A Story About Food And Culture: Aunty Suad’s Legacy – it started when I met Aunty Suad in 2007 over a cup of tea that lasted for hours.
At the time, I was involved in a voluntary project called ‘Taste of Palestine’, which aimed to put together a cookbook by interviewing and sharing the stories and recipes of Palestinian women.
The cookbook was to be published and used to raise money and awareness of the beautiful memories and experiences these women held of their homeland. Moreover, it would have included those traditional recipes we’d all love to get our hands on.
Aunty Suad was one of the first of those amazing Palestinian women I interviewed for that project. We instantly connected as she shared the same passion for culture and cooking that I did. I still consider myself so blessed for being able to listen to Aunty Suad’s life experiences that ultimately inspired me to start my food journey.
She was born and raised in Sor Baher, Palestine. Then she later moved to Amman, Jordan where she raised her three children before all the family migrated to Australia. When we met, Aunty Suad already had seven grandchildren, whom she adored.
She was happy with her life in Australia. However, there were a few things that made her miss her life in Palestine, like the fact that the fresh ingredients she used to cook were from the land where she used to live. Those ingredients were, in fact, the secret behind her tasty food, as she told me numerous times during our conversation.
Her culture, food, and family were incredibly important to her. Aunty Suad believed in the power of food – how a simple dish could bring back so many beautiful memories – and in passing along the wonderful flavours with which her family grew up.
Most importantly, she believed that old family recipes are vital as they take us back to our parent’s and grandparents’ kitchens. That’s where most of our happy childhood memories were made.
During my interview with Aunty Suad, I asked about her favourite recipes and if she could possibly share them with me. Without hesitation, she showed me her authentic cookbook.
Traditionally, recipes are passed down verbally and informally, which makes it extremely challenging for the younger generations. So I was pleasantly surprised that Aunty Suad had a book of handwritten recipes.
She was so proud of her cookbook, tenderly turning page by page, showing me each recipe, and giving me cooking tips. What caught my attention were the many food stains she had all over those pages. This was a well-loved and well-worn cookbook from way back in the day. In short, a real treasure.
I told her that I would just take a few photos of the cookbook before I left. Aunty Suad, however, insisted that the cookbook was so old and dirty that I couldn’t possibly achieve clear photos and she would be embarrassed by this. She promised she would write me down as many recipes as she could. We then ended up talking for more than three hours. It was a memorable afternoon that I’d remember for years to come.
You must be wondering by now what happened to ‘Taste of Palestine’. For many personal reasons, the cookbook didn’t end up going ahead. The project was left unfinished, and I returned to my everyday life.
Sadly, a few years after my interview with Aunty Suad, I received the devastating news of her passing. However, Aunty Suad stayed true to her words. Only a few weeks after her death, I received a large envelope in the mail with a note from Aunty Suad’s daughter. The envelope contained a copy of Aunty Suad’s cookbook. The note read this is very special.
Aunty Suad had thoroughly enjoyed my visit and our conversation, and she wanted me to have her recipes. Unfortunately, she became unwell and was unable to write them for me. This brought tears to my eyes and the cookbook became greatly sentimental to me. I placed it in safekeeping in memory of our meeting.
A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to meet Aunty Suad’s granddaughter for breakfast on Sunday in Soho, Paris. She’s a beautiful girl living in Paris, and she’s just published a book called ‘Sundays in Paris’. It may not be a book full of recipes, but it’s a guide to the best places to eat and drink in Paris. A great passion for food and culture runs in the family, that’s for sure.
Our little chat made me think about my interview with Aunty Suad and her deep, unconditional love for food. Little did I know that my life was going to change so much after meeting this amazing woman who saw history unfold and pushed the limits and boundaries back in her homeland.
Aunty Suad had a wealth of experience and wisdom to offer. Her legacy now lives on through those that she inspired to keep cooking and teaching others about our food and culture so that the next generation has the knowledge to pass it on