My memories of Palestine remain vivid to this day. From hearty meals at home with seasonal ingredients and Za’atar always made by my Tita (grandma). My recipes are influenced by my Palestinian roots, infused with my experience of American living, my travels, my mama, my titas, colourful farmers markets, nostalgia, and of course with my family and friends from worldwide.

My food journey takes place around my kitchen in Chicago where I live with my husband David and 3 girls and our dog Mickey. Cooking has been my creative outlet, and despite the stacks of dishes my source of relaxation.

I was inspired by my mom and my tita who are both such amazing cooks. My grandma had her own garden, she planted everything from tomatoes, garlic, herbs, zucchini… etc. to the almond, olive, lemon, apricot and fig trees that my sido (grandpa) planted almost 100 years ago in our family garden in Jerusalem. My passion to develop Almond & Fig is to recreate my childhood dishes and the memories that took place around our kitchen table and my grandparents garden. I cook to remember the place I came from (Palestine) and to pass that connection on to my children. Through my cooking and stories, I hope to inspire you to cook food from an often misunderstood part of the world. To tell your own story, preserve your traditions and make new ones.

Summer is the perfect time for family gatherings and outdoor picnics. On the  4th of July, I love to celebrate being an American with Palestinian Roots with a delicious family BBQ.  Days before, we explore all kinds of marinates, spice mixes, and all sorts of meats ranging from lamb kiftah, kabobs, to ribs. 

For my family here in the USA, shish taouk time means there will be lots of coolers filled with fresh green tabbouleh, plates of hummus, pita bread, and lots of metal skewers piled high with meat, onions, and tomatoes. While the charcoal grills are being prepped, stainless steel pots for arabic coffee with cardamom and mint tea are also getting ready. Right under one of the big trees there is always a watermelon sitting there in the shade.

Our summer holiday gatherings always involve all of the cousins and whichever relative or friend happens to be in town. While we are together, we reminisce about our life back in Palestine with the occasional arguments over politics or soccer games. When we are together we try to recreate the feelings of being home in Palestine. We are often hungry for the food, for the home, for family, and for the old tastes of childhood so dear to our hearts.

Guest Contributor

Mai Kakish

Mai Kakish is a writer, cook, and grocery shopper behind Almond & Fig