A Palestinian-American talks about finding a place to belong in food.

For the last episode in Food at Home series, meet my friend Laila El-Haddad.

Like many in the Palestinian diaspora, “food is a place” for Laila. A people driven out of their home by political conflict, Palestinians find solace in creating the sights and smells of home in foreign countries, through their ethnic cuisine. “For Palestinians, home is often in food, because home is not a place you could reside in or visit often,” said Laila. 

But Laila’s love for food goes beyond cooking. She is fascinated by the stories behind food. Her works explore the history of cuisine and the connection between politics, colonization and what we are consuming. Her book The Gaza Kitchen: A Palestinian Culinary Journey, co-authored with Maggie Schmitt, features original stories of food, heritage and families, collected during Laila’s visits to her hometown. The book was embraced by the late Anthony Bourdain, among others, who called it “a classic of world food.” 

In this video conversation, Laila shares her story of growing up as a global citizen-at-large and how that shaped her journey as a culinary anthropologist. She also prepares a delicious Daggan or Gazan Salad with many fresh ingredients from her vegetable garden. 

Written and produced by Saima Adil Sitwat.

Funding for Food at Home is provided by Maryland State Arts Council. 

Published by Saima Adil Sitwat

Writer, Speaker, Educator

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