Za’atar is Trending
Za'atar is one of the most popular and traditional spice blends in the world, and is ubiquitous in the middle east but It’s more than just a spice mix - it transcends food as a cultural icon.
Since it has been picked in nature for hundreds of years, za’atar has always symbolized a link to the land and a signifier of a Palestinian home.
Over the last decades, the herb has also become an almost sacred symbol in Palestinian literature, a signifier of the peasant’s attachment to the land.
Ted Swedenburg. Memories of Revolt: The 1936–1939 Rebellion and the Palestinian National Past. University of Arkansas Press, 2003, pp. 59-60.)
Today, za'atar is also loaded with symbolism and identity, appearing in art and music, such as poet Mahmoud Darwish and composer Marcel Khalife's collaboration "Ahmed Al Arabi," in which za'atar stands for inner strength and home.
“This spice mixture, collected from the land that they live on, holds in it the heart of the Palestinian. To eat zait-and-za'atar, olive oil and this spice mixture, is to partake of our land.”
-Bint Rhoda’s Kitchen
In addition to the current interest around the world in Middle Eastern cooking – particularly Israeli and Palestinian – za’atar is becoming increasingly well-known as a culinary ingredient.
Anyone going into Kalustyan’s in New York, one of the top specialty food and spice stores in the world, will find dozens of varieties of za’atar from around the Middle East. The store is just one example of the trend. While it has been around the middle east forever, za’atar has only recently gained popularity in the U.S. appearing on many restaurant menus, food blogs, and tons of recipes on outlets like New York Times and Bon Appetit.