University of Haifa International School Student Blog
Foodies Delight – The Meaning Behind the Plate
This week we celebrated the American holiday Thanksgiving. Regardless of the back-story you’ve been taught in school (because yes they vary) Thanksgiving today is a reason to bring together family and friends, eat some great food, and most importantly to be reminded of the things we are thankful for.
As an American myself I was very interested to hear that the International School would be serving a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Let me phrase that, not only am I American, but I am southern American and we southerners are the FOUNDERS and INNOVATORS of good, home cooked food, y’all! So I came hungry to see the competition and grub on some good food!
Pictured is a traditional Thanksgiving plate on the left and my Thanksgiving plate here in Haifa on the right (below).
Overall impression: Not bad! I expected to see hummus at the table so I was beyond impressed. Still doesn’t beat granny’s cooking back home, but considering we are 6,000 miles away and the event was put together by all Israelis I am very impressed! The only major concern I had was where is the gravy, baby?
This dinner showed me how important food is to culture. The American pride in making the best Thanksgiving feast is a territorial claim! I thought, “I know we can’t be alone in this. There have got to be other nations and other cultures that hold food traditions so very near and dear to their hearts.” Sure enough, prideful foodies are all over the world. Many countries have holidays and festivals dedicated primarily to their traditional mouth-watering plates.
Here are a few of my favorites….
Diwali (India) – Also known as the “Festival of Lights”… it’s customary to make an assortment of sweets and desserts. In other words, dessert before dinner? Yep. I’m a fan.
Eid al Fitr (Tajikstan) – Feasting marking the end of the Muslim month of Ramadan. Usually the biggest feast of the month.
Julbord Smorgasbord (Sweden) – Special Christmas buffet specific to Sweden. Can you say MEAT?!
Genna (Ethiopia) – Another version of a Christmas plate. Completely different (and totally different) from the Swedish equivalent, but from the looks of it, equally tasty.
Orthodox Christmas (Russia) – Last Christmas one, I swear. Christmas in Eastern European families is a bit later. Orthodox Christmas is usually celebrated on January 7th versus the traditional December 25th.
Easter (Greece) – Greeks are masters at creating phenomenal food whether it’s a holiday or just a Friday night. Greece is especially known for their feasts during the Christian holiday of Easter.
Dia De Los Muertos (Mexico) – Otherwise known as “Day of the Dead” is a day to honor your ancestors and eat some Mexican classics. Being a Mexican food lover, I am a bit biased towards this holiday. Yum!
Eid al Adha (Pakistan) – Feast marking the end of the Muslim Hajj period. Like Christmas feasts, the table presentation really depends on the heritage of the cook. Call me crazy, but this looks a bit like American Thanksgiving food, right?
Oktoberfest (Germany) – Yes guys, there is more to Oktoberfest than pitchers and more pitchers of beer! Meat lovers rejoice this is YOUR holiday.
Chuseok (South Korea) – This is my favorite example that culture means EVERYTHING when it comes to food. Chuseok is nicknamed “Korean Thanksgiving” but it doesn’t even slightly resemble its American equivalent. I still want to try everything on this table though!
Iftar (Morocco) – Muslims are masters at creating feasts! Iftar is a commonplace for the ENTIRE MONTH of Ramadan as families gather to break fast for the day. Any families that create meals like this for an entire month are friends to me!
Passover (Israel) – How do you celebrate freedom from slavery? FOOD. The Passover plate (covered in this photo) contains certain symbolic foods to Jewish remembrance, suffering, and new beginnings. Proof that food can tell the history of an entire religion and culture.
At the end of the day, a full belly and good times with the ones you love is a reason to celebrate. This week having Thanksgiving on campus not only helped my homesickness a bit, but also reminded me of the great people I have met here in Israel that I would not have met otherwise. I was able to enjoy the meal and share stories with Germans, Serbians, Americans, Koreans, Kenyans, etc. Multiculturalism is what makes our International program at the University of Haifa so welcoming and warm.
What better way to bring people together than with food?
By: Janelle Day
Peace & Conflict Studies, Arabic Language Program