Monday 18 January 2010

1 February 2010, Mr Falafel

Palestinian Eaterie
Units T4 - T5
New Shepherd's Bush Market
Uxbridge Road
W12 8LH



Our first meal we had the artists Olivia Plender and Petra Bauer; Petra is from Sweden and is engaged with projects in Palestine. She talked about Sweden changing relationships to the region, starting from the left affinity with Israel socialist ideas and the creation of the Kibbutz, to a growing support for the Palestinian cause.
Ahmad Yassine (PhD in chemical engineering - now after the second meal we know how this fact came about, read meal 6), the owner, talked to us a great deal about the colonial notions of the falafel and compared it with the Curry in England. When we asked him if Israel stole the falafel from the Palestinians, he said that he would not use the word 'stole', but maybe 'adopted'. Ahmed spoke about 1948 and his family's village, that is no longer there, apart from a well. He spoke about the history and eradication of Palestinian culture, he mentioned various literary sources, like a relative of his, the famous Palestinian cartoonist Naji Ali. He is famous for his character, Handalah, the little guy that you see in a lot of his drawings with his back to us.

He also mentioned Qalandia airport, and the filmmaker Nahed Awad who made a short film about it, using a lot of archival footage. Ahmad also mentioned the railway, as an example of Palestinian infra-structure, The railway was built in 1892 in Ottoman Palestine by a French company. It is the oldest railway in the Middle East. It is important to also note that generally speaking, when Israeli tourist books mention architecture or anything pertaining to Palestinians, it always refers to the colonizers of them. So, it is either British or Ottoman, therefore Palestinians are insignificant in that equation. Moreover, it makes Israel come across as a liberator of Palestinians from previous colonizers. Larissa and Olivia were talking about finding historical images and other forms of representation that challenge the western notion of 'empty Palestine' , as many are not aware of the cultural vibrancy and urbanization of Palestine prior to 1948. Oreet talked about her education in Israeli schools where there was no mention of Palestinian culture, despite the proximity.
Ahmad was also talking about being the first Palestinian place to advertise itself as such; many Palestinians who work in eateries, or run/ own them, say they are Lebanese. Ahmad was brought up In Lebanon. His dad also works in the shop.

For the first time we try the rotating cheese board from Lewis (£30) with the flip HD video camera, it seems the least obtrusive method of filming sit-down meals.

We are going to Mr Falafel for the next 3 Mondays.


  1. with Olivia Plender and Petra Bauer.

  2. I just read a piece about Falafel Road in Al Jazeera. I came to see the list of Falafel restaurants so I can be sure to stop by the next time I'm in the UK. I LOVE falafel and middle-eastern food, better than Indian in my book. Anyway I think its sad that Falafel has to be politicized. I cannot imagine the Italians and Americans fighting about who first came up with Pizza,certainly if one group were accusing the other of appropriation, the idea of appropriation of culinary dish is only important because of the struggle between the two groups in general not because anyone really cares about the origins or what kind of music people play in their restaurants. In this globalized world we will sooner or later have access to everyone's food and call it our own. Americans think 'Tex-Mex' is american even though its really made up of dishes that seem unadulterated Mexican dishes. Food should be enjoyed by all. Where else but at the table can people enjoy something without having a fight!

  3. Anyway I always thought Falafel was Lebanese, neither Palestinian or Israeli but something one can find throughout the ME.