Distraction Free Reading

Recipes of Resistance: Global Digital Gastrosolidarity for Palestine

Terrains of Traditions and Taste

From the North in Safad (where my father is from) and Galilee to the South East in Al-Lydd (where my mother is from) and down to Jerusalem and Gaza, the food differs but is united at the same time, through love and history… Palestinian food is found in the home. That is where it all begins. (Joudie Kalla, Palestine on a Plate, 2016)

Food is the most precious part of Palestinian heritage. For Palestinian food not to go extinct, the young have to learn from the old. (Aisha Azzam, Aisha’s Story, film forthcoming 2024)

Around the world, millions have taken the streets in support of a free and thriving Palestine in the face of active genocide and the continuance of settler colonial violence. Visible on the streets and all over social media feeds, scattered among flags and keffiyehs, are images of the vibrant watermelon. This trinity of nationalist symbols bear a shared honoring of an ancient yet enduring cultural intimacy with Levantine lands. A cursory search about the history of the Palestinian flag’s colors (black, white, red, and green) leads one down many possible origins and mythologies behind the green portion of the flag. These include but are not limited to representing influential Arab dynasties, peace, Islamic faith, as well as a deep love and appreciation for the olive trees which bloom across the landscape. The keffiyeh, a traditional scarf, embodies similar sentiments entangled in its design. Within its iconic weave, visual histories of Palestinian trade pathways, robust fishing culture upon the Mediterranean sea, and once again, the olive trees. Last is the watermelon, which was used as a covert placeholder for the flag during a period of occupation when the display of the flag itself was forbidden. In essence, at the core of these symbols are Palestinian foodways and culture.

As a food studies scholar and food writer myself, these overlaps made their rounds on my social media feeds as well as my mid-shower brainwaves. From recipes to rollerskating accounts, everyone was talking about Gaza and what was unfolding before our eyes—how could we not? I was particularly inspired by Mariam, a Palestinian home cook currently living in California who has been creating and sharing her love of all foods across several platforms under the name “Mxriyum” since 2020. In October, Mariam posted about her lapse in regularly-scheduled recipe posting to call to attention her frustrations around the ongoing violence, ignorance, and dismissal of her homeland, culture, and the dehumanization of Palestinian people by dominant media outlets around the world. Afterwards, she reposted a picture of a bowl of her homemade hummus along with a personal reflection as the caption.

She writes:

Recipes that have been passed down to me by my Palestinian mother 🇵🇸 and I’ve had the honor of sharing them with all of you. ‘Why do you share family recipes?’ My mama has always encouraged me to do so. Food plays a vital role in preserving our culture, and for me, it’s a way to give Palestine a voice through my content. Sharing these recipes is my means of celebrating our heritage and traditions. 🇵🇸

In this moment, Mariam embodied digital gastrodiplomacy. A gastrodiplomat, without a doubt. Mariam casually took on the role and responsibility of explaining to the world, quite simply, the uniqueness and joy of her own (and by extension her family’s) Palestinian foodways, highlighting why it must be shared and protected, as well as how this post contributes to that. The responses were positive, with users applauding her efforts and showing interest in learning more.

Guarding with the Gut: Gastrosolidarity

In this essay, I attempt to weave together insights on Palestinian foodways with my past ruminations on digital food, its related activism, and how these flourish and interact on digital food spaces (DFS). I expand upon past considerations of how I understood and defined digital gastrodiplomacy to include a typology that I refer to as “digital gastrosolidarity.” To reiterate, digital gastrodiplomacy is the collective tinkering of perceptions relating to unified ideas around a country’s “national foods” within online digital food spaces (DFS). The concept of “national foods,” drawing from Ichijo et al. (2019), refer to foods which are “seen as national by at least some members of the nation” (3). National foods’ emphasis is on perception of people and does not make any essentialist claims, but instead respects the agency of the diversity of citizenry, especially in the context of a perpetually globalizing world. Within digital gastrodiplomacy, flows of power tend to shift and deviate, allowing authority on what foods are authentic or what dishes make up a part of a country’s “national foods” to include more kinds of people with differing positionalities towards the nations and certain foods. Here, I specifically focus on the presence and influence of food-focused creators on social media and what they understand and portray to be pillars of Palestinian foodways.

A screenshoot of the Palestinian national dish Msakhan made by TikTok user Mxriyum with a user comment overlaid which says "Such wonderful culture that comes out of Palestine, thank you for showing it to us"

Msakhan (National dish of Palestine) prepared by TikTok user Mxriyum

At times, digital gastrosolidary can be perceived as potentially falling under two schools of terminology and thought: namely, gastropolitics and digital food activism (Appadurai 1981, Low 2020, and Schneider et al. 2018). Gastropolitics typically covers the tensions between food, the senses, and political life—specifically, “how food and sensory references in the domain of political life relate to constructions of group identity, and political and sociocultural differentiation” (Low 2020). I align with Low’s (2020) definition because of the elasticity it provides in framing the dynamic connections between the semiotic codes of food in everyday encounters (Appadurai 1981) and symbolic politics of food within group identities and cultural meaning (DeSoucey 2016). Digital Food Activism (DFA) refers to “internet-based, organized effort[s] to change the food system or parts thereof in which civic indicators or supporters use digital media” (Schneider et al. 2018, 8).  With this in mind, I define and differentiate digital gastrosolidarity to be internet-based collective organizational efforts to demonstrate sociopolitical solidarity for ideas, beliefs, and movements through the construction, tinkering, and sharing of ideas around the ‘national foods’ of a country and the identities of the cultural groups they may be associated with.

Within this piece, I do not claim to define nor lead discussions on what Palestinian foodways and cuisine are, nor do I attempt to simplify and flatten the range of which activism in solidarity for Palestine manifests. If anything, this is a mosaic of how the Palestinian diaspora and their supporters co-create, share, and perform acts of solidarity for Palestine through seemingly everyday mundanities like food, cooking, and eating.

Food Frontiers: Palestinian Plates and Palates

As I’ve previously mentioned, digital gastrodiplomacy allows for citizens and members of a diaspora to explore, share, and negotiate ideas about their national foods from anywhere. As informal yet impactful shapers, they provide blueprints for members of their communities and interested parties to better understand, contextualize, and engage with different national cuisines and foodways on their own terms. It highlights how nationalist nostalgia and/or diasporaic belonging may be cemented in reality through everyday, banal, material practices, allowing for colloquial understandings in face of multiplicity (Bilig 1995; Savaş 2014). Simply put, the taste and feel of a nation can be diverse, fluid, and yet recognizable to those belonging to its citizenry.

Expectedly, Palestinian creators are leading this endeavor. Artist Mirna Bamieh charts such interconnections with food, place, and identity through her project, the “Palestinian Hosting Society” on Instagram. Through artistic performance exhibitions and interactive dining, she weaves together intimacies around land, collective memory, and commensality to further stress the importance of safeguarding cultural heritage. She actively guides fellow members of the Palestinian diaspora and others to embrace “menus of dis/appearance” and reflect on their roles in preserving foodways through foraging, pickling, and savoring. Food creator and writer Wafa Shami regularly shares family recipes and their stories under the name “Palestine in a Dish.” In her children’s books, The Olive Harvest in Palestine, Easter in Ramallah, and When Za’atar Met Zeit, she illuminates important Palestinian ingredients, food production processes, and feasting celebrations.

Gastrosolidarity for Palestine is also commonplace within other online digital food spaces, especially those with politically and morally thematic focuses. Often within such spaces those outside the Palestinian diaspora take up gastrodiplomatic roles. In the Facebook Group “What Broke Vegans Eat” there have been a constant stream of posts where users share food media relating to Palestinian foodways as well as their support for a free Palestine more deliberately. As one user captions:

Mjadra [smiling emoji] original Palestinian tasty vegan cheap dish [tongue out emoji]. My grandma used to make it long before the Palestinian land was stolen! And of course #FreePalestine and #LongLiveResistance

Furthermore, members of the group often spread awareness about boycotts of common vegan foods such as Sabra hummus or Israeli-grown dates during Ramadan, which are linked to sponsorship of the ongoing genocide (Azmi et al. 2024). To supplement, users share their own recipes for these foods as well as provide alternatives, thus prompting digital food activism and resistance at the individual consumer level.[1]

A screenshot of a dinner spread from a user in the Facebook Group "What Broke Vegans Eat" is captioned with a description of various dishes. It ends with the statement "Free Palestine & the world [three watermelon emojis]"

A member of the Facebook Group “What Broke Vegans Eat” shares a picture of their meal as well as a statement on their solidarity with Palestine and many other groups who are seeking liberation around the world.

Instagram chef Michelle Santoso (@Ms_Santoso) began cooking more Palestinian dishes in her repertoire and hosting benefit dinners to raise funds for Gaza from Indonesia. She orients such events as ways to “enjoy delicious tastes and a mutual dedication to helping a cause that matters.” Tiktok chef @Arief_Why1, known for his creations with fried rice, demonstrated his support of Palestine by rejecting requests by users for him to make “a fried rice for Israel” while donning a scarf which incorporated the Palestinian flag within its design. 


Tiktok User Arief_why1 wears a scarf around his head with the Palestinian flag integrated in. A comment from a TikTok User is overlayed asking Atok whether he can make a fried rice for Israel.

TikTok user Arief_why1 responders to a user request to make a fried rice for Israel by wearing a scarf around his head which includes the Palestinian flag in its design.

Whether it’s sharing recipes and stories, raising funds, or demonstrating resistance like boycotts and meme-worthy reactions, members of digital food communities and spaces across the web are uniting in support of Palestine through their engagements with food buying, cooking, and eating.

Menus for Social Change

In this essay, I provided some theoretical approaches towards digesting the ways in which ideas around food, nation, and identity are collectively constructed, tinkered with, shared, and engaged with as a part of greater organizations of sociopolitical solidarity. I provided examples of how Palestinian food creators and allies across the world have acted as digital gastrodiplomats through sharing recipes, cooking techniques, and encouraging boycotts and divestment for different food companies among the greater digital food communities in support of Palestine.

While these examples demonstrate the potential of such efforts, they are not without points of criticism and cynicism. While food has historically fostered and continues to foster interactions and engagements with the deeply personal and thus inherently political, it is insufficient to rely on such gastrodiplomatic moments to demonstrate progress towards healing, reconciliation, or restoration of relationships, whether they be interpersonal or between nations. If anything, they can be understood to be the appetizers within larger menus of social change—we are just getting started, and these are in no way the main course of any efforts to undo historical tensions and harms. As Palestinian food writer Reem Kassis expressed in her recent essay, there are limits to building empathy and reversing extensive dehumanization of the Palestinian people through culinary exchanges in the form of gastrodiplomacy and gastrosolidarity: “I saw how many people were content to savor our food while ignoring my people.” Kassis also implies that such exchanges are not one-sided, but also act as a means for Palestinians to claim further agency in response to settler colonial erasure. She explains, “Each meal at my table is a testament to Palestinian perseverance in the face of such tragedies. It is also a declaration that our culture, and our existence, cannot be extinguished” (Kassis 2024, para. 12). 

Ranta and Prieto-Piastro (2019) make note of such tensions of national food ownership in their inquiries of whether or not “Israeli food” exists. Among the Jewish-Israeli chefs they interviewed for the study, Ranta and Prieto-Piastro noted that, “They recognize that some of the dishes that are termed Israeli have their origin in the kitchens of the Middle East and Palestine” (Ichijo et al. 2019, 128).  When asked to reflect on the same, the Arab-Palestinian chefs within the same study responded “What has, and is, happening is cultural appropriation” (Ibid.)

Potlucks and shared meals are common within activism and organizing. I myself have eaten many times with comrades, tucking into snacks and drinks before diving into discussions. Here, I conclude with the following call to action: after filling your plates and minds with Palestinian food and culture, don’t forget to spend time “showing up.” March in protest, write letters, make calls, boycott brands, hold your lawmakers accountable. As one of the Free Palestine organizers from my local group proclaimed, “Continue showing up in the ways that you can, because we cannot abandon and normalize what’s happening. Palestine is not only good food and good music, it’s also a cause of constant work, commitment, and above all… sacrifice.”


[1] This embodies, as Katharina Witterhold explains in Schneider et al. (2018), a “consumer netizen” identity and praxis.


Atsuko Ichijo, Venetia Johannes, and Ronald Ranta. (2019). The Emergence of National Food: The Dynamics of Food and Nationalism. Bloomsbury.

Appadurai A. (1981). Gastro-politics in Hindu South Asia. American Ethnologist, 8, 494–511.

Azmi, Hadi, Joseph Sipalan and Johannes Nugroho “Consumer boycott widens to include Israeli dates as Muslims in Malaysia, Indonesia observe Ramadan”. https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/people/article/3255423/consumer-boycott-widens-include-israeli-dates-muslims-malaysia-indonesia-observe-ramadan

Billig, Michael. (1995). Banal nationalism. London ; Thousand Oaks, California: Sage.

Cox, Phillip. (2023). “Keeping Palestinian Food Culture Alive”. University of Victoria News. https://www.uvic.ca/news/topics/2023+vibert-palestinian-food+news

Kassis, Reem. 2024. “They Ate At My Table, Then Ignored My People”. https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2024/03/palestinian-food-diplomacy-gaza/677773/

Low, K. E. Y. (2021). Gastropolitical encounters and the political life of sensation. The Sociological Review, 69(1),190-205. https://doi.org/10.1177/0038026120918208

Savaş, Ö. (2014). Taste diaspora: The aesthetic and material practice of belonging. Journal of Material Culture, 19(2), 185-208. https://doi.org/10.1177/1359183514521922

Schneider, T., Eli, K., Dolan, C., & Ulijaszek, S. (Eds.). (2018). Digital Food Activism (1st ed.). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315109930

Syed, Armani. (2023). “How the Watermelon Became a Symbol of Palestinian Solidarity” https://time.com/6326312/watermelon-palestinian-symbol-solidarity/

White, Wajeana, Albert A. Barreda, and Stephanie Hein.  (2019) “Gastrodiplomacy: Captivating a Global Audience Through Cultural Cuisine-A Systematic Review of the Literature.” Journal of Tourismology 5(2), 127-144.

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