Hajji Um Saleh al-Khobayzi (Kabri)

 

Q: What are the most famous dishes in Palestine?

A: People cook beans and rice, kibbeh, potato stew, and manaasef [rice with nuts and meat]: cut the lamb into pieces and boil it, then put it on top of the rice with nuts.

Q: What about weddings?

A:  The friends of the bridegroom would invite him the day before the wedding, and one of the bride’s girl friends would invite her to her house, where her future in-laws would bring her henna and distribute it to her friends. They would decorate the bride’s hands and legs with henna that night. The next day, the bride would stay at her friend’s house until noon while everyone else was busy cooking. She would have lunch with her girl friends, and later in the afternoon, she would be taken away on a horse. The mother of the groom would wear a velvet dress. At sunset, the bride would go home on the horse with her belongings and they would fetch a mandeel.[1]  The bride raises her hand and they would take her first to her family’s house, then to her house (her husband’s house). As for the food, there was a dish made specially for the bride and the bridegroom called qass. The food made for the guests at the family houses of both the bride and the groom was manaasef, yoghurt, beans and all kinds of stews.

 

There were no kitchen utensils made of glass, everything was made of copper or aluminum. People used to borrow pans from everyone in the village, and cook in them. The invitation was not limited to the people of the village but was extended to all the nearby villages and towns – al-Ghabsiyah, Sheikh Daoud, even as far afield as Haifa. At a wedding at least 50 or 60 sheep would be slaughtered.

 

Q: In case of illness?

A: A rooster would be killed, boiled and made into soup with rice and finely chopped parsley, and the patient would drink it. Yoghurt would also be made and given to the sick person. In addition to colostrum [the first milk given by a cow after calving], there used to be plenty of honey combs, and they would give the sick person honey from the combs. They used to make a gift of honey to everyone in the village. If there was any left over after that, they would take it out of the combs and put it in jars.

 

To make molasses, you pick the carob, pound it and leave it in the sun all day. When the sun goes down, cover it with water until sunrise the next day.  All the neighbours would get together to make carob molasses. You have to rub it, press it, then filter it through a special filter, before boiling it. Once it cools, it has to be passed through a fine sieve to make sure that no small pieces are left in it. That was also given free to everyone.

 

Q: What about the hajj?

A. People would go in buses, and food was the same as in normal everyday life. Pilgrims would give their neighbours meat from a slaughtered animal.

 

Q: At the ‘Eid?

 

A. Sheep would be slaughtered and the meat distributed to everyone in the village. People used to depend on those animals, because they were farmers, and in their daily life they depended on rearing livestock and growing crops. They would slaughter animals for every occasion, not like the people of the cities, where they bought meat by the quarter kilo or kilo. In al-Kabri, they would kill chickens every day. There was no need to buy any kind of food, they grew all their vegetables.

 

Q: What was it like when someone died?

 

A. They would make the same food as they did for a wedding: manaasef with meat and nuts, but when it came to kibbeh, the villagers would not pound kibbeh for forty days after a death. If one of the neighbours wanted to eat kibbeh he would go and visit a relative in another village and eat kibbeh there.

 

Q: What would you give a woman who had just had a baby?

 

A: On the first day, she would drink cinnamon (you pound cinnamon and boil it with walnuts and other nuts), because those things would increase the amount of milk in her breasts. On the second day, cinnamon would be cooked with rice and sugar and she would eat that dish for two days. After that she started to eat grilled meat and chicken cooked in all sorts of ways. She would keep to that diet for forty days, and then go back to eating as usual.

 

Q: What about pregnant women?

 

A. If the foetus was sick and the mother had a miscarriage, she would go to the doctor. There was a hospital in Nahariyya near ‘Akka – it was a Jewish village but they were all living together — it was foreign Jews who occupied the country. In Nahariyya there was a woman called Jewish Mariam, who used to treat women who didn’t get pregnant, she used to give them special medication. They didn’t use herbs to treat illness, they would immediately use modern medicine. The Jewish people in Nahariyya were peaceful, they never hurt Palestinians, but treated them with respect and cordiality. The people of al-Kabri would also seek treatment in Naharaya, and a doctor from Nahariyya would go round to the villages to treat patients. There were restrictions on the way people could be treated: no male doctor could examine a woman; a female doctor would treat women and a male doctor would treat men.

 

Q: What were the various seasonal foods?

 

A: Moghrabiyya was cooked in winter, and stuffed intestines were also made in winter. There was more food in summer, but it was largely vegetables. Vegetables and fruits were only eaten in season.

 

Q: How did they heat water?

A. With firewood or on a kerosene stove, but mostly on firewood because there weren’t many stoves. Around al-Kabri the land was not arable, and the people of the village used to cut firewood and there was no problem with that, because there were plenty of trees nearby: oak, sareer, carob, and al-andoor.[2]

 

Q: What food was prepared when people got engaged?

 

A. First of all, food and drink was prepared in the house of the bridegroom before they went to the bride’s house. The groom’s family would invite the whole village and everyone would contribute something (even if it was only something simple). Some people would give cloth – there were no tailors. Each woman would make clothes for herself and her family. Or there might be one woman in the village who would sew for everyone. Other people might bring night-gowns, everyone in the village would bring something as a gift for the bride and groom – rings, silk sheets, or sweetmeats. The sweets that were bought from ‘Akka were sugared almonds or sugared hazelnuts. They put the sweets on a tray when the groom went to the house of the bride to ask for her hand. They would take her bracelets, two rings and a wedding ring. Relatives would also bring rings, bracelets, necklaces and ijhadiyat [3]— gold coins to put in her plaited hair (six gold coins).

 

Q: Were there any ‘Arab’ doctors?

 

A. The ‘Arab’ doctor couldn’t do much. Most people would go straight to the hospital, and would only go to the ‘Arab’ doctor if they broke or fractured a bone, or had a sprain.

 

Q: What is the recipe for ka’k?

 

A: The recipe for ka’k hasn’t changed. They used to use walnuts, cinnamon, and sugar. Also pine nuts and dates. In order to keep ka’k they used to thread them and hang them on the wall, that way they wouldn’t spoil. Life in Palestine was easy and children were strong and resilient. Everything we ate was natural, and contained no chemicals at all. Every morning the children would eat eggs or drink milk, as well as eating honey and yoghurt. This was what everyone in Palestine had for breakfast.


[1] A mandeel is a woman’s headscarf, decorated with crochet work, beads, and other ornaments.

[2] We haven’t found the English for sareer and andour yet.

[3]  Ijhadiyat may be a mistake for majidiyat, an Ottoman gold coin.

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