Friday, June 19, 2009

ISRAELI COUSCOUS AT TRADER JOE'S

One of the things which the pro-Palestinian activists who are behind the Trader Joe's action assert is that couscous represents an Israeli cultural appropriation or theft of something originally "Palestinian".

It is an absurd claim on the face of it.
Couscous is not Palestinian, but Berber. It is a staple in North Africa and the Sahel region, though not uncommon in Egypt and the Levant. It has also been eaten for centuries in France and Sicily, Greece and Cyprus. It was known in Italy as a Jewish food.
Even today, couscous is a traditional part of the diet of North African and Mizrahi Jews.



ISRAELI COUSCOUS

Ptitim (פתיתים אפויים = p'titim afuyim = baked flakes), however, is a pasta product that resembles Italian orzo. Unlike North African couscous, it is not raw-rolled semolina at all but a baked wheat product.


From Wikipedia:Ptitim was invented during the austerity period in Israel, when rice was scarce and in order to provide the needs of the Mizrahi immigrants, whose diets were largely made up of rice and couscous. Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, asked Eugen Propper, one of the founders of the Osem food company, to quickly devise a wheat-based substitute to rice. Consequently, it was nicknamed "Ben-Gurion's Rice" by the people.

The company agreed to the challenge and developed ptitim, which is made of hard wheat flour and roasted in an oven. The product was instantly a success and not too long after ptitim made in the shape of small, dense balls (which the company termed "couscous") was added to the original rice-shaped ptitim.

[CUT]
Commonly, ptitim is prepared, with sautéed onions or garlic (vegetables, meat, chicken or sausages can also be added), the ptitim is then added, and fried for a short time before adding water. Ptitim can also be used as a substitute for pasta or rice. They can also go in soup, can be baked, can be served as a pie, or made as a risotto
[SOURCE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ptitim]



DE-SHELVING ISRAELI PRODUCTS

From the letter demanding that Trader Joe's cease selling Israeli Couscous as well as several other products:
" .. the names of products such as "Israeli Couscous" are offensive as they allow a state that was created sixty years ago --[cut]-- to claim a type of couscous that was traditionally produced by Palestinians and other Arabs for generations. This is racist advertising for cultural theft .. "



CULTURAL THEFT?

Rice, tea, cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon, cassia, turmeric, coconut, tamarind, citrus fruits, paper, silk, soy beans, lacquer, porcelain, distilled alcohol .........
Peanuts, okra, ivory, coffee .........
Tomatoes, potatoes, chiles, chocolate, tobacco, corn, vanilla .........
Plastic, stainless steel, modern medicine, the internal combustion engine, radio, computers, synthetic fabrics, telecommunications .........


This world could not function without cultural (especially culinary) cross-fertilization.

Much of our modern diet is the direct result of Dutch and Chinese plant-cultivation - the common orange-hued carrot, as just one example, was developed by Dutch market-gardeners during the Golden Age - but the contributions from the Americas, Asia, and Africa have also been vast.



CALL TO BOYCOTT

Never-the-less, I expect the following organizations and individuals to make do without any of the foods and inventions which are listed above.

ACTION FOR A PROGRESSIVE PAKISTAN, AMERICAN JEWS FOR A JUST PEACE, ANOTHER JEWISH VOICE, SANTA FE, BAY AREA INTERNATIONAL JEWISH ANTI-ZIONIST NETWORK, BIRTHRIGHT UNPLUGGED, BDS BAYAREA, BOSTON BDS, BOSTON COALITION FOR PALESTINIAN RIGHTS, BREAK THE SIEGE, BURNSVILLE AND EAGAN, MINNESOTA PEACE VIGILS, CAMPAIGN TO END ISRAELI APARTHEID – SOUTHERN, CHARLOTTE 4 PEACE, GLOBAL JUSTICE PROJECT, HUMAN RIGHTS ACTION SERVICE - MO, INTERFAITH WITNESS FOR MIDDLE EAST PEACE, JUSTICE FIRST FOUNDATION, JUSTICE FOR PALESTINIANS, OPT OUT!, OWL’S NEST NORTH COLLABORATION, PEOPLE AGAINST HATE SPEECH, QUEERS UNDERMINING ISRAELI TERRORISM (QUIT!), SAN JOSE PEACE AND JUSTICE CENTER, SOUTH ALAMEDA PEACE AND JUSTICE COALITION , SOUTH ASIAN COMMITTEE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS, SOUTH BAY MOBILIZATION FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE, STUDENTS UNITED FOR PALESTINIAN EQUAL RIGHTS, THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST US TERROR WEAPONS, THE OREGON CAMPAIGN TO END ISRAELI APARTHEID, TRI-CITY PEACE AND JUSTICE, US CAMPAIGN FOR THE ACADEMIC AND CULTURAL BOYCOTT OF ISRAEL, VETERANS AGAINST TORTURE, VETERANS FOR PEACE, WESPAC FOUNDATION, WOMEN IN BLACK - LA, TOM ABERNETHY, SALMA ABY AYYASH, CAMBRIDGE, KAMAL AHMED, CHARLOTTE ALBRECH, SALEM AJLUNI, YASMINE ALKHATIB, HANNAH ALLEN, D ALWAN, AHMAD AMARA, ERIC ANDERSON, JUDY ANDLER, JAHAN ANSTAN, LOUISE ANTONY, THOMAS ASH, DEVIN ATALLAH, TERESE ATALLAH, HIMA B, MIKE BALDWIN, JANE BARK, SUSAN BARNEY, KATHLEEN BARRY, BEN BARSON, JAN BAUMAN, KHALIL BENDIB, GRETA BERLIN, BOB BOWES, UMAYYAH CABLE, ELLEN CANTAROW, GEORGE CAPACCIO, CHARLOTTE CASEY, JOHN CASSEL, JOYCE CASSEL, MARGARET CERULLO, PETER CHABAREK, CORTNEY CHILDS, DANIEL CLAYTON, SUSAN CURTISS, DEEMA DABIS, HUMA DAR, L DAVIDSON, WALT DAVIS, KATHLEEN DENSMORE, DAVID DIXON, JACK DRESSER, SUSAN DUNCAN, MARTHA DWYER, JANET EISELEY, JEAN ENTINE, HEDY EPSTEIN, KRISTI ERLICH, SHERIF FAM, SURA FARAJ, FRANCIS FEELEY, DAVID FIELDER, JULIA FIGUEIRA-MCDONOUGH, ROBERT FITZPATRICK, CHRIS FORD, MANZAR FOROOHAR, KARIN FRIEDEMANN, MELISSA FROILAND, SHALINI GERA, PROF JOHN GERASSI, ELIANE HAGOPIAN, KATHERINE HANNA, SWANEAGLE HARIJAN, KATHARINA HARLOW, MARTIN HARWAYNE, JANICE HAYDEN, JEAN HAYS, PAT HENDRICKS, CHARLIE HINTON, JOSHUA HOUGH, LYDIA HOWELL, JAY HUBBELL, MARY HUGHES, HAPPY HYDER, SUMIA IBRAHIM, HAYAT IMAM, MARY IZETT, A JARRAR, JANE JEWELL, PETER KARDAS, CASSANDRA KATSIAFICAS, JUNE KENAGY, REEMA KHAN, LOU KIPNIS, VIDULA KIRTIKAR, VICTOR KIZASKI, ALICE KLEIN, DAVID KLEIN, JEFF KLEIN, JANET KOBREN, JUDITH KOLOKOFF, JOEL KOVEL, GREG KOZICZ, BADAR KUDSI, JANE KURINSKY,PAUL LARUDEE, CECILE LENEMAN, HOWARD LENOW, MICHAEL LETWIN, MARIAH LEUNG, JOSEPH LEVINE, SCOTT LINDER, MICHAEL LYON, SUNAINA MAIRA, MICHAEL MARIA, ALICE MARSHALL, IVAN MARTIN, SAHAR MASUD, TANIA MAXWELL, HANNAH MEDROW, RASHA MHMOUD, SERGIO MONTEIRO, DORINDA MORENO, MICHEL MOUSHABECK, DR NANCY MURRAY, HIRA NABI, FARRUKH NAJMI, SHAHEEN NAZERALI, DAVID NELSON, MARCY NEWMAN, DOROTHY NAOR, ANA NOGUEIRA, KAMAL OBEID, DAVID OBERWEISER, IVAN OLSEN, MARCELLO PETRIGH, ANGELA PRICE, REV JOHN PROCHASKA, YASMIN QURESHI, MAZIN QUMSIYEH, BILL RAMSEY, ANNE REMLEY, FREDERICK REMLEY, GREGORY RIENZO, ROSALIE RIENZO, JOHN ROBERTS, KATHY ROBERTS, PAULA ROCHELLE, JULIE RUFO, ALAMEDA, AMIN SABA, DINA SABA, FADI SABA, NELLIE SABA, RAKSHANDA SALEEM, CAROLYN SCARR, SKIP SCHIEL, HANNAH SCHWARZSCHILD, JON SEIGE, BILL SELLSAHAR SHAFQAT, SAID SHEHADEH, ANNA SHENK, LENORE SHERIDAN, SNEHAL SHINGAVI, MOAZZAM SHIEKH, CATHERINE SHINN, SAUL SLAPIKOFF, EVE SPANGLER, JOHN SPRITZLER, RAMKUMAR SRIDHARAN, A STEK, CORNELIA SULLIVAN, IJAZ SYED, ALLYSON TAYLOR,JOHN THIELKING, KIN TILSEN, SAADIA TOOR, JAMES VANN, DONALD VEACH, NICOLE VOLZ, NABIL WAHBEH, DARLENE WALLACH, DONNA WALLACH, KATHLEEN WANG, LARRY WARTEL, AHMAD YAMAK, NADIA YASSA, JAMAL ZEID, MAGGIE ZHOU.


In fact, rather than merely expecting them to do without, I must insist that they cease using the products listed above.

As concerned people and organizations they support the call to boycott. Now they should show their sincerity by their example.
Admittedly that might set their life-style back a few thousand years - right about stone-age level - but they have to try. It's the very least they can do.
It's a matter of principle.

27 comments:

Fuzz Bert Fan Club said...

Yay! Ptitim! Yay!
Yummy!

Jon said...

For those of you planning to buy out TJ's couscous this weekend, some very fine recipes (courtesy of my mom) are available at www.divestthis.com.

Jon

The back of the hill said...

Jon, thanks for the tip.

Could you also please put that comment on Snooky's blog (http://deathbynoodles.blogspot.com/), Bluetruth (http://www.bluetruth.net/) and at the Fuzz BErt Fan Club (http://fuzzbertfanclub.blogspot.com/)?

Thanks in advance.

The back of the hill said...

Specifically, this post at Death By Noodles:
http://deathbynoodles.blogspot.com/2009/06/buy-israeli-food.html
Also this one:
http://deathbynoodles.blogspot.com/2009/06/couscous-and-feta.html

This post at Bluetruth:
http://www.bluetruth.net/2009/06/fight-bds-movement-shop-at-trader-joes.html

And this post at Fuzz Bert Fan Club:
http://fuzzbertfanclub.blogspot.com/2009/06/culinary-exual-depravity-and-downfall.html

Moishe Slamdunk said...

Several other blogs also encourage readers to participate in Buy Israeli Products Day at your nearest Trader Joe's:

JEWS' NEXT DOR
Made in Israel

WHO IS ROSE
Israeli-Boycott Warning

BRUTALLY HONEST
Do you shop at Trader Joe's?


And here you can see what the pro-Palestinian side does:

Boycott Israeli Goods, Free Palestine!
by Free Palestine
Tuesday Oct 14th, 2008 10:26 PM
Moronic boasting
You will note that the "random" Jewish customers are actually well-known anti-Israel activists, both of whom have had run-ins with authorities in the past. Vandalizing or interfering with food products is a federal offense, by the way.

Gandalf The Gay said...

And this recipe looks absolutley scrumptious!

PEARL COUSCOUS WITH OLIVES AND ROASTED TOMATOES

Pearl Couscous with Olives and Roasted Tomatoes
Makes 6 servings

For roasted tomatoes and dressing
2 pt red grape or cherry tomatoes (1 1/2 lb)
3 large garlic cloves, left unpeeled
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup warm water
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For couscous
2 3/4 cups chicken broth
2 1/4 cups pearl (Israeli) couscous
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup Kalamata or other brine-cured black olives, pitted and chopped
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

Roast tomatoes and make dressing: Preheat oven to 250°F. Halve tomatoes through stem ends and arrange, cut sides up, in 1 layer in a large shallow (1-inch-deep) baking pan. Add garlic to pan and roast in middle of oven until tomatoes are slightly shriveled around edges, about 1 hour. Cool in pan on a rack 30 minutes. Peel garlic and puree with oil, water, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and 1/2 cup roasted tomatoes in a blender until dressing is very smooth.

Make couscous: Bring broth to a boil in a 3-quart heavy saucepan and stir in couscous, then simmer, uncovered, 6 minutes. Cover pan and remove from heat. Let stand 10 minutes.
Spread couscous in 1 layer on a baking sheet and cool 15 minutes. Transfer couscous to a bowl and stir in remaining ingredients, dressing, roasted tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste.
Do ahead: Roasted tomatoes, dressing, and couscous can be made 1 day ahead and kept separately, covered and chilled. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.
--------------------------------
I found it on http://smittenkitchen.com/ It's from Gourmet Magazine, September 2002.

Gandalf The Gay said...

Marga, at Marga's Foodblog, gives the mixed couscous, garbanzo, and quinoa high marks. Trader Joe's Harvest Grains Blend

She says "it was cheaper than the bags of pure Israeli couscous. Most importantly, my kids love it, and I think it's probably marginally more nutritious than the Israeli couscous by itself.".

Gandalf The Gay said...

At Weelicious, there's a recipe that looks particularly nice. Israeli Couscous Salad

Israeli Couscous Salad (Makes 6 Servings)

1 Cup Israeli Couscous
1 1/2 Cup Water
1/2 Tsp Salt
1 Small Yam, peeled and cubed
1/2 Cup Dried Cranberries
1 Tbsp Fresh Mint, chopped
1/4 Cup Pine nuts
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
1 Tbsp Olive Oil

1. Bring the water to a boil, add the couscous and yam, cover and reduce to a simmer.
2. Cook for 12 minutes.
3. Combine all the ingredients and serve.

She also has other stellar recipes here: http://weelicious.com/index.php
Fast, easy, & fresh babyfood, toddler food (and now big kids food too!)

Hilloo said...

ISRAELI COUSCOUS WITH CHICKEN AND FETA

1 Cup Trader Joes Israeli Couscous.
1 cup pine nuts
1 package feta cheese
Half a chicken, cut into chunks.
One or two chopped tomatoes.
Parsley or cilantro for garnish.

Cook the chicken chunks in one and a half cup of water with a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon for about ten minutes. Remove and drain, reserving the broth. You need a cup and a half - add water if necessary. Now cook the Israeli Couscous in the broth for ten to twelve minutes (until done).
Roast the pine nuts in olive oil till pale golden.
Mix the Israeli Couscous, cooked chicken, feta, and pine nuts. Put the chopped tomato on top of the mound. Sprinkle parsley or cilantro over to garnish.

Anal Rapist said...

Anal rape!

Anonymous said...

Mixing meat and milk?
Say it ain't so, ATBOTH, say it ain't so.

Vegan Megan said...

Mixing meat and milk?

Use soybean curd instead of chicken. The color coordinates nicely with the feta and red and green. Cook it in vegetable stock.

e-kvetcher said...

I will be serving Israeli CousCous to 30 people tomorrow. It is one of my favorites... Though I will not be buying it at Trader Joes.

These boycotts are beginning to sound completely inane...

Anonymous said...

I love trader joes and I've sent them an email to clarify the issue. I'm an Indian hindu and have no particular hate/love for Israel or Palestine. But if Trader Joes intentionally doesn't stock Palestinian goods, then I think it is unfair and I would start bycott of Trader Joes from tomorrow. My 70 bucks a week won't make must difference but that's all I can do.
Also whoever criticizes Israel, please stop calling them anti-semite. My jewish roomate ( from Israel ) often criticizes israel, does that make him an Anti-Semit also. Such labels antagonize people, that's it. I have no skin in the game, but in general I've always liked Israel and want to visit there someday. But I don't want to be labeled and anti-semite every time I question any action that Israel takes. If you questions American govt, does that make you anti-american or anti-christian ?

The back of the hill said...

My dear Anonymous Indian Hindu,

Of course criticism does not automatically mean anti-Semitism. However, if Israel is the ONLY country that receives that criticism, and if the Palestinians are NOT criticized, one might validly suppose that there is more to the criticism than mere 'criticism'.

Certainly not everyone who criticizes Israel is an anti-Semite. But I doubt that you will find any anti-Semites who do not criticize Israel. The point here is that A) the overwhelming majority of criticism of Israel is infected with anti-Semitism, both on a subconscious level and sometimes virulent; and B) the overwhelming majority of virulent anti-Semites not only criticize Israel, but support the anti-Israel movement in overwhelming numbers.



Such labels antagonize people
Indeed they do. Such people deserve to be antagonized.

I don't want to be labeled and anti-Semite every time I question any action that Israel takes
Please continue questioning Israeli actions. There is much to question. And the actions of a liberal democracy must stand the test of public scrutiny. As, indeed, that scrutiny is constant - both by Israeli citizens, and the Israeli press.

The one thing I would ask is that you subject other countries to the same scrutiny. No more, no less.

Tzipporah said...

BoTH, you seem to be laboring under the misapprehension that durum and semolina are categorically different.

In fact, semolina is the term for some grinding levels of durum wheat. The word comes for the Arabic/Hebrew word for grinding.

Both regular (small) couscous and the larger Israeli variety are made with the same kind of ground wheat flour you'll find in Italian pasta. From what I understand, the difference is the size, the relative proportion of finely-ground to coarse-ground durum wheat, and the preparation method (dried or baked), not the ingredients.

The back of the hill said...

Tzipporah, technically they are different. Not different plants, but entirely different products.
Sooji (semolina) can be made into halwa, regular commercial all-purpose flour, on the other hand, not so much........
[Although I wonder if one could actually use griesmeel (whatever that's called in English, dunno) for a halwa. We use it for pudding.]

Of course, seeing as hard wheat probably developed somewhere on the southern shores of the Meditarraneum, it represents a "cultural theft" by Europeans.....


Bad Euries, bad! Go back to using soft-wheat and wearing bearskins!

But the point is, different products and processes, different results and cooking styles. When was the last time you used a couscoussiere?
Israeli couscous is not couscous. It is a precooked pasta.

The back of the hill said...

Having read further on the subject on Wikipedia, I conclude several things:

1. The crucial difference between Couscous and Israeli Couscous is one of manufacturing process and subsequent cooking. The building blocks are, as tzipporah pointed out, close enough that they qualify as the same, or substantially the same.

2. I am glad I am not a miller. It is all far to abstruse.

3. Griesmeel is Farina. Okay.

4. I prefer rice-noodles to most other types of pasta. They're easier on the stomach, too.
Pho, anyone? Perhaps some Bami Goreng?

Tzipporah said...

MMmmmm, pho... if you're ever in Boston, there is (or WAS) a great Pho place in Harvard Square that's worth visiting. Bad Cohen and I used to visit it once a month or so before I got kosher-conscious.

Anonymous said...

If it happenes that Kate Raphael wants to know,"yes,we DO laugh at your antics at Zionist gatherings. Yes,we DO think that you and your naive purveyors of fantasy politics are a big joke. And, of course, we make fun of what you say on your blog.

Thanks for the laughs;


Zionist Activist

GRANT!PATEL! said...

Kate Raphale? Kate Raphael Bender? A very bad blog she writes. Not readable.

And that fire-bird tattoo on her arm is rather stupid looking. Infantile. Jejeune, in fact. Precisely.


---Grant Unmarkedentirely

Dusty said...

TEL AVIV, Feb 16 2010 - Israel's economy grew at an annualised 4.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009, its fastest pace in nearly two years and helped by a surge in exports as the country continued to recover from a brief downturn.

Exports -- which account for nearly half of Israel's economic activity -- surged 33 percent in the fourth quarter while consumer spending rose 4.4 percent, according to the government's prior estimate of fourth-quarter data.

Read more:
http://sg.news.yahoo.com/rtrs/20100216/tbs-israel-gdp-955c2a1.html?utm_source=CIC%20Test%20list&utm_campaign=f4ead647f7-DYK_100217&utm_medium=email

Do you think the BDS movement helped fuel this growth by calling attention to the wide variety of Israeli consumer goods available in America,?

The thought makes me smile.

Anonymous said...

You are an arrogant, smirking fascist. Who gives a rats *ss about your "lovely recipes" when Palestinians are starving? I pity you -- you have no conscience.

The back of the hill said...

Palestinians starving? News to me.
And go ahead, try the recipes. You'll love them. Remember, ptitim is healthy!

Anonymous said...

"Israeli couscous" is plain and simple, a case cultural appropriation. This staple has been part of the cuisines of Palestine, Lebanon and Syria for well over a century, well before the creation of the state of Israel.

It is knwon in Palestine and Jordan as "maftul" (arabic for spun or rounded semoulina), and in Lebanon and Syria and "maghrabeeyeh".

The back of the hill said...

"Israeli couscous" is plain and simple, a case cultural appropriation.

So call it something else. In Hebrew it's known as "ptitim", and is used as a substitute for rice as well as rolled semolina couscous. And it isn't couscous in any case, because it is manufactured entirely differently.

As such, while the Arabs may have used the North African ("Berber", not Arab) invention for well over a century, they haven't used ptitim.

And Jews have been part of the Levant and North Africa longer, far far longer, than Arabs.

The term "Israeli Couscous" is simply marketing and linguistic convenience. Much like "Icelandic Bee Honey". Or "California Chablis" and "Oregon Chardonnay".

By the way, Europeans eating or growing potatoes can better be called "cultural appropriation", as much as any cuisine that isn't American using chilies and tomatoes. Those crops originated in the Americas, and should only be consumed on this side of the Atlantic, don't you agree?

In any case, this conversation pretty much ended five years ago. Why is any one even still interested?

The back of the hill said...

The key passage is this: "Ptitim (פתיתים אפויים = p'titim afuyim = baked flakes), however, is a pasta product that resembles Italian orzo. Unlike North African couscous, it is not raw-rolled semolina at all but a baked wheat product."

I call it by the name I know it as: 'ptitim'. For the same reason, I call other things by the names most familiar to me. Some people misname it 'couscous', which it really isn't. But really, what's in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.

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