Thursday, 26 January 2012

Chapter 101 The great maqloubeh race

If my students have learned nothing else, they have learned that Miss Sara's favorite food is maqloubeh.

It's been on their worksheets, slipped into their readings, used as essay topics and inserted into grammar examples.

Maqloubeh, by the way, is a traditional Palestinian dish that is sublime.

It is the layer cake of the savory world.

A base of spiced rice, covered with layers of fried vegetables. Normally any combination of potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes and cauliflower. These are then often topped with cooked chick peas and slow boiled chicken or meat.

Then there's the flip. 'Maqloubeh' translated into English literally means 'turned upside down'. The dish is cooked upside down in a big pot and then flipped onto a large tray where it sits like a cake, ready to be eaten.

Despite months of this intense subliminal messaging campaign, no surprise maqloubeh delivery was made to my desk in the teacher's room.
During yet another in class discussion of maqloubeh, I told the class that the student who brought me maqloubeh would receive an A in their weekly test.

I was only half joking. 

By this point, many of my colleagues had become aware of my maqloubeh quest and decided to get in on it. Team points and bragging rights were being offered to classes from second grade up to 7th to the kids who brought maqloubeh for Miss Sara.

Suddenly entire processions of maqloubeh started arriving at the staff room, enough to feed all the teachers!

Each dish outdid the previous one. Often accompanied by side salads and drinks.

At one point, we had received 10 maqloubehs in one week.

I returned each pot to my students filled with sweets or chocolates and made a thank you call to mothers I knew personally.

"Tell me honestly Sara, was my maqloubeh better than the other mothers?"

Apart from being extraordinarily well fed for a fortnight, it was a beautiful gesture on the part of the students and their families. And a tribute to the famous generosity and hospitality of Palestinians.

Not to mention their cooking skills.


  1. Yum. I love maqloubeh. Had some at the peace centre Bethlehem for lunch today. Rice was lovely but chicken had been deep fried, cop-out....

  2. Ooooh, not the same! You're in Ramallah right? Soon I will tell you about a great musakhan restaurant not far from you :D

  3. E.Jlem, but often in Ramallah. Yes, do tell :)

  4. And so the West Bank Food Network was born... :)

  5. ok but surely this didnt impact the grades and surely you stressed that good governance involved transparent and objective criteria based on fairness and equality and that all of this is one big culinary "joke" right

  6. btw the best one i ever had was in beit jallah but it was closely followed by one made by a bedouin family in tel sheva which was closely followed by one made by a dude from tira that we had in mizpe ramon.. the last one was vegetarian and it was incredible!

  7. Delicious dish! I really must learn to make it properly :D

    Haven't had it in Beit Jala but they have a famous grilled chicken restaurant there called Al Qaabar which is great!

  8. my bedouin friend freaked me out.. seriously.. god bless him.. there i was sitting in his house and he brings out a tray the size of a truck wheel just for me.. it had at least 4 full birds on it.. and he wouldnt let me ease up until i ate at least a quarter on my own..
    it was delicious (included noodles) but how many winged critters can one devour in one hit..