JVP Co-hosts Palestinian Pop-up Dinners in NYC
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 20, 2017
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On November 13th and 14th, New York restaurants Dimes and Lalito hosted back-to-back sold out seatings for a radical pop-up dinner series celebrating Palestinian cuisine and culture.
Dubbed “The Asymmetrical Table,” the events intentionally coincided with Round Tables, a self-described ‘gastro-diplomacy’ festival now in its 3rd year, for which the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs sponsors the tickets of top international chefs to be hosted in the kitchens of top Tel Aviv restaurants. The festival is a project of Brand Israel, an Israeli government campaign that obscures the human rights abuses of Palestinians and presents the world with “Israel’s prettier face.”
An open letter from chefs around the world in solidarity with PACBI’s grassroots organizing against the festival resulted in two high-profile participants pulling out, including this year’s Irish chef- JP McMahon of Aniar, and Peruvian chef Mitsuharu Tsumura of Maido, which has been ranked 8th best restaurant in the world. Andy Ricker of Pok Pok NY did not discontinue his participation, however, and blocked PACBI & other cultural boycott organizers on the restaurant’s social accounts as soon as the letter went public.
Headlined by Amanny Ahmad (behind the Palestinian pop-up series at Dimes this summer) and Reem Assil (chef-owner of Reem’s California, in Oakland) — both Palestinian women chefs also deeply involved in art and activism, respectively — the series was a collaboration of a predominantly people-of-color-led collective of chefs, community organizers, and food writers.
Co-sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace and Food Book Fair, the pop-ups presented a rare opportunity for New Yorkers to enjoy a true Palestinian feast, from music to mezze, turning the tables on the predominant narrative in food media that identifies “Israeli cuisine” as a hot new trend — a narrative that rarely (if ever) acknowledges how much of what is popularly known as Israeli cuisine (eg hummus, za’atar) has its roots in Palestine’s food, land and history.
The multi-course meal showcased the diverse cuisine of different regions of Palestine, drawing from their family ties to Yaffa, Gaza and the West Bank. Ingredients included spices sourced from Palestine via the direct-trade company Burlap & Barrel.
Night two was hosted at Lalito– another vibrant downtown hot spot, and centered on a collaborative buffet and panel discussion that explored the connections between the Palestinian struggle for freedom and local struggles for just and sustainable food. Guest chefs and speakers included Assil and Ahmad, Neftalí Duran (chef, indigenous food sovereignty activist with I-Collective), Ora Wise (chef-partner, Harvest & Revel and coordinator of the AMC’s Food Matters track), Klancy Miller (author, “Cooking Solo”) and Kimberly Chou Tsun An (co-director, Food Book Fair).
Pop-up proceeds benefited the Palestinian Heirloom Seed Library, an initiative launched in 2016 by the Bethlehem born anthropologist Vivien Sansour, to preserve agricultural seeds native to Palestine.
Chef Assil was profiled in the popular Grub Street Diet, which came on the heels of her profile in the New York Times Food Section. A short film spotlighting Assil and the pop-up series will be coming out this Winter. You can watch the teaser trailer here.