سفره دايمه Sofra Daymeh
Organized by Daleen Saah
سفره دايمه Sofra Daymeh, may your table always be plenty
Residents of metropolitan areas are often familiar with their favorite Mediterranean restaurant. What they tend to be less familiar with is the rich, indigenous tradition of garden/farm-to-table cuisine from conquered and subjugated peoples that often forms the culinary basis of these restaurants. The Palestinian communal dining table, or سفره (sofra), is not only the unacknowledged source of much commercially-successful cuisine in the West, but has long been a site of radical resistance to occupation, colonization, and cultural erasure. Occupation over the Palestinian people bleeds into the occupation over culture, and this event jumpstarts a reclaiming and celebration of Palestinian food as a vessel for preserving culture and therefore existance. This September, NAVEL is thrilled to partner with a guest Palestinian chef Reem Assil for سفره دايمه Sofra Daymeh, a night of exquisite dining and conversation that might change what you think you know about the relationship between food and politics.
Transformed into a contemporary Palestinian garden for the night, NAVEL will host 55 guests for this event, 11 guests to each table. The twelfth guest at every sofra will be a facilitator to encourage questions and discussion throughout the meal. Drawing from their own experience and encouraging you to reexamine yours, each facilitator will guide us through not only the dishes we will eat, but deep-dive discussions around how the food of colonized peoples are co-opted into consumable culture for the colonizers as part of a larger project of indigenous erasure.
This learning and sharing experience continues long after the garden is gone: each guest will receive a zine featuring recipes, essays by program organizer Daleen Saah and other scholars, poems, and a directory of resources for those standing in solidarity with Palestine.
The program continues throughout the fall with dinners in Palestinian-American homes across the country. Limited to six guests at each dinner, these intimate experiences will be offered at a lower ticket price, opening this important project to a broader audience of potential participants, and continuing the conversation around the decolonization of food.
Daleen Saah is an urban planner and designer based in Los Angeles, California. Through consulting over the past 5 years, she has practiced urban planning, land use planning, GIS and spatial analytics, and data story-telling with heavy focus on graphic design and data visualization. As a designer and futurist, her research and scenario building provides critical thought on multi-scale development in the United States, London, Latin America and the Middle East. Currently, Daleen is interested in the advancement of creative programming that welcomes new ways of understanding our city’s ecologies and radically addresses the social and political dimensions of the built environment. As a Palestinian-American, she is equally interested in work that reflects Arab image, identification, and representation.
Reem Assil didn’t plan on becoming a chef, let alone a restaurateur. For the first decade of her professional career, Assil was a community and labor organizer. In 2010, she found herself on soul-searching trek across Lebanon and Syria. It was then she realized how much she yearned to bring her culture back to the States. Inspired by the corner bakeries dotting the streets of Lebanon, Assil decided Arab street food would be the perfect way to bring a little bit of her heritage to Oakland, California. Assil started a baking and pastry course at Laney College and cut her teeth at Arizmendi Bakery & Pizzeria and Grace Street Catering before applying to La Cocina, an incubator concept for women of color in hospitality. By the time she graduated from the program in 2017, popular demand for her food allowed Assil to finally open Reem’s, a bakery/fast casual restaurant with warm, pillowy pita fresh out the dome oven at the heart of the operation. With the belief in the power of food to build community, it didn’t take long for Reem’s to garner serious attention. That same year, Assil was named a 2017 “Rising Star Chef” by the San Francisco Chronicle. Barely a year later, she partnered with Daniel Patterson to open Dyafa, Reem’s larger and slightly less casual sister. By 2018, Assil was named a James Beard Award Semi-Finalist for “Best Chef: West” and “Chef of the Year” by San Francisco Magazine, and Reem’s was ranked among Food & Wine’s Top 10 “Restaurants of the Year.” www.reemscalifornia.com
Visual designed by Daleen Saah