Veganism throughout the world 🌍
What is culture without food? Across countries and oceans, everlasting traditions of gathering are often organized by dining - with colorful, hand made, and beloved meals! Food in itself is its own culture! Historically, the Middle Eastern diet has been influenced by both desert climate and agricultural trade across the Mediterranean. Palestine is timelessly known for having distinct spices and incredible, organic foods - lots of which are actually vegan. If anything - several Palestinian appetizers, dishes and drinks can easily be made to fit vegan or vegetarian lifestyles - and I'm here to remind you of it!
What is a vegan?
Veganism 🌱 is a diet, or way of life, where one makes the choice to avoid consumption of animals and dairy products (including eggs, cheeses, + poultry). In a sense, vegans eat foods that are largely plant based!
A vegetarian diet is one that continues to excludes animal meat but does include dairy products.
A pescatarian diet 🍣, one that I personally follow, is a diet that includes almost everything - but the animal protein sources are exclusively seafood.
POV: If you’ve visited a Palestinian restaurant before, you know that the typical introduction is absolutely overwhelming (in the best way)! Less than minutes after you're seated, the servers greet you with a friendly hello and begin sorting nearly 10 different plates of appetizers, veggies, dips, and sauces onto the table. Some are spicy, some refreshing, and some are warm! Vegan appetizers above include chilled corn salad, hummus with sumac, turkish salad (🌶) , three different salads, caramelized carrots, and a sweet egglant and pepper blend. In fact, these plates are typically not included in the bill. In Palestine, this is the house way of showing hospitality!
So. Many. Salads.
Salads are a large part of Palestinian food culture. My favorites include - Tabbouleh, Jerusalem Salad, Fattoush and Tahini Salad! As in lots of countries, they are served as appetizers or as sides (but most people prefer it as a side 😂). In my personal experience this past summer as a pescatarian, I frequently ordered salads as my main course! And yes - thanks to the large servings - they did fill me up! Vegans in Palestine can always find a variety of house salads on menus that can be modified with whole grains to be more nutrient dense and hearty! To make the famous Fattoush Salad I dream about - check out this link!
Eat your fruits and veggies!
In the hot desert, it's common to find a huge supply of superfoods like figs, pomegranates, lemons, mulberries (otherwise known as toot), and of course - watermelons! 🍉 Well preserved foods like grains, leafy greens, and citruses are enjoyed daily in Palestinian homes. Palestinians will always treat their guests with nuts, juices and teas during their afternoon stay. In the evenings, dinner guests will be served a big, warm, and hearty meal (i.e. Mujadarra, a rice and lentil blend recipe topped with caramelized onions) with different salads on the side. Although some famous Palestinian desserts are not vegan (like Knafeh 😢), you can always bet on making a plate of fresh cut fruit alongside a warm cup of shay ☕️ for your after-dinner sweet tooth!
Better Health & Longevity
Sometimes, we forget our gut health has a big impact on our mental and heart health. As vegans rely on a nutritious, plant based diet, 56% have claimed to have seen an improvement in their digestion due to consuming less-processed foods and simpler, cleaner eats instead. **In Palestine, you can always count on trusting the natural food you're eating to further benefit your health!
Planting and growing trees - like fig, pear, date - is the most rewarding activity to attain your own package deal of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Fruits like mulberries (toot 🍇) promote immunity and levels blood sugar, while nuts like pistachios and cashews serve as plant protein and lower cholesterol! In general, all organic foods grown in Palestine are supported by the environmental factors (like a strong sun and fertile soil) surrounding it, and the taste surely embraces that. A pesticide-free lifestyle? Sign me up!
To note, it’s common for homeowners in Palestine to grow their own harvest. Under control of the occupation, Israeli settlers have stolen acres and miles of olive oil trees (which are some families' source of income), so Palestinians do not take these opportunities for granted. Whole grains, fruits, veggies, and olives are all picked and packaged daily by street vendors and grocery markets. For visitors to Palestine, you can certainly check out the fresh markets and stands any day of the week to get your daily dose! 🍒🍌🍎
Grandfather's Liquid Gold
My grandfather, now 73 years old, swears his existence by zeit zatoun (olive oil). In my grandparents house in Kufer Malik, vegan-friendly staples on our breakfast table included zaa'tar (spice mixture), zeit zatoun (olive oil), galayet bandora (sautéed tomatoes), m'shat (cauliflower fritters) and my grandmother’s homemade and toasted shrak (flatbread).
I only had a few bites of bread dipped in zaa'tar alone, and my grandfather noticed...in a bit of an offensive way. “Seedo! You need to have zaa'tar with zeit. You know, working in construction has broken my bones, made me sore, and incredibly exhausted sometimes. But at my age and still working, I know that having olive oil every day has given me more strength and healed me". Medicinal benefits of olives include oleic acid, iron, fiber, vitamin E, and phenolic compounds. And to be quite honest - olive oil has been the backbone of every single delicious Palestinian meal anyway! After this conversation with my Seedo, it'd be safe to say that I ate zaa'tar with zeit for the rest of my trip. 😂
In short - Palestine is a very vegan friendly country and you shouldn't have any doubts as to navigating your health and diet preferences while visiting the country. If you find any of these diets in Palestine interesting, please share this blog and continue the conversation!
Check out a vegan friendly breakfast made by sitti!
Palestinian meals of all kinds pay a tribute to preserving Palestinian identity. We don’t want certain opposing settlers to attempt claiming Hummus, Shakshuka, Knafeh, or even Zaa’tar as apart of their origin now, do we?
Disclaimer: This blog is not written to make or break what you choose to put on your plate. We respect all diversified and intentional diet preferences. Sahtain! 😊