Desire and the Palestinian Kitchen

15 March, 2022


Wait for her and do not rush.
If she arrives late, wait for her.
If she arrives ear­ly, wait for her.

—Lessons from the Kama Sutra, Mah­moud Darwish


Fadi Kattan


When I think of desire in the kitchen, I think of that tin­gling sen­sa­tion when one devel­ops a recipe and waits…waits for it to trans­late from an idea into the actu­al preparation…then the cook­ing moment. Then the plat­ing. And after that, the first time you taste it. And the first time you serve it and wait for the first guests to taste it.

Noth­ing more than that stan­za from Mah­moud Darwish’s poem put into music by the fab­u­lous Trio Joubran cap­tures those instants of wait. And yet he talks about a man wait­ing for a woman, not a cook in a dark kitchen wait­ing for a dish.



All through the ages, chefs were per­ceived as a bit of a strange per­sona, hud­dled up in a dark kitchen, often in noble or roy­al man­sions, in the base­ment. They would con­jure a sort of mys­ti­cal unholy mag­ic to cre­ate dish­es served in great pomp at the hosts table.

The desire to first excel and then the desire to share the plea­sure of the fla­vors with the guests and the world at large is an instant that fills the chef with such anx­i­ety that often they go mad. That this instant push­es them over the edge and a fren­zy of feel­ings and thoughts rush through the chef’s mind and ner­vous sys­tem in this instant where the cul­mi­na­tion of the courtship of the dish and the deep desire to please.

Despite their airs of big bul­lies and insen­si­tive beasts, chefs are a fun­ny breed, mix­ing a lot of this author­i­tar­i­an qua­si rigid com­mand in a kitchen and with­in them­selves being I believe the most sen­si­tive and frag­ile beings.

The Arts of the table being close to the Kama Sutra, although with dif­fer­ent rela­tions, pro­tag­o­nists and ele­ments, the rhythm and the wait, the build-up and the ten­sion, the meet­ing of fla­vors, tex­tures and soul into a dish, the reveal of the final dish and then the plea­sure, the chefs become the cre­ators and at the same time the naked souls wait­ing for the plea­sure of shar­ing with oth­ers an illumination.

Desire is an expres­sion of many states and con­texts and yet in the kitchen, they morph into one, the desire of a moth­er to share nour­ish­ment with her child, the desire of a lover to seduce, the desire of a patri­arch to ensure the per­pet­u­a­tion of a craft, the desire of a child to have fun and the desire of long­ing to recre­ate a taste from nos­tal­gia with the intense desire to cre­ate for the future an enlight­ened idea, all wrapped up into a small ves­sel, a dish, a plate, a bowl that con­tains all those desires.

And the desire for Beau­ty! Which chef does not try to arrange, pre­pare, dress their plate in its finest? Which chef does not ago­nize before a ren­dez-vous about the choice of the out­er lay­er of their dish, about the finest details of the vest­ment and the most pre­cise detail of the gar­nish? Which chef does not, in a moment of fol­ly, sens­es that their dish does not look good enough for that ren­dez-vous and in that instant, let their pri­mal crav­ings run wild in decon­struct­ing the dish, splash­ing the sauce in a fit wor­thy of a desire struck creator?



Franco-Palestinian chef and hotelier Fadi Kattan has become the voice of modern Palestinian cuisine. Hailing from a Bethlehemite family that has on the maternal side cultivated a francophone culture and on the paternal side, a British culture with passages in India, Japan and the Sudan, Fadi’s cuisine and savoir-faire combine worldly influences, a desire for perfection and a passion for the local terroir.

Arab cuisinecuisinedesirefoodMahmoud Darwish


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