After the 12th day of shelter-in-place, it has become necessary to go out again to buy some nonessential groceries. Watching the contents of the refrigerator run out gradually in calculated amounts did not bother us, nor did making a long grocery list this time.
We like making lists of whatever.
Recently, we felt brave enough to try out new international and local recipes. We finally soaked one kilo of large navy beans that had been on the shelf for more than a year. We soaked them overnight, then boiled and cooked them. My wife and I are thinking of soaking some chickpeas today. This will give us a lot of options to indulge ourselves tomorrow.
Hummus, musbaha, fattah, falafel, mujaddara with chickpeas, etc.
Before corona, we did not have the time to address the legume crisis and eat them. I did not feel that the process was worth the effort. Now, however, is the time to expand the menu. There is enough time to think and cook well. Making a compromise with the legumes and taking into account their need for soaking is interesting.
I admit I’m slow.
The breakfast table included a diverse array of foods at the beginning of the crisis. We were not too concerned as the food gradually depleted. The menu for the first 12 days consistently included zeit (oil), zaatar (thyme-based spice) and some variety of cooked or semi-cooked eggs. The second egg carton just finished the other day, the last on the list of essential items for making endless recipes.
Leaving the house is a risk we can avoid for now. There is still enough zeit and zaatar for breakfast for 10 days as long as we manage to convince our appetites of that.
I had previously tested and proved my theory of zeit and zaatar while I was a student at Birzeit University. The quality of food on the table did not matter and repeating the meals was normal. Buying the right cigarettes was way more important then.
I would like to double-check the theory and reassure myself only to brag to future generations about my proven opinion.
Zeit and zaatar are all we need to survive.
I am such an extraordinary man.
Staring at the bowls of zeit and zaatar at this very moment, I wonder about the reasons behind my chauvinist admiration. Perhaps the strength of zeit and zaatar stems from their simple local components, how deeply close I feel to the olive tree and the abundance of zaatar on top of the nearby hills. Although I’m aware my statement is naïve, I claim there is a particular truth: a Palestinian will never starve if they rely on zeit and zaatar for legendary strength.
Legends are my last resort.
My childish self was playing with the zeit and zaatar as the unwelcome noise from the occupation’s drone lingered in the background. The drone roamed the sky of Ramallah on this intense day of 2020, Palestinian Land Day.
The drone’s noise is terrifying if you think about it separately. However, it sounded somehow normal against the more terrifying global pandemic; besides other, short-term priorities already occupied my mind.
How do these tools of conquest continue to be used—I mean, the noise of the drone—while the global pandemic is still at our doors and windows?
During this break that the virus imposed on us, everything is quiet and distant except for my thoughts about zeit and zaatar and the background noise of that drone.
What has remained from the occupation’s tools except for my fear of it?
There is relative safety. I am far enough from the nearest soldier, sitting at the table, staring at my bowls of zeit and zaatar after the other dishes are now empty. Otherwise, I am not doing much these days, except sitting at this table, writing.
The longer the disengagement, the more I feel the occupation’s fear of me but not my fear of it.
That damn thing could not bear to stay away from me even for a few days. It is rushing to break into what had been left of my home. It comes to me masked, scared of contracting the virus during the raid. It strips some life off me before fleeing, slowly and pathetically.
They are afraid, too.
The power relation between myself and the Israeli occupation is not limited to the direct impact of oppression that includes annihilation, exile and displacement. It is deeper and more intense. It has been entrenched for decades until it becomes compulsive and pathological, shaping both of us consciously and unconsciously.
Subjugation is the habit of the occupier and submission is the image of the ideal victim.
We were cursed to think that the world does not sympathise with the powerful. Cross-legged, we sat in the comfortable end of this dichotomy of subjugation where the Israeli occupier is the oppressor while the Palestinian is the victim.
Each fuelled the other until the equation of the unjust world settled. Each blamed the other to justify their actions and reactions. They steal the air, water and soil of the earth, and we, the complicit victim, are happy with the whining.
There is no escape from the claws of dual oppression except with a resilient economy based on growing and manufacturing. This conscious Palestinian economy shall understand the difference between essential goods and nonessential items filling up the shelves and streets. It shall have the agency to decide and assimilate the dishes on the dining table.
I stopped my revolutionary thoughts and justified anger in a moment of certainty.
I told myself:
The complex journey, or journeys, the ingredients took to get to this table in front of me exceeds my desired disengagement and liberation from the Israeli. Some Palestinians and Israelis cannot live without the quinoa imported from South America. Yes, the quinoa that the poor harvest there.
Hence, whatever crosses my mind is mere nonsense.
War is more complicated than I thought and there are others besides us in the free-world market.
Far away from the drone and close to the zeit and zaatar, I sit staring at the bowl of soaked quinoa on the kitchen shelf.
The world has nothing to do with my most important experience. I am looking for an independent meal. Is there really any?