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Cuisines of Poverty as Means of Empowerment: Arab Food in Israel


Abstract and Figures

This paper suggests looking at cuisines of poverty as practical and political systems practiced by urban and rural Palestinian citizens of Israel. It is an important and interesting case study within which political and economical considerations govern and enhance the development, change, and acceptance of culinary knowledge. Cuisines of poverty operate in two simultaneous arenas. As systems of practical knowledge, they repeatedly center on the ability to maintain the traditional kitchen, turning it into a tool-kit out of which information is recruited upon need. Simultaneously, cuisines of poverty reveal the inter-connection between the culinary discourse and the political one. It is where issues such as access to land, national and ethnic identity, and means to participation in the dominant culture are of major concern. The analysis of cuisines as operating on two complementary discourses contributes to the understanding of the relationship between food and the arena of power.
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Cuisines of poverty as means of empowerment: Arab food in Israel
Liora Gvion
The Kibbutzim College of Education, Tel-Aviv, Israel
Accepted in revised form March 21, 2005
Abstract. This paper suggests looking at cuisines of poverty as practical and political systems practiced by urban and
rural Palestinian citizens of Israel. It is an important and interesting case study within which political and economical
considerations govern and enhance the development, change, and accept ance of culinary knowledge. Cuisines of
poverty operate in two simultaneous arenas. As systems of practical know ledge, they repeatedly center on the ability
to maintain the traditional kitchen, turning it into a tool-kit out of which information is recruited upon need.
Simultaneously, cuisines of poverty reveal the inter-connection between the culinary discourse and the political one. It
is where issues such as access to land, national and ethnic identity, and means to participation in the dominant culture
are of major concern. The analysis of cuisines as operating on two complementary discourses contributes to the
understanding of the relationship between food and the arena of power.
Key words: Cuisines of poverty, Domestic knowledge, Empowerment, Food, Gender roles, Israel, Minorities,
Palestinian cuisine
Liora Gvion, PhD, is a qualitative sociologist. She studied at SUNY Stony Brook, USA and is currently a senior
lecturer at the Kibbutzim College of Education in Tel Aviv, Israel and at the Department of Clinical Nutrition at the
Hebrew University. Her major interests are the sociology of food, second-generation immigrants, eating disorders,
and the relationship between food and ethnicity.
Cuisines of poverty
Food scarcity and food depri vation are major problems in
Western nations (Craig and Dowler, 1997; Riches, 1997;
Wilson, 1997; Lang, 1999; Tarasuk and Beaton, 1999;
McIntyre et al., 2000; Che and Chen, 2001). Research on
food poverty and food scarcity emphasizes the inability
of social policies, meant to overcome food poverty, to
fulfill their objectives. It suggests intervening either
through nutrition education programs or through direct-
ing owne rship of resources, such as land and livestock, in
order to assure sufficient nourishment to the poor (Sack,
2001; Darmon, 2003; Delgado, 2003; Demment et al.,
2003; Smitasiri, 2003; Tarasuk and Eakin, 2003). New
possibilities for social policy require understanding food
not only as an economic commodity but also as a cultural
and social good (Riches, 2003). The meals people eat and
their consumption patterns indicate that the image people
give or avoid giving to others are a product of the
material and political conditions of their existence,
defined by the freedom stemming from possession or
lack of capital as well as civil rights (Bourdieu, 1984).
Cuisines of poverty provide interesting case studies for
understanding the relationship between poverty, culture,
and power. Food is a basic feature of power (Arnold,
1988), as hunger is the absolute sign of the powerless
(Maclagan, 1994; Couniham, 1999). Whereas the political
elite uses hunger and poverty as strategies to maintain their
power by keeping the poor hungry, hunger and poverty can
be turned into a means by which the unprivileged obtain
power, form social ties within the community, and resist
political oppression (Camporesi, 1989).
Focusing on culinary practices, as carried out by poor
Palestinians citizens of Israel, this paper argues that cui-
sines of poverty are practical systems of knowledge that
assure survival and self-reliance. Moreover, their practice
is part of an identity creation process that sustains a dis-
tinctive Palestinian uniqueness. As systems of survival,
cuisines of poverty are gender-based stocks of knowledge
that enable practitioners to assure food supplies and
enough nourishm ent for oneÕs family. As agents of identity
creation, the practice of cuisines of poverty, either out of
necessity or out of choice, allows practitioners to choose
forms and degrees of participation in the dominant culture.
In other words, it is through their food choices that prac-
titioners maintain a certain degree of independence and
establish distinctive identities. Thus, cuisines of poverty
relate the discourse of food to political and economical
discourses by revealing historically politicized issues such
as unfair land tenure and labor practices.
Agriculture and Human Values (2006) 23:299–312 Ó Springer 2006
DOI 10.1007/s10460-006-9003-7
Cuisines of poverty constitute gender-based domestic
stocks of knowledge in order to secure food provisions.
Domestic knowledge and perceptions about food and
eating travel along generation lines and are part of the
practitionerÕs socialization. The kinds of knowledge
practitioners of cuisines of poverty possess vary from one
culture to another. Enset cult ivation, in Ethiopia, for
example, is a good example of the matter. Enset is a
perennial crop belonging to the Musaceae family and has
been domesticated and used in Ethiopia for food for
thousands of years. Its cultivation is based on a gendered
division of labor. Men prepare the soil and do the
planting. Harvesting, according to the familyÕs food
needs, and processing are womenÕs tasks, sometimes
managed collectively (Nagash and Neihof, 2004).
The practices of traditional systems of farming and of
urban agriculture further emphasize how a respect of
cultural systems that relies on familiarity with the land,
guarantees survival, self reliance, and a steady food
supply (Maxwell, 1999; Bryld, 2003). The farming sys-
tem of the Ghouta Oasis of Damascus (Alhamidi et al.,
2003) and the spread of urban agriculture in developing
countries all depend up on careful utilization of natural
resources such as irrigation water, sparse rainfall, and
usage of public and private land to constantly secure
adequate food resources (Freeman, 1993; Bryld, 2003).
Cuisines of poverty are practiced both in urban and
rural settings, although urban and rural poor have dif-
ferent access to food and therefore develop different
means of survival and self reliance. Studying urban
poverty in the state of Tamil Nadu, Tacoli (2003) claims
urban consumers rely on locally produced food and on
small retailers and at times receive food produced by
rural relatives. Moreover, low-income urban consumers
face specific constraints such as the location of the
markets and business hours inconvenient for working
customers. The poorest are further constrained by lack of
access to credit facil ities, as they often rely on irregular
employment and low wages. For example, although
rural-urban linkages account for the reasons that cause
households in KwaZulu-Natal to fall into poverty or
emerge out of it, Adato (2003) argues link ages have
become less important over time because of the dearth of
livelihood options in rural areas and the assistance to
rural areas provided by urban residences.
The practice of cuisines of poverty as systems of
survival and self reliance cannot be understood inde-
pendently from the process of identity creation. For
instance, in the Caribbean region, during the slavery era,
the slaves had to reconstitute their way of life in new and
unfamiliar settings in the absence of the full institutional
structure of their societies of origin. While the masters
enjoyed freedom and power, the slaves were cruelly
overworked, living off shameful quantiti es and qualities
of food. Yet it was the slaveÕs labor that created Carib-
bean cuisine. What the slaves could produce or catch to
eat and how they came to create a cuisine of their own
became building-block features of slave culture. The
slaves, then, were able to exercise their human potential
to taste and to elaborate their preferences. Their taste in
food influenced the tastes of their masters and contrib-
uted to a taste of freedom before the slaves experienced
freedom (Mintz, 1996).
The preparation and consumption of soul foodÕ
African-American cuisine is another interesting case
where culinary practices of the poor, meant for survival,
intertwine with issues of culture, power, and identit y
creation. Simplicity was a trademark in African cooking.
Dishes were cooked in boiling water, steamed in leaves,
fried in palm oil, roasted or baked in ashes. Traditionally,
nothing was wasted. Cornmeal was turned into bread,
pigÕs feet became a main dish served with greens, and
molasses and cornmeal were mixed to become a dessert.
Leftover fish turned into fish croquettes, stal e bread into
bread pu dding, and each part of the pig had its own dish.
Even the liquid from the boiled vegetables was turned
into gravy (Harris, 1996; Couniham and Van Esterik,
1997; Poe, 1998). Southern cooking gradually took on
new meanings as slaves made dishes for their owners,
and the slave cuisine became known as ‘good time’
food. Commensality has been an aspect of African-
American culture that has survived the hardship of
slavery. By cobbling together what little each family had
to offer, a great feast was made. Nowaday s, soul food is a
Sunday potluck dinner and has a reputation for its gen-
erous hospitality (Shack, 1976; Poe, 1998).
The study of cuisines of poverty further emphasizes
the modes of participation of ethnic and min ority groups
in the dominant culture and contributes to our under-
standing of the relationship between cultural practices,
identities, and power. Modes of participation in the
dominant culture are revealed through the social con-
struction, consumption, and distribution of ethnic food as
the latter embodies processes such as nationalism and
economic and cultural globalization (McMichael, 1991;
Freidmann, 1999; Lind and Barham, 2004). The rein-
terpretation, as ethnic, of commercialized versions of
basic Mexican dishes previously rejected by Americans
for being the food of the enemy is due to conglomerate
activities and their efforts to homogenize foods (Conclin,
1986). Once popular ethnic foods have gained a place in
the market, they have acquired a fast food form, which
has both ‘deethnicised’ and ‘reexported them in an
American form (Belasco, 1987). Take the case of the
tortilla. According to Lind and Barham (2004), the
changes in the perception and consumption of the tortilla
in the United States reveal the interconnectedness bet-
ween commodities, discourses, practices, and assumptions
about food. From a poor peopleÕs food, the tortilla has
been mobilized by the capitalist industry into a means to
300 Liora Gvion
gain profit. Thus, Mexican labor has shifted from the
manufacturing process to the realm of private entrepre-
Culinary practices are further connected to the rise of
the nation-state. The rise of nationalism since the nine-
teenth century promoted the formation of independent
nation-states in which ethnic communities resided. These
communities were often entitled to full citizenship as
well as civil rights. The establishment of a Jewish state in
Palestine, which further resulted in the formation of a
Palestinian community in Israel, was part of this process.
The Palestinian leadershipÕs reaction to the process was
slow and mostly centered on the rejection of territorial
compromises, inclusive of the partition plan suggested by
the United Nations in the fall of 1947. During the war of
1948 Palestinian local leaders and the majority of the
upper class escaped from Palestine. About three quarters
of a million Palest inians were either deported or chose to
escape and their properties were confiscated. Over 400
villages and little towns were destroyed. The 160,000
Palestinians who remained in their homeland became, by
law, Israeli citizens.
Although granted the right to vote, free schooling, and
a national health plan, the Palestinians suffered institu-
tional discr imination. Until 1967, they lived under a
military regime. This required a trave l pass whenever
they wanted to leave their villages and limited their
chances for employment. Moreover, the nature of the
political system and its massive involvement in the
national economy resulted in the rise of a national
cooperative that monopolized the agriculture market
from which Palestinian farmers were excluded. As a
result, small family farms were liquidated as they failed
to compete with Israeli institutionalized farming. Pales-
tinian young men started seeking manual labor as daily
unprofessional workers. This had further consequences.
The traditional extended family unit, living off its land,
broke into nuclear family units. The father, as the land-
owner, lost power over his sons as they became the
providers of the family. Many families were driven down
towards poverty. In 2002, for example, 46.8% of the
Palestinians living in Israel were living below the poverty
line as opposed to 14.9% of the Jewish population
(Rosenfeld, 1964; Al-Hag, 1988, 1997; Kemp, 1999;
Rabinowitz and Abu Baker, 2002).
It is important to note that up unti l the 1990s immi-
gration to Israel was mostly ideologically-based as Jews
chose to participate in the building of a new Jewish state.
Unlike the Jewish immigrants, the Palestinians were
forced to become Israeli citizens. Yet they neither were
granted full legitimate participation, nor were they per-
ceived as full and legi timate partners in Israeli society. In
addition to oppression, institutional discrimination, and
the poverty that resulted from political and economical
changes, the case of the Palestinian citizens of Israel
points to the mobilization of both poverty and minority
status as a means to establish personal and cultural
resistance. By practicing their culinary culture Palestin-
ians choose to limit modes of participation in Israeli
culture. The Palestinians use their adherence to distinct
culinary practices as a way to resist attempts made by
Jewish Israelis to fully appropriate Palestinian cultural
assets. In other words, Palestinian food is one of a limited
number of cultural assets to which Israeli Jews have only
limited access.
The study of oppressed minorities, such as Palestinians
in Israeli society, casts a different light on poverty
management and its mobilization into the political dis-
course. Look ing at lower class Palestinian cooking as a
cuisine of poverty, one can see how preoccupation with
food apart from survival and self-reliance that rest on
cultural resources to surmount poverty sustains ethnic
knowledge, reinforces the status of Palestinians as a
minority, and simultaneously serves as a means of
resisting power relat ions. Thus, poor Israeli-Palestinians
take responsibility over their own food resources and
deliberately limit participation in Israel society.
This paper is a result of a larger study on the relationship
between culinary practices and identity creation among
Palestinian citizens of Israel. Data were gathered between
September 1994 and September 1995 and between May
2002 and May 2003 by means of participant observation
and constructive interviews with 100 men and women.
This particular paper is based on participant observation
and an analysis of open interviews with 50 men and
women only. They were mostly referred to me through
community officials or leaders, such as town mayors,
social workers, local politicians, school principles, and
public health workers. The informants were all selected
because they were seen by the community as authorities
on either matters of food or on matters regarding the
status of Palestinians in Israeli society. In many of my
encounters with informants, neighbors or relatives pop-
ped in and joined the convers ation. In such cases, I in-
cluded their information in the data and referred to their
presence in the text.
The informants represented a cross-section of Pales-
tinian society in Israel. Likewise, every region and every
kind of community in which Palestinians citizens reside
was represented.
Interviews and observations took place
in the Galilee area, the triangle area, the coast area of
Israel as well as in the Negev and in Jewish-Arab mixed
towns such as Haifa and Jaffa. (Figure 1).
Cuisines of poverty as means of empowerment 301
Moreover, in order to get an overall view, informants
differed in their level of education and income, profes-
sional status, political orientation, and family compo si-
tion as well as religious background. Data indicated that
regardless of the differences in background, all infor-
mants shared similar cultural features with regard to their
culinary habits and practices. This made it possible for
me to argue that a cuisine of poverty is a particularly
cultural feature of Palestinian cooking regardless of the
financial means of the practitioners.
In order to observe culinary practices I spent up to
three days with each of the informants. I visited their
homes and joined them in their activities. The informants
included middle-class profes sionals, political activists,
housewives, working women, manual workers, and
unemployed men and women, some of whom were
entitled to welfare. Thirty-eight out of the 50 informants
were classified, according to formal state criteria, as poor
and 26 of the informants were entitled to welfare. Seven
were major figures in their communities who defined
Figure 1. Map of Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
302 Liora Gvion
themselves as middle class but grew up in poor families
and indicated that their upbringing had influenced their
attitudes toward food.
While spending time with the informants I gathered
biographical information, either through observations or
interviews. Then, informants were asked about their
eating habits, ways of looking for food, modes of
preparation and preservation, reasons for integrating
new food items into the culinary repertoire and the
possibilities of making a living from food. All but seven
informants spontaneously mentioned and talked openly
about the connection between culinary practices and
upholding cultural practices as a means of identity
creation. All the components mentioned by the infor-
mants were listed and compared. This allowed me to
trace major milestones in the relationship between
culinary practices and identity-formation among
Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Cuisines of poverty: The interplay between
domestic, cultural, and political discourses
The practice and sustainability of cuisines of poverty
revolves around the interplay of three complementary
discourses. On a domestic level, cuisines of poverty are
systems of self reliance that provide practitioners with
the means to limit their dependence on stores and state
agencies for food. These are gender-based domestic
stocks of knowledge around which social ties are formed
and which guarantee food supplies and modes of pres-
ervation. On a cultural level, cuisines of poverty entail
systems of beliefs about meals and the value of food
items. Meals are meant to be satisfying and cheap and,
although practitioners comment on the taste of the dish,
meals are primarily judged by their ability to satisfy
hunger. On a public level, the sustainability of cuisines of
poverty revolves around an entitlement to land and its
products. As such, a discourse of identity is formed.
Cuisines of poverty mobiliz e food as a valuable source of
identity creation. Thus, informal modes of cultural
resistance are created that help to thwart attempts by
agents of the dominant culture to usurp and obliterate the
unique culinary features of Palestinian cooking.
The domestic discourse: Women as carriers
of culinary practices
Eating habits and preoccup ation with food cannot be
considered independent of the domestic economy and the
division of labor in the household (Bromberger, 1994;
Maclagan, 1994; Yamani, 1994). Women are central
agents to the formation and preservation of culinary
practices that develop and sustain cuisines of poverty.
The obligation to fulfill domestic duties, regardless of
their financial abilities, connects women to the discourse
of power. Their familiarity with the area that they live in
and its natural products becomes a strategy for claiming
entitlement to land and resisting attempts to disregard the
PalestiniansÕ connection to their homeland.
Practitioners of cuisines of poverty among the Pales-
tinian citizens of Israel know where to look for wild food
sources. They are fami liar with economical recipes and
techniques of food stretching and food preservation that
guarantee maximal usage of food items. Take, for
example, Nabiha, who lives in a small village in the
Galilee. She and her husband each have eight years of
schooling. Her husband has occasional and mostly sea-
sonal jobs, most of which last three to four months. She
is a housewife who cooks every day for her extended
family in order to help her four married daughters keep
up with their jobs without failing to fulfill their domestic
duties. Discussing what she refers to as ‘a womanÕs
duty,’ she says,
A woman must always feed her family regardless of
whether she has a job or her husband provides for her.
Arab women would always find food for their families.
There is no such thing as not having a meal ready upon
the husbandÕs and childÕs return from work.
One way of assuring feeding is by finding wild food
sources, unfamiliar to Jewish Israelis. This lessens the
dependence on cash and local stores. Basme, for
example, lives in a mixed Jewish-Arab small town. Her
husband is unemployed, and three of her eight children
are married and live on welfare. One is in jail for drug
dealing, but the younger ones still live at home. Basme
works six afternoons a week as a cleaner at a hospital
and makes a little money. Every morning she gets up at
5:30 a.m. to bake bread. As soon as her children leave
for school, she starts looking for food. Before the latest
Intifada she would go to Gaza, where food items are
cheaper than in Israel. She used to buy a two week
supply of rice, legumes, goat cheese, flour, olive oil,
and occasionally some eggs and meat. With the out-
break of the Intifada she has had to look for cheap food
elsewhere. For instance, Basme visits the market as
close to the closing hour as possible since vendors
lower the prices of food items in an attempt to liquidate
their merchandize. Moreover, Basme only buys vege-
tables in season, as they are cheaper. Finally, she
supplements their diet by picking herbs from the fields
outside of her hometown.
After it rains, all kinds of herbs grow wild. I know
where to look for them and what to do with them. My
neighbors and I walk for about an hour to the forest
near Bet-Shemen, pick as many herbs as we can and
walk back home. Yesterday, for example, I picked ten
times as much as my family could eat in one meal.
After rinsing the herbs, I cooked them a little bit,
Cuisines of poverty as means of empowerment 303
packed them in plastic bags and froze them. This is
how I made sure I would have food for nine more
Basme manifests two kinds of domestic female
knowledge that underlie the basics of cuisines of poverty:
where to look for food and how to extend food sources
by using technologies such as precooking and freezing.
The avoidance of waste (reminiscent of the case of soul
food) is another aspect of female knowledge mentioned
by Sonia, a widow who lives on social security.
When I remove the insides of zucchini, in order to stuff
them with rice, I cut their meat and fry it wi th eggs and
onions. We eat it with bread, yogurt and a little salad on
the side. It is a nice lunch or dinner. I do something
similar with eggplant meat.
The access to traditional culinary knowledge, then,
implies utilizing frugal recipes, previously prepared by
older generations, when times were rough. Muhammad, a
construction worker with 12 years of schooling, tells me
that his wife, a nurse, has started preparing afshi after she
has lost her job.
My mother used to prepare afshi when we were very
poor. ItÕs a soup made of a cowÕs head, feet and colon
all cleaned thoroughly and stuffed with rice and spices
and cooked in water. Left over bread is added to the
pot. You end up with something that looks like a thick
stew. It serves many and leaves you full for days.
In addition to being expected to supply food by
applying knowledge that has been acquired through
socialization, women also propagate and disseminate
traditional culinary information. In this context domestic
practice serves two functions. First, it mai ntains the tra-
ditional division of labor and power relations in the
household. Second, being kept in the domestic sphere
and based on food items that Jews do not appreciate,
Palestinian citizens of Israel draw a connection between
food and their entitlement to the land on which they live.
Naima, a member of the communist party and a
director of a center for womenÕs empowerment, supports
this observation. ‘Let us take a short walk,’ she sug-
gests. ‘Are you hungry? Soon you wonÕt be.’ She leads
me through a small field near her house where herbs and
plants grow wild. She keeps picking plants and handing
them to me, watching my reactions. As I taste them, she
mentions their names, their functions, and the ways in
which they can be eaten.
See what I mean when I say that Palestinian women
know their ways? We, unlike you, know our land. My
mother always found food for us. When we could not
afford to buy food, she went out to the field, picked
whatever was growing, cooked it, served it with rice,
bread, goat cheese, or goat yogurt.
Rana, a member of a radical political party, a high
school teacher and the wife of the mayor of a small Arab
town, claims traditional culinary knowledge has always
saved the Palestinians from hunger and also served as a
means to resist political oppression.
Do you remember the early 1980s, when the Druze
were resisting the Israeli annexat ion of the Golan
Heights? Their leaders claimed people were hungry due
to a cut in food supplies. But there was no hunger and
no one was dying. There was a little shortage of dairy
products but everybo dy was fine as the land provided
them with a lot of food.
Whereas Nabiha, Sonia, and Basme interpret the
possession of traditional domestic knowledge as a prac-
tical tool-kit that enables them to feed their families,
Naima and Rana relate their upholding of domestic
knowledge to issues of power. According to them, culi-
nary practices reveal a discourse on land and political
resistance to the Israeli state. By sustaining a cuisine of
poverty, they claim, the Palestinians retain a symbolic
hold on their homeland.
Another distinct ive feature that relat es the discourse of
domestic knowledge to the discourse of land and power
revolves around the emphasis given to seasonal items as
basics of cuisines of poverty. Urbanization and industri-
alization have divorced people from their own land and
domestic animals. Rather than acquiring most of their
food from their own land, people have started depending
on markets and local stores. The purchase of food items,
previously prepared in the house, has become a sign of
affluence. Moreover, town life encourages social imita-
tion and a growing exposure to a large variety of food,
and more sophisticated tastes and eating habits have
formed (Burnett, 1979; Thomas, 1983; Mintz, 1986).
Cuisines of poverty, however, have resisted this pro-
cess. The poor still have to make do with whatever is
available to them. Poor peopleÕs accessibility to innova-
tions is often limited as the lack of resources constrains
how they innovate or adopt novelties . Take, for instance,
the case of technology. Poor people havenÕt always wel-
comed developments in food technologies although these
technologies are claimed to reduce famine and hunger
(Levenstein, 1993). Industrial food and scientifically
balanced diets are often too expensive for the poor. They
detach food production from the household, increase a
dependence on purchased items, and fail to take into ac-
count culturally-specific tastes and food taboos that pre-
vent the inclusion of new food items into the diet (Newby,
1983). Cuisines of poverty, on the other hand, employ
cheap technologies that meet the communityÕs needs and
tastes and offer better solutions to food shortages.
Although Palestinian farmers in Israeli society were no
longer able to make a living off their land, many women
kept raising domestic animals and growing vegetables,
fruits, and herbs for daily use. This reduced their
dependence on shopping for food and enabled them to
use the little money they had for other domestic neces-
sities. Given the combination of a limited budget and the
304 Liora Gvion
limited variety of food items grown on a single plot of
land, daily meals mostly depended on seasonal items.
This practice has been sustained throughout the years,
even among those who overcame poverty.
Lutfi, a construction worker from a small village in the
triangle area, comments on the integration of out-of-
season vegetables and fruits into the diet.
When I was a kid we ate vegetables and fruits only
when in season. When eggplants were in season, we ate
them every day. Nowadays, I walk into a supermarket
in Januar y and see grapes. I wouldnÕt buy them even if I
were a millionaire.
Nabih, a plumber from Haifa, jokes about his wife, a
teacher, who has started freezing herbs. He interprets it as a
rejection of tradition rather than as a means to save money.
My wife spent the entire morning cooking and freezing
all kinds of herbs that she had picked earlier, so we
could eat them all-year-round. It made me laugh. For
me part of the issue was longing for meluhiye, for
example, rather than having it whenever I wanted.
By mobilizing modern technologies to guarantee a
year-round supply of seasonal items, NabihÕs wife
exemplifies how cultural codes constrain the selective
application of technological devices. Sh e mobilizes
technology in order to prepare traditional seasonal dishes
rather than to obliterate cultural traits and eliminate tra-
ditional and seasonal dishes from her diet. Um George, an
illiterate woman in her 80s from the Galilee, does the
same. Every summer, when the goats provide a lot of
milk, she makes enough labane to last for the enti re year.
After preparing the c heese, Um George rolls it into small
balls, packs them in glass jars, covers the cheese balls
with oliv e oil, and stores the jars in a cool place. George, a
garage worker, finds his motherÕs labane the best of all.
She still prepares labane, cheese and yogurt. She doesnÕt
trust the commercial products. Every summer she gives
us a yearÕs supply. A few weeks ago, while cleaning the
storage space, I found two of her jars. It was so good.
Although the majority of the families buy thei r daily
supply of bread, some families still grow wheat on
their land. In early spring, when the wheat is still
green, women h arvest it, grind it to thick flour, store it
in a cool place, and when needed prepare a stew,
called frike , from the green wheat. They serve it with a
salad, yogurt, and when possible add small pieces of
meat. According to Suhad, a mother of 10, frike is a
good and cheap dish. It enables her to feed her family
on a small budget .
Another means to store wheat is by making burgul.
After harvesting the wheat, part of it is ground into fine
or coarse burgul out of which women prepare kubbe in
various forms
(i.e., magaadra or tabule). Access to both
burgul and frike assures a regular consumption of wheat
and guarantees that no one goes hungry regardless of the
cash flow of the family.
The reliance on seasonal items enables practitioners of
cuisines of poverty to operate within the margins of the
market economy. They are not as divorced from land as
is the typical modern citizen. Moreover, they rely on
womenÕs food production and the immediate produce of
the land. Aside from satisfaction of hunger, the usage of
seasonal items guarantees the sustainability of a distinc-
tive culture and stock of knowledge that relates people to
the land and contributes to the formation of a culture of
resistance as will be shown later.
The cultural discourse: Practical orientations
and the social value of meat
The practical orientation that is characteristic of cuisines
of poverty sheds a different light on the concept of cui-
sine. The sociological concept of a cuisine is based on
the detachment of food from the satisfaction of hunger
and its relation to hedonism and pleasure. In order for
cuisines to d evelop and last, a group of adventurous food
connoisseurs is essential (Finkelstein, 1989; Chang,
1996). Cuisines of poverty, on the other hand, are prac-
tical and cognitive systems of material provisions. Food
is meant to sustain the body and attitud es toward food are
based on tastes of necessity that according to Bourdieu
(1984) are defined by an absence and are practiced out of
Most of the Palestinian dishes consist of a staple,
cooked with vegetables and legumes, and served with
either yogurt or soup as gravy. All modes of social
conduct associated with dining reveal necessity, satis-
faction of hunger, and food sharing. Samir, an elementary
school teacher from the Galilee and the first one in his
family to have gone to college, explains that in cultures
of poverty individuals do not see themselves as entitled
to have personal likes and dislikes.
When one is in a constant search for food, one neither
asks whether he likes this food nor whether he feels like
eating it.
Alham, who lives in a mixed Jewish-Palestinian town
and shaves womenÕs legs for a living, recalls her
awareness of not being entitled to dislike certain foods.
The first time I asked my Jewish neighbor to stay for
lunch she asked: ‘What are you having?’ I said we
were having eggp lants. She said she didnÕt like egg-
plants. I donÕt think I ever met anyone who said they
didnÕt like something. Where I grew up we ate whatever
was available.
According to Alham, food scarcity teaches people to
make do with whatever is available and prevents them
from developing personal tastes. Nadia, a housew ife who
is married to a successful construction worker, agrees.
I think the first time I was able to admit to myself that I
didnÕt like fish was after my husband started his own
business. I felt as if I was entitled to my own liking and
Cuisines of poverty as means of empowerment 305
disliking. But even today IÕd feel uncomfortable saying
I disliked something as basic as eggplants or rice.
Food likes and dislikes are entitlements for the well-to-
do only. Practitioners of cuisines of poverty look at meals
as instrumental, as meant to satisfy hunger only. Taufic is
the son of a farmer who left farming behind to become a
school inspector and, later, a member of the local village
council. He remarks,
Even today I think of meals as a means to satisfy
hunger. I eat whatever is offered to me and thank my
wife for making sure no one in the house is hungry.
This functional attitude, which disconnects food
from pleasure, dominates how Palestinians from poor
backgrounds think about food regardless of their con-
temporary financial circumstances. Fuad, a carpenter
from the triangle area, explains how his functional atti-
tude toward food acquired out of necessity influences the
way in which he brings up his own children.
I always tell my children they should eat whatever is
served to them and be grateful for that. The other day
my oldest son said he didnÕt like meluhiyeh. ‘What do
you mean you do not like meluhiyeh?’ I asked him.
‘We cannot afford liking or disliking food in this
house.’ He ate it all.
The functional attitude towards meals also reflects
upon table manners common in the Palestinian com-
munity. All dishes are served simultaneously and the
diners create their own repast by serving themselves
whatever they wish. Traditionally, participants used to
eat from a collective plate with an individual spoon or
with the help of a piece of bread used as a food
shovel. Once satisfied, the diners excused themselves
from the table, washed their hands and went on with
their daily duties.
When I told a Jewish friend about the way we ate he
looked at me as if I was primitive. I understood his
reservations, but his reaction implied he did not
understand my culture.
The speaker is Wagdi, the head of the Bureau of
Education in his hometown. Wagdi grew up in a family
of 10 brothers and sisters, all of whom have gone to
college and pursued professional careers. His brother,
Fatchi, a pharmacist, explains.
People were very poor. There was no running water, no
toilet. My grandparents didnÕt even have a table. As
there was no running water it didnÕt make sense to use
many plates. Sharing a plate implied we were a family.
We welcomed whoever was present to join us.
The tabl e manners that the brothers describe point to
the social organization that underlies cuisines of poverty.
Food sharing, to the extent of sharing a plate, ensures the
survival of both the family and the community at a
material and social level. Refusal to share food is a sign
of enmity and hostility (Farb and Armelagos, 1980; Van
den Berghe, 1984). Historically, the women of the house
cooked for all family mem bers and served food upon the
menÕs return from work. Nowadays, some women still
cook for their extended families. Munira, for example, is
a single woman in her fifties and the sister of a famous
politician. She describes her daily routine as she sets the
table for the expected diners,
Every morning my brother brings me fresh produce. I
start cooking at around 11:30 a.m. because my sisterÕs
grandchildren get here at around 1:00 pm. Their mot her
is a busy dentist. She gets here at around 2:30 p.m.,
eats, and takes them home. At around 3:30 p.m. my
brothers start coming. My sister and my older nephews
get here only after 5:30 p.m.
As the food provider for her extended family, Munira
keeps in touch with her family and makes it possible for
all family members to meet. Moreover, food sharing
serves a collective social function. Occasional guests are
always invited to join a family meal. This, in turn,
establishes obligations to reciprocate, as explained by
Aliya, a nurse who works at a major hospital.
We always invite whoever is in the house to join us for
the meal. It is considered rude to refuse the invitation.
My grandmother used to say this was how we made
sure no one went hungry. The guest had to reciprocate
in case we were short of something.
Unlike western traditions in which an invitation for
dinner implies social proximity or even intimacy (Goody,
1982; Douglas, 1984), cuisines of poverty use food
sharing to establish reciprocity and create social and
moral obligations. An invitation to join a familyÕs repast
does not raise expectations for gastronomic delights.
Rather, it is an invitation to form mutual obligations that
guarantee long term food provisioning among members
of the community.
The social value assigned to meat is a good example of
how issues of practicality are embedded in culture and
influence patterns of thought. Items of high socia l value
are consumed sparingly and emphasize the daily preoc-
cupation with food and feeding. Patriarchal systems in
Western societies are embodied in meat consumption.
They involve an objectification and subordination of both
women and animals (Adams, 1990). Animal flesh is re-
garded as higher in cultural value than vegetables or
dairy products. It connotes strength and involves a
transformation of a raw food item into an edible state by
cooking, frying, roasting, boiling, or grilling (Barthes,
1983; Twigg, 1983; Gvion, 2002). Levi-Strauss (1966)
claims roasting and grilling characterize affluent societies
as they allow waste and shrinkage of the meat. Boiling,
on the other hand, characterizes poor peopleÕs food as
there is no waste and it produces a liquid in which other
dishes can be cooked.
Cuisines of poverty, including lower class Palestinian
cooking, highly value meat yet consume it wisely and
sparingly by making use of every part of the animal.
306 Liora Gvion
Raw lamb-meat has the highest prestige. On festive
occasions a lamb is slaughtered and the women prepare
kubbeh neiye. It is made of chopped raw lamb-meat
mixed with burgul and served with hose, fried and
spiced lamb-meat. The prestige of the dish derives from
the usage of meat as close as possible to slaughter time.
According to Maaruf, the consumption of kubbe neiye
requires a professional cook, fresh meat, and good
cooking skills.
When my grandfather slaughtered a sheep he rushed the
best meat to my grandmother. She chopped the meat
with tw o sharp knives and added burgul to it. The fresher
the meat the less burgul she used. Everyone was invited
to eat with us. We wrapped the meat with hose and ate it.
Whatever meat was left was used for other dishes.
The preoccupation with meat is divided along gender
lines. Men slaughter and roast meat on festive occasions,
when economic necessities are put aside and waste is
allowed. Women boil and cook meat on a daily basis.
When Walid, a truck driver, and his extended family
celebrated in honor of Id El Fitter, a major Muslim hol-
iday, the division of labor along gender lines was obvious
to all participants. ‘The men grilled. My wife and her
sisters-in-law prepared the salads and set the table. They
also cleaned afterwards.’ When asked if women could
grill the meat, WalidÕs brother in law commented, ‘They
could, technically, but it is a manÕs job. It is as if a man
would boil a chicke n or prepare rice.’
While roasting and grilling meat are masculine duties
and associated with festive occasions, cookin g is a
domestic, feminine duty. Cooking produces very little
waste and, as mentioned earlier, even the water in which
the meat has been cooked is used, to enrich the nutri-
tional value of other dishes. It is instructive to note that
guests are never served grilled meat. It is considered
offensive and implies that the woman of the house fails
to do her domestic duties. It may further hint that the
guest is not worth the womanÕs time and labor as Fathi, a
gardener from Jaffa, explains.
Serving grilled meat to a guest implies that no labor has
been invested in the preparation. It is as if I admitted
publicly that my wife failed to perform her household
duties. It would place me in an uncomfortable position.
Dina, who manages her brotherÕs cafeteria, agrees. ‘If
a woman served grilled meat to her guests they would
think of her husband as a miserable man. People would
say his wife is lazy. I would never humiliate my husband
like that.’
Distinctions along gender line s differentiate womenÕs
labor from menÕs labor. The former is taken for granted
while the latter is a leisure activity. While men are entitled
to waste meat, women are required to save and prepare
economical and laborious meat dishes. Fatma is married
to a drug addict and raises five children on welfare. She
explains how she makes maximum use of meat.
I can only afford one chicken a week and we all share
it. I clean the chicken, stuff it with rice and spices and
cook it. Sometimes I ea t only the stuffing so my kids
have more meat. I save the water and use it to cook
vegetables. I save the bones and use them for soups.
Nothing is wasted.
The serving of meatless dishes in the shape of meat
dishes is yet another strategy. The absence of meat and
the preparation of dishes in its image strengthen its
symbolic value. Take the case of kubbe. As womenÕs
labor is taken for granted, kubbe is valued by the amount
of meat it includes and not by the amount of labor in-
vested in its preparation. Affluent families use generous
amounts of meat to fill the dough. Others substitute
vegetables for meat. Poor people prepare kubbe kazavi.
They keep up with the traditional shape of kubbe yet stuff
the dough with either tomatoes or chickpeas. The very
poor prepare balls from fine burgul and cook them in
yogurt, adding spices and min t leaves. Hishmi, who lives
on welfare, cooks it quite often.
I always hoped IÕd be able to prepare real kubbe on a
regular basis and not only for holidays. Last time I
made kubbe kazavi a social worker was visiting. For her
it was exotic as she had heard about it from her
grandmother. For me it was a sad reality.
The amount of meat purchased is another indication of
the familyÕs financial well-being. By buying small
quantities or cheap cuts of meat, one publicly announces
poverty. Emil, now a school principal, refers to his
childhood as shaping his consumption habits.
My family was very poor. Yet, my mother never bought
less than one kilo of meat. She never announced pub-
licly how poor we were. Even today, when I am no
longer poor, I cannot bring myself to buy smal l quan-
tities of meat. I am sure there are many more like me.
To conclude, the social value attributed to meat func-
tions on two levels. Practitioners of cuisines of poverty
try to make a s much use of small amounts of meat as
possible. However, limited in their ability to include meat
in their daily diet, they develop cooking methods that
further stress its symbolic value. Cuisines of poverty
refrain from challenging the social value attributed to
meat by the dominant culture. Rather, they function on
the cultural periphery by creating their own substitutions.
This allows the poor to symbolically participate in the
larger community and to form a distinctive identity, as I
will describe in the following section.
The public discourse: Culinary knowledge
and identity creation
Encounters between members of the dominant culture and
members of ethnic or minority groups have two major
culinary outcomes. First, the food of the ethnic population
Cuisines of poverty as means of empowerment 307
can be modified to suit the taste of the dominant group. At
times, the dominant group limits access to certain food
items or de-values the status of certain dishes. As a result,
ordinary food items acquire an exotic status in the new
land and vice a verse (Raspa, 1984; Williams, 1984).
Second, ethnic culinary knowledge can become a
resource out of which an ethnic economy emerges. By
opening cheap restaurants and stores, the ethnic popula-
tion can lessen its dependence on the job market for
employment. Ethnic food is sold as a means to make a
living and the ethnic culture presented to the general
public (Dallallfar, 1994). Through this process ethnic
groups are stripped of their cultural assets, turning them
into commodities. Moreover, certain foods are appropri-
ated by agencies of the dominant culture and integrated
into the dominant diet, their origins lost in the process.
Cuisines of poverty, as in the case of Palestinians
citizens of Israeli society, are not immuned to appropri-
ation. Yet they are at less risk of loosing their distinctive
culinary features through the commodification and dis-
semination of their knowledge to the general public. The
persistence of culinary practices in the domestic sphere,
together with a general disinterest on the part of the
Jewish community in Palestinian food, has helped limit
the number of dishes appropriated into the Israeli diet.
Simultaneously, the same processes have turned the
culinary discourse into an arena of resistance to oppres-
sion, institutional discrimination, and easy access to
culinary knowledge.
In order to guarantee basic food supplies to all Israeli
citizens, the government subsidized basic food items
such as rice, bread, sugar, oil, milk, or eggs. This has
caused changes in the PalestiniansÕ diet. First, the
consumption of burgul has declined from 200 kilos of
burgul per family a year to about 60 kilos per year. The
consumption of rice, on the other hand, has gone up
significantly. Fatma, a housewife in her 60s from the
Galilee, describes the process.
When I was a kid women prepared burgul at home and
we had it regularly. We served rice on special occasions
only. It was only in the 1950s that burgul became
expensive. So everyone started eating rice. Nowaday s,
both rice and burgul are foods of the poor.
Moreover, as wheat products were subsidized, women
have stopped preparing homemade noodles (shaaria) and
have integrated industrial noodles into their diet.
similar in their taste and function to shaaria, industrial
noodles are cheaper and their preparation is less time
‘Homemade noodles taste better but they arenÕt worth
the effort. So we have given up one of our major food
items for convenience food, even the poor could afford
them.’ The speaker is Jamila, a woman in her 50s who
lives on welfare and on occasiona l cleaning jobs. She
picks wild herbs from peopleÕs gardens and bakes her
own bread in order to save money on food. JamilaÕs
claim that the preparation of homemade noodles is not
worth the effort implies that it is not that poor people
refrain from adopting technological innovations. Jami laÕs
integration of commercial noodles into her diet implies
that resources and political decisions constrain how poor
Palestinians innovate or adopt new innovations. How-
ever, poor Palestinians do not interpret the changes in
their diet as a governmental attempt to enforce political
oppression but as beneficial outcomes that reduce labor
and expenses on food.
While the Palestinian citizens of Israel started inte-
grating new foods into their diet, a certain amount of
culinary appropriation also has taken place. Dishes such
as hummus, tahini sauce, falafel, tabule, and labane have
entered the culinary mainstream mostly because they
proved to be easily adjusted to common eating habits of
IsraelÕs Jewish population. Their integration into the
culinary repertoire did not require changes in fundamental
conceptions of food or eating habits, and the dishes can be
served in addition to dishes that Israelis consume on a
regular basis. Nowadays, they are associated by Jews with
Israeli food, as said by Rasan, a restaurant owner and a
member of the local council, from Jaffa.
Tourists, who come to my restaurant, ask for hummus,
tahini, and eggplants and talk about the wonderful
Israeli food. When I tell them it is Arab food they look
at me as if IÕve appropriated your dishes. If you asked
Jewish Israelis what Israeli food was, they would list
Arab dishes without feeling guilty about it.
Ayda, who works as a cleaning lady for an affluent
Jewish family, adds,
They are really nice. They talk to me and give me clothes
or toys their kids outgrew. One day, I decided to bring
them some kubbe, homemade hummus an d labane.
When theyÕve finished eating the man said, ‘Amazing
how you prepare our food be tter than we do.’ If I werenÕt
in need of money I wouldnÕt have gone back there.
Certain Palestinian dishes, then, have been appropri-
ated to an extent that they are no longer associated with
Palestinian culinary knowledge. Yet, the Palestinian
minority feels in no position to fight for official recog-
nition as guardians of their dishes. They feel the limited
exposure of Israelis to Arab dishes indicates a lack of
interest in Palestinian food, as explained by Amin, an
owner of a famous restaurant in Haifa.
I have a Jewish client who comes for lunch with his
mistress and for dinner with his wife. IÕve known him
for years. He keeps telling me IÕm like a brother to him.
He always orders the same dishes. Whenever I suggest
trying something new he refuses. I have tried serving
traditional dishes to his table, telling him it is on the
house but he never touches it. For him all we are good
for is hummus and kebobs . All the rest is disgusting and
not worth even trying.
308 Liora Gvion
However, the general resentment towards Palest inian
dishes plays to the PalestinianÕs favor. Practiced in the
domestic sphere, the majority of the dishes escape
large-scale appropriation. Warda, a political activist from
the Galilee, draws a connection between the culinary
discourse and the political one, saying that
Personally, I do not mind telling anyone about my food.
But I feel you are not really interested. You think you
know it but youÕve appropriated only dishes whi ch have
suited your eating habits. You have changed them
accordingly regardless of the way we eat them. I feel
that I am not respected.
Nadia, a friend and neighbor, refuses to share her
knowledge with those who disrespect her, saying, ‘If
you do not respect me why would you respect my food?
Do you know how often people tell me our food is dirty
and not healthy? Why would I share it with you?’ Her
husband, a member of a radical political party, agrees.
‘Our women take good care of our food. We do not need
you to keep and watch it for us. We have learn ed our
These last three speakers draw a clear connection be-
tween the culinary discourse and the political discourse
as a feature of cuisines of poverty. They point to the ways
in which upholding culinary knowledge and controlling
its propaga tion make it possible for the Palestinian citi-
zens of Israel to participate in the political discourse on
their own terms. Culinary knowledge becomes a means
of identity creation that strengthens the boundaries of the
Palestinian community, redefines their political identity,
and forms a culture of resistance. Thus, cuisines of
poverty are nutritionally functional and serve as cultural
tools that sustain traditional systems and form a minority
This paper proposed looking at Palestinian citizens of
Israel as carriers of a cuisine of poverty. The study of
culinary practices of the Palestinian community is an
important and interesting case study as it points to the
ways in which political and economic considerations
govern and enhance the developments of, changes to,
and acceptance of culinary knowledge. Cuisines of
poverty reveal the interplay of three complementary
discourses a discourse on domesticity, a discourse of
culture and a political discourse which emphasize the
inevitable relationship between culinary knowledge and
an ideology of resistance.
As part of the discourse on domes ticity, cuisines of
poverty are gender-based domestic stocks of knowledge
around which social ties are formed. They guarantee food
supplies and modes of preservation by repeatedly cen-
tering on the ability to maintain the traditional kitchen,
turning it into a tool kit out of which information is
selected as needed. As such, cuisines of poverty are
systems of practical knowledge, which encourage prac-
titioners in general and women in particular to develop
self-reliant means to survive poverty. They further equip
the Palestinian citizens of Israel with ways to limit their
dependence on stores and state agencies for food.
As part of a discourse of culture, cuisines of poverty
operate as systems of though t that govern culinary
decisions and practices. Table manners, the structure of
the meal, and the social value attached to meat are good
examples of how food scarcity and modes of though t
about food are interrelated. They allow practitioners to
define culinary habits in cultural terms rather than
emerging solely out of necessity. The functional attitude
toward meals reflects upon table manners common in the
Palestinian community. Meals are meant to be cheap and
are primarily judged by their ability to satisfy hunger. All
modes of social conduct associated with dining reveal
necessity, satisfaction of hunger, and food sharing. Food,
then, is meant to sustain the body and attitudes toward
food are based on tastes of necessity.
The social value assigned to meat is another example
of how issues of practicality are embedded in cultural
systems of thought. Items of high social value, such as
meat, are consumed sparingly and stress the practical
aspect of daily feeding. Cuisines of povert y and lower
class Palestinian cookin g, in particular, value meat highly
and consume it wisely by making use of every part of the
On a public level, cuisines of poverty reveal the
interconnection between the culinary discourse and the
political discourse. This is where issues such as access to
land, national and ethnic identities, and means of par-
ticipation in the dominant culture are of major concern.
The sustainability of cuisines of poverty revolves around
entitlement to land and its products. As such, the inter-
play between the two levels of discourse allows one to
understand how the boundaries between the autono my
and development of cuisines, on the one hand, and their
relation to arenas of power, on the other, emerge as
highly permeable.
The case of Palestinian citizens of Israel is a good
example of how food is turned into a means of resisting
cultural oppression. Foods in general and traditional
dishes in particular become assets for identity formation
that allow the Palestinian community to hold on to its
local knowledge and to refuse to serve it up to the general
public. If some of the dishes have been appropriated, to
the extent they have been associated with Israeli food, it
is important to note that this applies only to a limited
number of dishes and only to those that could easily
accommodate the eating habits of the Jewish population.
The partial appropriation of Palestinian dishes suggests
that the Jewish population expresses no genuine interest
Cuisines of poverty as means of empowerment 309
in Arab food but rather looks at ways to broaden its
active culinary repertoire. Simultaneously, due to a lack
of respect for Palestinian culinary knowledge, members
of the Palestinian community have decided to regulate
the penetration of Arab dishes into Israeli cuisine.
The understanding of Palestinian cooking as a cuisine
of poverty supports a line of research that argues that
food scarcity and food poverty can be mobilized for
identity creation, a source of empowerment, and the
establishment of informal means to overcome poverty as
well as a culture of resistance. Just as the practice of soul
food among African-Americans and the establishment of
a Caribbean cuisine by slaves has lead to the develop-
ment of a sense of freedom, Palestinian practitioners of a
cuisine of poverty use their dis-privileged position both
to manage poverty and prevent hunger as well as define
their ways of participating in the dominant culture. To
conclude, the existence of cuisines of poverty can help
scholars, social activists, and marginalized populations
understand the power embedded in cultural systems of
knowledge and the ability of the latter to contribute to the
physical survival and sustainability of traditional systems
of knowledge over time.
I would like to express my deep gratitude to the scientific
committee of the Poverty, Food, and Health in Welfare
conference, held in Lisbon, Portugal in 2003 for pro-
viding me with the opportunity to present a much earlier
version of this work. Moreover, I would like to thank five
anonymous reviewers and Laura B. DeLind, a very
dedicated editor of Agriculture, Food and Human Values,
for their detailed reading of the manuscript and their
thoughtful comments, which helped to improve the
manuscript significantly. Finally, I am very grateful to
Yolande Gottdiener, Doug Springate, Nancy Fliss, and
Rottem Rosenberg for being willing to read a number of
versions of this paper for me.
1. The study included only Palestinians who are citizens of
Israel and reside within the formal borders of the State of
Israel as recognized by the United-Nations, 1948.
2. Labane is a sour cheese made from goat milk that is left in
cloth bags to let liquids drain.
3. Kubbe is a famous food served either in the form of a pie
consisting of layers of burgul and layers of ground lamb
meat, pine nuts, and spices or as a fried ball whose dough
is made of burgul and semolina and placed over fried meat.
The poor replace the meat with vegetables.
4. The term ‘tastes of necessity’ implies that people experi-
encing absence have to make do with whatever food pro-
visions are made available and cannot afford to develop
personal likes and dislikes.
5. Shaaria are small thin noodles, about the size of rice, made
by women of the community in the fall of each year in order
to assure a steady supply throughout the winter.
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... We adopted a strengths-based approach in the mixed methods study on Diabetes in the Arab population in Israel (DAPI), which explored factors affecting glycemic control among members of the Indigenous Arab minority with type 2 diabetes. The Indigenous Arab population of Palestine experienced disruption, displacement and dispossession of land and other resources when the state of Israel was established in 1948 [16][17][18][19]. It was transformed into a minority in the new Jewish state, and subsequently underwent separate and unequal developmental trajectories in education, employment and local infrastructure and resource allocation [16,17,20,21]. ...
... It was transformed into a minority in the new Jewish state, and subsequently underwent separate and unequal developmental trajectories in education, employment and local infrastructure and resource allocation [16,17,20,21]. This created numerous levels of structural disadvantage, including social, economic, political, and geographic marginalization [17,19,22]. Currently this Indigenous community comprises 20.9% of the total Israeli population [23]. ...
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Indigenous and other marginalized racial/ethnic minorities have poorer health status than majority populations, including higher rates of type 2 diabetes. These disparities have typically been addressed using a ‘deficit-based’ discourse that isolates disease management from the broader social, economic, political context and does not incorporate patient perspectives. We aimed to explore factors affecting glycemic control among Indigenous Arabs with diabetes in Israel using a strengths-based approach that centered participants’ knowledge of their context, needs, resources and strengths. We conducted an exploratory sequential mixed methods study, which included 10 focus groups (5 men’s, 5 women’s) and 296 quantitative in-person surveys. Participants with diagnosed diabetes were randomly drawn from the patient list of the largest healthcare service organization (survey response rate: 93%). Prominent and interconnected themes emerged from focus group discussions, including: diet, physical activity, and social, economic, mental/psychological and political stress. The discussions raised the need for adapting diabetes management approaches to incorporate participants’ communal, physical and psychological well-being, and socioeconomic/political realities. The connections between these factors and diabetes management were also reflected in multivariable analyses of the survey data. Women (OR: 2.03; 95% CI: 1.09–4.63), people with disabilities (OR: 2.43; 95% CI: 1.28–4.64), and unemployed people (OR: 2.64; 95% CI: 1.28–5.44) had higher odds of economic barriers to diabetes management. Furthermore, female sex (OR: 2.26; 95% CI: 1.25–4.09), unemployment (OR: 4.07; 95% CI: 1.64–10.10), and suboptimal glycemic control (OR: 1.20, 95% CI: 1.03–1.41 per 1-unit increase in HbA1c) were associated with moderate-to-severe depressive symptoms. A pro-active, team-based healthcare approach incorporating Indigenous/minority participants’ knowledge, experience, and strengths has the potential to improve individuals’ diabetes management. Healthcare services should be structured in ways that enable providers to listen to their patients, address their key concerns, and foster their strengths.
... For example, for Israeli Arabs food is a venue for expressing attitudes toward modernity and tradition (Gvion, 2009). Households manage the circumstances of their lives through "cuisines of poverty" (Gvion, 2006). Similarly, culture figures in the eating habits of the kibbutz, the cooperative dining hall (Avieli, 2012). ...
Understanding the determinants of food provisioning is crucial for efforts to reduce household food wastage. Various studies have identified a web of interrelated socio-demographic characteristics, values, attitudes, and skills as drivers of household food wastage. Our contribution is in exploring the relationship between cultural and religious views and food waste generation. We do that in the context of three social groups in Israel: secular Jews, religious Jews, and Muslim Arabs. We interviewed 27 individuals who have a certain standing in their respective communities with broad perspective of the cultural context of food-related issues. Our results highlight the conflict between religious and secular values and actual food wastage practices. We identified several factors that lead to household food wastage: past scarcity, the consumer culture, and hospitality. We found various ways by which cultural and religious values shape food-waste perceptions. Results show a dissonance between food-related motivations and actual practices. We also demonstrate how the dissonance can be reconciled, both on the level of justification and on the level of action.
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First World Hunger examines hunger and the politics of food security, and welfare reform (1980-95) in five 'liberal' welfare states (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the USA). Through national case-studies it explores the depoliticization of hunger as a human rights issue and the failure of New Right policies and charitable emergency relief to guarantee household food security. The need for alternative integrated policies and the necessity of public action are considered essential if hunger is to be eliminated.
At the beginning of Whitebread Protestants, Daniel Sack writes "When I was young, church meant food. Decades later, it's hard to point to particular events, but there are lots of tastes, smells, and memories such as the taste of dry cookies and punch from coffee hour - or that strange orange drink from vacation Bible school." And so he begins this fascinating look at the role food has played in the daily life of the white Protestant community in the United States. He looks at coffee hours, potluck dinners, ladies' afternoon teas, soup kitchens, communion elements, and a variety of other things. A blend of popular culture, religious history and the growing field of food studies, the book will reveal both conflict and vitality in unexpected places in American religious life.
Conference Paper
People in developing countries currently consume on average one-third the meat and one-quarter of the milk products per capita compared to the richer North, but this is changing rapidly. The amount of meat consumed in developing countries over the past has grown three times as much as it did in the developed countries. The Livestock Revolution is primarily driven by demand. Poor people everywhere are eating more animal products as their incomes rise above poverty level and as they become urbanized. By 2020, the share of developing countries in total world meat consumption will expand from 52% currently to 63%. By 2020, developing countries will consume 107 million metric tons (mmt) more meat and 177 mmt more milk than they did in 1996/1998, dwarfing developed-country increases of 19 mmt for meat and 32 mmt for milk. The projected increase in livestock production will require annual feed consumption of cereals to rise by nearly 300 mmt by 2020. Nonetheless, the inflation-adjusted prices of livestock and feed commodities are expected to fall marginally by 2020, compared to precipitous declines in the past 20 y. Structural change in the diets of billions of people is a primal force not easily reversed by governments. The incomes and nutrition of millions of rural poor in developing countries are improving. Yet in many cases these dietary changes also create serious environmental and health problems that require active policy involvement to prevent irreversible consequences.
We were a poor family and frequently went for several days at a time with little or nothing to eat. Consequently hunger is one of the most enduring memories of my childhood. If we were lucky, our daily diet would consist of a bowl of porridge in the morning before school, one slice of bread with dripping or golden syrup for our school lunch, and occasionally damper for tea. We ate whatever we could find — kangaroos, wallabies, snakes run down by passing cars, snakes killed in the yard, and fruit and berries from the trees. Very few Aboriginal children could ever afford to bring a lunch to school and when the bell began to ring for the beginning of afternoon class and the end of lunch time, we would gather around the rubbish bins and hastily pick out any crusts or a half-eaten apple or other leftovers. (Wilson, 1989, p. 16)
In this chapter, we review the issue of hunger and poverty in the UK. Our particular concern is to explore the extent to which anyone may be said to be in absolute poverty, in terms of not having the resources to eat adequately. The chapter is in four sections. The first reviews the extent and characteristics of poverty in the UK, situating our analysis in a European context where possible. In the second section we examine the role of the British state in deepening and widening poverty in the UK, particularly since the 1979 Thatcher government, and the state’s response to these trends. Third, we look at hunger in the British context, summarizing research on diet, nutrition, health and income. Finally, we review activities of national and local organizations which respond politically and practically to the growing problem of hunger in the UK and conclude by briefly drawing out some implications for future policy.