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Local producers teach Ammanites food preservation methods

By Camille Dupire - Oct 14,2017 - Last updated at Oct 14,2017

Mouneh food programme features some of the main food preservation techniques including salting, pickling, sugaring, drying, fermenting and roasting (Photo by Camille Dupire)

AMMAN — “Food preservation is one of the best ways to show the movement of heritage from the old times until now,” said Shermine Sawalha, curator of “Mouneh: The art of Preservation” food programme organised as part of Amman Design Week (ADW).

“We are at a time of mass production where people just buy food products without knowing anything about how they are made or where they come from,” Sawalha told The Jordan Times at the ADW, adding that the food programme was an attempt to shed light on the variety of food preservation methods.

Taking the visitors on a journey through the history and customs of food preservation used in Jordan, Mouneh features some of the main conservation techniques including salting, pickling, sugaring, drying, fermenting and roasting.

“Most of those techniques originate from the Levantine region, where locals needed to preserve their harvests from going to waste,” the curator noted, citing the intrinsic link between food preservation and crafts.

“The very first traces of crafts were found in Egypt in the form of basket weavings. People started making those baskets to store the foods they wanted to conserve,” she explained.

This way to “cheat the seasons” by treating food to slow down its spoilage is still widely used across the Kingdom, with many households living off those income generating techniques.

Five of these entities are featured at Mouneh, showcasing their methods of preservation and offering the visitors an immersion into the traditional practices.

At the entrance of the food stall, Bin Izhiman gives a taste of the regional coffee heritage, drawing on the experience of the family coffee house, which has been running since 1893. 

“Bin Izhiman started off with a small motorcycle traveling around Palestine to sell coffee, and has now grown to be the biggest coffee house in Jordan,” Sawalha explained, noting that the house is also a destination for nuts, grains, spices, tea and thyme.

Herbologist Ayman, from Ayman’s Tea House, shows passersby methods of preserving and making a wide variety of tea, coffee and herbal drinks by brewing them over hot sand.

“These people, who come from all across Jordan, are here to teach visitors about the diversity of preservation methods and the importance of sustainable production,” Sawalha said, noting that the interaction offered through the free tasting experience adds up to the impact of their message.

Represented by Ilham, the Bayoudha Village initiative offers visitors the chance to try some home-made date and strawberry organic ice creams and yoghourts produced by the northern Jordanian community 

“We work to preserve the natural agriculture and domestic gardening heritage and avoid any sort of waste,” Ilham said.

Pickled vegetables, fig jams and chili infused olive oil are some of the creations proposed by the Khair Balady initiative and the Ne’meh project, which both promote local production and sustainable agriculture.

Adding to the immersion experience, Samar and Tifreh come every day from Ajloun to make fresh bread, sitting around a mud-based and saj station oven. 

The two women catch the visitors’ attention as they knead the various ingredients into a dough in an enthusiastic manner.

“It all starts with wheat and bread,” Sawalha said, noting that, after the dough is cooked, visitors get to pick and choose from the variety of displayed products to create their own fresh meal from the curated menu.

 

“These producers show people that it is possible to avoid food waste and that everyone can do it at home through the simplest methods that also serve as a testimony to our rich heritage,” the curator concluded.

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