You are eating me, served up on a plate.
The dishes at my supper clubs are a mezze of my feelings, research and stories, experiments, and my ever oscillating states of mind. They are a culmination of the different ways I marry the culinary world and my art practice.
My gazpacho, fuses the plumpest locally grown, yet mangled tomatoes with stale bread made by a friend seeking to escape his hectic life. I am blitzing this as Black Mirror disperses its dystopian aura, draining me. I balance this emotionally depleting gazpacho puree with a generous helping of my doting love by throwing in crisp, juicy wedges of watermelon. This yin and yang of flavours, is a sacred gesture in an unsacred world.
My dishes travel through time, sprinkled with nostalgia, geo-politics and belonging. But they spring from my interest in site-specific urban research and place-making. As a guide with Frying Pan Adventures, stories are the currency in which I communicate every mouthful on our food tours. This has given me access to an abundant realm of culinary research that oozes into any dish I make.
I cannot escape critically unpacking food, migration, place-making and how we as people survive, adapt, and innovate. I playfully perform a conversation that leads guests to take note of the layers and complexities of the foods that they are eating. We gently shed light on slippery colonial and political topics through savouring the Palestinian national dish, understanding the connection between Korean and Uzebeki cuisine or teaching guests how to eat with their hands.
Back at my dining table, you’re sitting in a mind map, where these stories ooze onto the walls, the annotated drafting paper that is my table cloth and my open kitchen.
Ask me to teach you how a dish is made, or to cook for you, inside me will erupt this volcanic generosity to teach you how to make something resourceful, meditative and contemplative. I teach you how to carve out a niche in your hectic schedule, how to substitute ingredients and how to muster the courage to invent. When I hand over the baton of the recipe, the dish will be you, served up on a plate.
In response to Augustine Paredes' Paradise 4 Ever, exhibited at Gulf Photo Plus, I was commissioned to respond to his practice through an edible installation. Inspired by his images, memory collages, bittersweet undertones and his assemblage of objects and still lifes, the installation encompassed the grotesque, the opulent, the dramatic, and the fragmented. His images, textiles lights and plinths served as vessels to hold an array of foods- the sweet, the savory, the bitter, the fishy- dates stuffed with preserved lemon, spiced apple tarts, edamame and truffle dip, labneh balls with activated charcoal were spread across the table, and reassembled as the night went on. Natural dyes were woven in, such as activated charcoal, blueberries, turmeric and hibiscus were also woven into the mix.
During Art Jameel's Shifting Earth Symposium, as part of the Food, Colour and the Multisensory panel, I presented a tasting feast using the produce from Shamsa to create dishes through different alchemical methods.
The Shifting Earth Symposium was described by Art Jameel as an event which would "explore the biodiversity and ethnobotany of the UAE landscape, the broader region of the Arabian Peninsula, vis-a-vis the global biodiversity crisis."
I was commissioned by the Kashta Supper Club to create meal which celebrated different Ramandan traditions, recontextualizing them in a way that is sentimental, relevant and wholesome.
Their inaugural evening is a ghabga, meaning quite literally to gather with the origin being ghabouk, an old Arabic word meaning late eating at night.
You can commission me for private bookings for parties of 4-6
Stay tuned for upcoming supper club dates hosted at my home!
Dubai - United Arab Emirates
Photo Courtesy Kathleen Hoare (2020).
Copyright © 2021 Nahla Tabbaa - All Rights Reserved.