I always compared Jordan to neighboring countries and took pride in the unity that Jordanians have; today, however, I find that that unity is wavering. I used to think that our identity was a difficult one to define, but after exploring Jordan and its cuisine I was able to truly understand what it means to be Jordanian. And so, at a time like this, I wonder why people have chosen to forget what it is that makes Jordan our home.
My culinary journey started in Amman and extended all over Jordan. On this journey I ate, cooked and most importantly, I learned. I met men and women of different heritage, religion, background and race and despite their differences I came to realize that they all shared a love for one single thing, and that was their love for food.
Every teta, mama or person I visited on my journey shared their version and interpretation of what Jordanian cuisine is. Historically, the Jordanian pantry was very limited, with scarcely a few items lining its shelves: rice or wheat, dairy products, meat and the few vegetables that grew in the wild. That got me thinking about the modern Jordanian kitchen and what it has become.
I realized that all the dishes that define the flavor of Jordan have been brought into the country by people who have made this place their home. So, that was when I truly came to understand the culinary landscape of Jordan and thus, its identity. All of a sudden, dishes started to make sense; the originally Egyptian Mloukiheh has become Jordanian, the Syrian kibbeh found its home in Amman, we find ourselves unable to choose between Msakhan and Mansaf, the taste of Shibs-o-basta lingers on our palate when we are homesick, and the Iraqis and Lebanese are still trying to determine who brought Waraq Dawali to Jordan first.
And that’s when it finally hit me. It was simple. These colorful dishes made their way into Jordan and created our identity. They were welcomed with open arms, and they have now become a part of each and every family. They are dishes that we love and that we cannot, not even for a moment, imagine our lives without. What I learned is that the Jordanian identity does not really differ from its kitchen. Let us not forget who we are, and what Jordan has come to represent. For without all the people who have made Jordan their home, Jordan wouldn’t really be.
Recipes to come…