Our voice extends far beyond our words, with every action shaping the world we believe in and live in. Daleen Saah, L.A. based Urban Planner + Designer and the visionary behind سفره دايمه Sofra Daymeh, is shining a light on the stories, culture, and politics connected to food we love, expressing our responsibility to be conscious consumers.
The rise of Israeli restaurants serving Palestinian/arab dishes without tribute to these roots is a growing trend in many major cities across the United States. In excluding the voice of Palestine within the cuisine, these establishments are committing cultural appropriation by claiming ownership over a food that comes from the people their state policy actively oppresses. Palestinian-American, Saah is compelled to raise awareness around the implications of cultural appropriation in the context of Palestine, “Erasing a people is done through erasing their culture and therefore identity…Palestinian liberation includes reclaiming ownership of our culture and our cultural elements.” In a collaboration with NAVEL, Saah has curated Sofra Daymeh - an immersive Palestinian food experience where guest are invited to “share the table,” celebrating Palestinian food as a vessel against colonization, therefore preserving the Palestinian identity.
Sofra Daymeh was introduced to the Los Angeles community on September 7, 2019. Saah designed NAVEL into a contemporary Palestinian garden setting, creating a true immersion. “I call this a corrective context for people to enjoy the food they love under an identity that is more appropriate and true.” Dinner was served by renowned chef Reem Assil, and each dish was paired with a description card that bridged the connection to its Palestinian roots. Thought provoking, Sofra Daymeh allowed guests to engage in conversations around each table along with facilitators that were well versed on the topics discussed. A corresponding zine was also provided, featuring essays, poems, recipes, and photographs from some of the many talented Palestinian chefs, artists, and families around the world. The launch tilled the garden in the minds of each guest, as seeds of understanding and critical thinking were planted.
Sunday, September 29, 2019 marks part two of Sofra Daymeh: a film screening of Soufra at NAVEL’s space in Los Angeles. The film follows generational refugee Mariam Shaar and her diverse team of fellow refugee women as they unite a community through their food truck company, regaining their identity and livelihood. The Soufra film has provided these women a platform to share their food, culture, and journeys with all people – as they break bread and build bridges between their different stories.
Sofra Daymeh programming will continue throughout the fall with a series of intimate dinners across the country, opening this important project to a broader audience and continuing the conversation around the decolonization of food.
Food is not only foundational in our survival as humans, but also as a cornerstone of culture and identity. This program awakens us to be conscientious in how we attribute cultural elements amidst current political contexts. Designed within values of positivity, celebration and inclusion, Sofra Daymeh invites every person to the table to enjoy the beautiful and rich flavors of Palestinian cuisine while engage in productive conversation. It is our responsibility to understand the nuances within our cultural world; as we create space to share our stories, we create space for progress.