Four Stories community partner from Jordan, Fatima Obeidat, stars in two new videos. She is founder of Kananah Women’s Organization, which assists Syrian refugee women and low-income Jordanian women to develop food-based livelihoods.
In the first video Fatima talks about za'atar that her organization prepares for export to the US. Za’atar is the name for both an herb (Origanicum syriacum, related to thyme) and an archetypal Palestinian spice blend, which combines the herb with sesame seeds, sumac and other spices.
The video starts with two bags, one with dried za’atar (Origanum syriacum) and the other with the same product but ground. No spices added yet. The za’atar spice mix is in the containers (it is called Dukkah in Arabic, with a hard k in the middle). It is also called za’atar baladi (original zaatar) and its ingredients are simple: the thyme-like herb mixed with sumac, roasted sesame, and salt.
Fatimah says that za’atar when eaten with olive oil on bread – a favourite snack through Palestine – provides a complete meal, with added health benefits from the herb. (The other voice in the video is just reminding her of her steps, including tasting the product.)
A little online research indicates that za’atar has some impressive health benefits: boosting the immune system and skin health, building strong bones, increasing circulation, clearing the respiratory tracts, soothing inflammation, boosting energy, improving mood, aiding memory, and treat chronic diseases. (We can’t vouch for all these benefits!)
In the second video, Fatima talks about makdous, the contents of the metal cans prepared for export to the US. It is a preserved/ pickled eggplant that is usually eaten for smaller meals (breakfast and dinner) or as a side dish with lunch (the main meal). Makdous is almost always part of a mezzeh platter.
Fatima describes the process:
blanched small eggplant
diced sweet and chili peppers (some people use fresh and others powder)
Once the eggplant is blanched, make a slit on the side and stuff it with a mix of the other ingredients. Preserve in olive oil. Fatima mentions that between the nuts, garlic and vegetable, makdous is a very healthy meal addition at any time.
Fatima hopes that her export project will be successful and that people of Arab descent living in diaspora will be able to find both products in America and thus eat something from "home." She praises all the children who are living and working away from home in order to help their families.