THE FEAT of NAWAL’S FEAST  المطبخ العراقي

a documentary about food in Iraq

In this excursion into the Cradle of Civilization, the history and sociology of food is explored while recipes as ancient as Mesopotamia itself, are prepared in Iraqi homes today.

Nawal's Feast:

In an effort to challenge the prevailing mass media images of a country torn by ingrained hatred and ubiquitous destruction, this film offers a unique view of a universal need–the daily preparation of food. The film's focus is the women–from a variety of ethnic backgrounds―and the plethora of food they prepare and share in communities around the country.

Nawal Nasrallah is an Iraqi scholar and food writer who currently resides near Boston. Her book, Delight from the Garden of Eden, forms the basis of the film, from her text I drew historical references for the film such as:

The first cookbook in history was recorded in Babylon on cuneiform tablets in Akkadian Aramaic 3700 years ago. That society had 600 recipes for bread and were already cooking with sauces.

Early tools and chemical processes may have originated in these ancient kitchens. No wonder the names of the earliest known chemists and perfumeresses were those of women.

The purported site of Eden and the tree of life are in the land between the Tigris and Euphrates in southern Iraq. From this mythologically rich territory come delicious fish recipes, water buffalo preparations, and a sensual dance form that developed in the marsh areas due to the confined space on artificial islands.

The film includes scenes from modern restaurants, residential kitchens, Kurdish nomads preparing a meal directly from herd to plate, and a feast with the Arabs of the marsh. I toured markets, fields, orchards and food factories, but mostly I listened to the people who prepare and enjoy the cuisine of a culture that has endured and progressed through millennia.

The film challenges the way western media frames foreign cultures and unveils the some of the post-invasion myths perpetrated by international bureaucracies and a complacent media more preoccupied with sensational stories and advertising dollars than accurate reportage. This taste of Iraq bears traces of bitterness.

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Copyright © 2012 Jean Marie Offenbacher.  All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2012 Jean Marie Offenbacher.  All rights reserved.