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Falafel Nation

Cuisine and the Making of National Identity in Israel

Yael Raviv

Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
Imprint: University of Nebraska Press
Published: 11/2015
Pages: 304
Subject: Social Science
eBook ISBN: 9780803290211


When people discuss food in Israel, their debates ask politically charged questions: Who has the right to falafel? Whose hummus is better? But Yael Raviv's Falafel Nation moves beyond the simply territorial to divulge the role food plays in the Jewish nation. She ponders the power struggles, moral dilemmas, and religious and ideological affiliations of the different ethnic groups that make up the "Jewish State" and how they relate to the gastronomy of the region. How do we interpret the recent upsurge in the Israeli culinary scene—the transition from ideological asceticism to the current deluge of fine restaurants, gourmet stores, and related publications and media? Focusing on the period between the 1905 immigration wave and the Six-Day War in 1967, Raviv explores foodways from the field, factory, market, and kitchen to the table. She incorporates the role of women, ethnic groups, and different generations into the story of Zionism and offers new assertions from a secular-foodie perspective on the relationship between Jewish religion and Jewish nationalism. A study of the changes in food practices and in attitudes toward food and cooking, Falafel Nation explains how the change in the relationship between Israelis and their food mirrors the search for a definition of modern Jewish nationalism. 


Yael Raviv is the director of the Umami food and art festival in New York City. She has a PhD in performance studies from New York University and is an adjunct professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at NYU. Her work has appeared in Women and Performance, Gastronomica, and elsewhere.


"Falafel Nation [is] a book that makes food a partner in the creation of Israel in the twentieth century, set in the context of migrations, politics, intergroup struggles, and state building. This work will be an important addition to the literature on food history and the history of Israel."—Hasia R. Diner, author of Hungering for America: Italian, Irish, and Jewish Foodways in the Age of Migration   

"What do Israelis talk about when they talk about food? Yael Raviv explores the food stories emerging from Zionism as they take shape in response to crisis, propaganda, and wave after wave of immigration. This lively and enlightening study of agriculture and cuisine as powerful elements in the task of state-making deserves wide readership in the academy and beyond."—Laura Shapiro, author of Perfection Salad: Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century    

"Original, thought-provoking, and in many ways groundbreaking. Falafel Nation is rich with interesting and insightful ideas and comments that made me think time and again of the ways in which Israel can be observed from the culinary perspective. No doubt, approaching Israeli history, society, and political conflicts from the kitchen and the restaurant allows for a fresh and, indeed, critical view of this society."—Nir Avieli, author of Rice Talks: Food and Community in a Vietnamese Town