10 July 2009

Cooking up a storm in Jordan: The Beit Sitti Cooking School

We caught up with Maria Haddad, of the Beit Sitti Cooking School, to give us a few insights into what makes Jordan the ultimate cultural holiday hopspot.

Q. What does Beit Sitti mean?

A. Beit Sitti means “my grandmothers house”

Q. Why did you decide to run a cooking class?

A. The simplest way to start exploring a culture is through its food and in Jordan food is a big deal, especially hearty, homemade food (which you can’t really find at restaurants). What we do at Beit Sitti is introduce tourists and expats to Jordanian culture by creating a local atmosphere where they can cook their traditional homemade meal and enjoy it in one of Amman’s oldest neighborhoods.

Q. What is the best thing about Jordanian cuisine?

A. Jordan was historically a transit country, bringing in people from all over the middle east and the world. The result is that Jordanian food is a mix of Mediterranean, Palestinian, Carcasian and Gulf cuisines. I personally think its a combination of the best dishes from each region in one place!, homey and healthy, with vegetables and spices on every dish. All our food just tastes like home, even if your not from here!

Q. Why did you choose to teach the dishes that you do?

A. We choose to teach dishes that reflect our countries seasonality, the dishes we prepare are based on the seasonality of the produce available in the market, we try to concentrate on dishes that are interactive and ones that can be easily duplicated when travelers go back home

Q. How do you make the experience true to Jordanian Culture? What advice would you give travellers to Jordan, in terms of things to see, what to do?

A. Our cooks are not chefs, they are old women from different regions that have been cooking for years, all of these women interact directly with the guests and tell them stories about jordan, as a traveler I like to go to places where I am able to at least know one local person to tell me where to go… when tourists come to Beit Sitti they automatically become our friends, also in many instances when tourists come on their own we include them with a group (they have to be flexible in terms of timing) that way they get to meet locals and interact with them on a friendly level and are able to get the ins and outs and some advice on places to go…

I would definitely say that Jordan is a culinary destination (although it is not advertised as such) starting with our amazing street food, falafel and shawerma sandwiches to gourmet mezza dishes and mashawi. walk around and just explore, get lost on the stairs of Amman either in Jabal Al Weibdeh, Jabal El Qalaa, or Jabal Amman

Q. Describe your perfect Jordanian day, from dawn till dusk?

A. Falafel for breakfast downtown… walk downtown to the vegetable market have tea and walk around downtown go to the citadel to fly a kite and watch how they are made, head to beit sitti to learn how to make a 4 course arabic meal and then eat the food that you made.

Q. What do your students say is the best thing about your classes?

A. Our students come to learn but also to have a good time, every guest has their own opinion some are happy with just learning the dishes, others love meeting locals and hearing from them on places to go, and the rest are excited about talking to the “hajjat” about their stories,

Q. If you had to eat one dish for the rest of life which one would it be?

A. Fattet Magdoos and Tabbouleh, of course.