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WELCOME!   !مرحبا 

 

I’m thrilled you’re here! Whether it’s to explore Palestinian cooking, learn more about the fascinating culinary history of the Arab world, or simply get to know me and my journey to this point: welcome!  

I have long believed that food is more than sustenance. It is joy and communication, it is love and memories and it tells the story of family, history and tradition. This is my story…the one I would like to share with you...Over a decade ago, I promised myself I would never end up in the kitchen. Yet here I am today, author of a Palestinian cookbook who spends her days cooking for and feeding the people she loves. I remember reading once that people often meet their destiny on the very road they take to avoid it, and this is exactly what happened to me.

 

I left Jerusalem for university in the US at the age of 17 to pursue bigger dreams and opportunities. Right before leaving, I heard someone quip to my father “Why bother paying for an expensive education? Don’t you know she’s going to end up in the kitchen like all Arab women anyway?”

Of course this view angered me, but it also made me determined to prove it wrong – to never return to the kitchen. I spent almost ten years on that path: an MBA from Wharton and an MSc in cultural psychology from LSE followed by experience with some of the world’s largest corporations and NGOs like McKinsey & Co and The World Economic Forum. While I may have continued on this fast-paced career, ignoring my real passion and desire to give back, the birth of my first daughter, Yasmeen, forced me to take a step back and truly think about what I was doing, what kind of an example I was setting, and what kind of a legacy I was leaving her, and any other children I had.  

And so, while on maternity leave, I started working on a proposal for a Palestinian cookbook that wove together generations of my family's recipes against a backdrop of historical Palestinian anecdotes and cultural insights . Soon after, I had another daughter, Hala. And then, against all odds, – through sheer persistence, encouragement and some luck – The Palestinian Table came to life two years later, to much acclaim and success wilder than I could have imagined. 

 

I assumed The Palestinian Table would be my first and last book, yet here we are! Inspired (and frustrated!) by the many misconceptions about food and its origins, I spent two years researching the history of food. As I learned more about the history of cuisine, I realized the truth was stranger and more fascinating than any tale, and it was one I wanted to share with the world. The Arabesque Table is the culmination of this research. More than a random compilation of recipes though, it is a journey from past to present, stressing how cuisine, just like the arabesque patterns that inspired the title, is inherently intertwined and cross cultural, even as it remains crucial in defining the relationship between people, place and identity.

Reem Kassis and her two daughters cooking

My hope now is that through the food and stories I share, you can learn more about the rich history and generosity of Arab people so that you can enjoy our food while feeling welcome at any one of our tables.