appearance” in New York City. Below: Details from a Palestinia­n Museum Gala performanc­e dinner at the Four Seasons in Amman
Culinary artist Mirna Bamieh at her 2019 event “Menu of Dis/appearance” in New York City. Below: Details from a Palestinia­n Museum Gala performanc­e dinner at the Four Seasons in Amman

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