A few months ago I shared a short story of mine, Scarf Sisters, about an Israeli settler who bonds with a Palestinian woman over their identical headscarves. When I read the story to an audience in Jerusalem, I was asked by several people it was based on a true story. It wasn’t, but there were elements of it that were certainly drawn from real life, and one of them is in this passage:
There were lots of eggplants and tomatoes. Rice. Chicken. For Maqlooba, no doubt. I tasted that dish at Eucalyptus just outside Jaffa Gate when my parents took us out on their last visit. The menu said it was an authentic Palestinian dish, and they served it to me with an ostentatious wish-making ceremony that involved counting down and banging on the bottom of the pot with a spoon to loosen the contents. Maqlooba means “upside-down,” the waitress had explained, because of the way it’s served. That might be the only word in Arabic I know.
The Eucalyptus is a real upscale restaurant that specializes in authentic Middle Eastern dishes, drawing inspiration from the food described in the Bible and using primarily ingredients that are native to this region. I’ve eaten there with my husband three times, and the second time, I ordered Maqlooba and the waitress indeed performed the ceremony my character describes in that passage.
The third time was last night, and the couple sitting next to us–who had ordered the tasting menu–was served Maqlooba. My husband quickly whipped out his phone to catch the ceremony on camera:
Shout-out to the Riches from NY (and to the waitress) for letting us capture this! It was lovely to meet you 🙂 I’ll also take the opportunity to wholeheartedly recommend the restaurant if you’re ever in Jerusalem and looking for a unique culinary experience; the food is amazing.