The Palestinian cookbook author & food historian who has positively impacted our understanding of Palestinian food history.
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Hello everyone before the main post, I have something to share with everyone. It has been a while since the last blog post. There are many exciting things behind the scenes occurring with Solo's Food that required that I step away from the blog for a while. If you are interested in learning more about these changes, Check one of our social media accounts at instagram, facebook, and LinkedIn. Other than this, I am back for the long haul and my goal is to update this blog consistently over the next year without fail.
The main topic of today’s focus is on Food Guild First Book Winner, Reem Kassis, who for many reasons Solo's think you should get to know as well! In this article, we will cover the following: Who is Reem Kassis, Some background information on her, Recent Collaborations, and Reasons why the Solo’s team think she’s awesome (and why you should too)!
Who is Reem Kassis?
According to Terry Gross, an author of the NPR, whose piece is titled, For This Palestinian Cool, The Kitchen Is A 'Powerful Place' - Not A 'Life Sentence', She is a breakthrough author/food historian in the food industry today who is attempting to separate her Palestinian heritage from her life via her works of writing in the food industry(2021).
What is her background history?
She was born in 1987 and grew up in Beit Hanna, East Jerusalem in Israel. Her father was from Christian faith and her mother, Muslim. Despite the different religious upbringings, Her parents educated Kassis that being a good person, studying well and having a diverse education mattered most!
As a 17 year old, Kassis was allowed to travel under the condition that she was accepted into an Ivy League school by her parents.
Unfortunately, prior to leaving for her Ivy league education, one of her father's acquaintances told her father dismissively, "'Why waste so much money on her education? Like all Arab women, she'll find herself in the kitchen eventually'"(2021).
This led to a young Kassis, growing up in East Jerusalem, to consider the Kitchen to be much like a lifetime prison sentence for women in general.
In order to prove this individual wrong, She started her academic studies and achieved summa cum laude in Business Administration from the University of Pennsylvania then continued for her Masters in business administration at Wharton which led to her studying social psychology with the London School of Economics (2021).
She eventually became an elite level business manager for many international companies. However, Kassis states "But I was miserable at work...I reached the summit of the aspirations of everyone who dreams of a business career, but I didn't like that demanding life."
In 2012, she married the love of her life, Albert Muaddi, an Palestinian American. Kassis and Muaddi eventually moved from London to Philadelphia where they reside currently with two kids.
Her perception of food would change entirely after having her first daughter. She noticed that the kitchen could be a place of cultural identity where she could tell her daughter stories via food.
What are her most recent works or important collaborations (so far)?
1.) She released her first book, The Palestinian Table some time in October 2017 with global pubisher, Phiadon, who goals are to work with global thinkers and influencers in art, food, writing, design and more. They easily have over 1000+ titles in print to date.
2.) Her most recent work to date is the 'The Arabesque Table' which focuses on the international culinary history of arabian cuisine which greatly builds on her first work, 'The Palestinian Table' which tells the history of Palestinian food and her personal history.
3.) She & world renowned Israeli chef, Michael Solomonov, collaborated in a food history event in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Science's Department of History at Carnegie Mellon University last thursday (April 22nd 2021).
This is what I noticed so far to date.
Why Solo's Food thinks she's awesome and why you should too!
1.) She working hard to find the truth regarding palestinian cuisine and history to correct popular misconceptions of Palestinian foods being called Israeli food for much more than political correctness.
2.) "So I've said this before, it's not about the chickpea itself, it's not about the dish, it's more about what that omission signifies to people like me who are Palestinian, who see our history being sidestepped completely and ignored abroad”.
3.) This extremely relatable quote from Kassis stated in her interview with Terry Gross from Fresh Air:
I think a lot of times you take things for granted as a child — and I definitely did that with my mother's cooking. My daughters do the same with mine. But once I left and I arrived in the U.S., there was a bit of culture shock for me. Part of it was seeing how I'm eating on my own in the dining halls. There isn't that familial feeling of having everyone eating together and then the food itself. I started to crave it. I missed it. I missed not only the taste and the flavor, but the entire feeling around it. And that's when I started actually tinkering with cooking, and I would call my mother and ask her for recipes. So it started out simple .
4.) She turned her frustration into something productive. Her hatred for the kitchen turned into her platform for her books and perspective. Her time in world-renowned philadelphian restaurant, Zahav, into a deep friendship with Chef and Owner Mike Solomonov..
6.) She is an international traveller whose has gone to and stayed in the following: Jerusalem, United Kingdom, Germany, and The United States (Philadelphia)
7.) She has a great sense of humor proven here, "I swore I would never go into the kitchen and would be a career woman, and in the end I found myself writing a cookbook, Reem laughs" .
8.) Finally, She’s a mother of two ,who empowers chefs and cooks everywhere, that the Kitchen is as important a site of cultural preservation as any other. It does not have to be a stereotypically enforced cage that limits an individual but a powerful platform for expression as well.
If you are interested in learning more or keeping up with International Food Writer and Historian, Reem Kassis, go to her website, www.reemkassis.com, to stay up-to-date on her latest events that she will appear in from time to time.
Her website also has her social media links so you can follow her on facebook, instagram, and even twitter. I also highly recommend listening to FreshAir Host Terry Gross’ interview of Reem Kassis. It is a 43 minute interview but I think it is worth it.
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1.For Palestinian Cook Reem Kassis, The Kitchen Is A 'Powerful Place' : NPR - Terry Gross. - 4/7/21
2.How Reem Kassis became the international face of Palestinian cuisine - Israel News - Haaretz.com - Ronit Vered - 9/14/19
3.https://www.cmu.edu/dietrich/history/events/2021/kassisevent.html - Reem Kassis & Michael Solomonov: A Conversation on Food & National Identity - March 15 2021