Hajji Um Ahmad al-Tamizi (‘Amqa)

Q: What foods were famous in Palestine?


A. Kibbeh, grilled meat, and laban immo. The recipe for laban immo is to boil the meat, make sure there is not too much water, then bring yoghurt, stir it well, pour it in with the meat stock and let it boil a little. Kibbeh was cooked for weddings and on normal days. Everyone in the village would be invited to a wedding to eat kibbeh and stuffed kibbeh. There was muhammar: you pound onion, squeeze it and pound pepper with it, and put it in trays.  There was also mansaf which was the most famous food in Palestine. At weddings and on other special occasions there was another famous dish — especially at weddings — which was stuffed courgettes. For weddings they would also stuff grape and cabbage leaves. They used to make different kinds of dishes, four or five kinds, so that all the families of the village could eatlunch. The food was cooked in the bride’s house and served to her friends and family. The family of the bridegroom would stuff a leg of lamb for him, as well as all the other dishes, but the leg was just for the groom — pine nuts and meat are stuffed inside the leg. That was what the bride and groom had for dinner.


When a couple got engaged, the bride would give her friends henna, and they would give her mandeels in return. When they pounded the meat they would sing folk songs.


In ‘Amqa, everyone worked for himself, I mean he produced what he needed. No-one worked for somebody else to earn money, because in ‘Amqa there were plenty of orchards, and they also grew olives. There was a big open space in ‘Amqa where people would celebrate various occasions like weddings.


Q: What happened when someone died?


A. The foods that used to be prepared during days of mourning were mjaddara and stuffed courgette (at the end of the third day), but without pine nuts or almonds in the stuffing. Rice mansaf was served in honour of the deceased. People used to help each other on every occasion – there was a cooperative spirit. As for the mandeel, at weddings, people would exchange henna and mandeels as gifts for the bride, or give money. We didn’t bring her gifts after the marriage. On the wedding day, everyone would wear special slippers and beaded dresses that were embroidered at the bottom. The hems were scalloped. People would wear scarves even if they were not veiled. They would put the scarf over their heads and secure it with a small ribbon. Both veiled and unveiled women would wear full-length dresses with long sleeves.


‘Amqa is very close to Kwaykat, and the roads there were paved. In their orchards, they grew grapes, olives, apples, walnuts, almonds and oranges — I mean citrus. In ‘Amqa, the water came from the well – in ‘Amqa there were plenty of wells. The Lebanese would bring abayyat to Palestine, and the people of ‘Amqa would exchange a large can of olives for one. Women in Palestine used to put on the hatta niswaniyya, and girls would wear the mandeel.


Special food for the hajj was kibbehand grilled meat. There was no real special food for the hajj, but there was an obligation to give lunch to any guest that came to the house.


At the ‘Eid, the most popular dish at any holiday was grilled meat, and liver. The people of ‘Amqa used to buy sweets from ‘Akka or Yafa (baklawa and halva). At the ‘Eid they would also grill kebab.


When someone was ill, they would be treated the ‘Arab’ way, using cups that were put on the back to draw out the pain. Or they might be given an aspirin, and have their body rubbed with olive oil and massaged. There were plenty of ‘Arab’ doctors in ‘Amqa, and they all treated patients using Arab medicine. If the problem was in the legs, the treatment used was tahzim [1]– that’s a sort of needle that was placed in the legs, to get rid of what was called ‘yellow water’ and reduce pain. People with thin hair used garlic and salt to stimulate hair growth. The herbs that were used for a patient during treatment were chamomile and sage. A woman who had recently given birth would put hot ashes on her legs so that they wouldn’t swell up. She would drink milk and eat eggs, broad beans, kafta, stuffed intestines, liver and sweets. All those foods increased the amount of milk in her breasts.


There were olive presses and there were bees that gave honey. Eggplant was fried with its skin. Potato was put for 15 or 20 minutes in a sieve to drain off the liquid. A.woman did not have any checks on the health of the unborn child or on her own health. She used to eat natural food like everyone else in the village. They knew nothing about birth control in ‘Amqa, or any methods of contraception. Women preferred to have babies for as long as God willed. People used to wash clothes and cook on wood fires. They used soap flakes[2] for washing, as well as citric acid.


There were schools in ‘Amqa for boys and girls.


The accent hasn’t changed over the generations, it’s still the same.


Recipe for al-Sab’a Dawla:

Chop three potatoes, three cusa, 300 grams of green beans, 200 grams of sweet pepper, 100 grams of hot pepper, okra and one eggplant. Put everything in the tray with some semneh on top. While that’s in the oven, chop an onion and tomato, then add ground meat and stir.


Recipe for Saloufa:

Stuffed carrots, tomatoes, eggplant, cusa and grape leaves. Fry the carrots, eggplant and cusa, put them in the tray with grape leaves and tomato, then put it in the oven.


Another recipe: Fry the courgettes, chop the meat, mix it with tahini and lemon, then put it in the oven.


Mulberry leaves: when the first leaves appeared on the mulberry tree, we would pick them and boil them, then stuff them with vegetables and cook them with water, lemon and salt.


[1] We are not sure if tahzim is the correct word yet.

[2] Baresh, made from scraping soap.


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