The great Palestinian student Amanda G. once said that the main reason Palestinian politics is so disjointed and disunited is because “the people can’t agree on whether or not they like mansaf.” This is putting it lightly though. The mansaf wars are largely responsible for instigating some of the greatest tensions the Palestinian community has seen.
There’s really no middle ground when it comes to mansaf. You either love it or hate it and you will defend your position and your palate until the very end. Feelings will inevitably be hurt, rivalries will begin anew, and the uncontrolled, soggy, bread-laden rifts that develop between some of our hungrier solidarity workers and community members will carry over to other spheres of Palestinian life.
In this case, what we have in emotion we lack in rationality. We have yet to see any sanctioned and legitimate debate concerning the various influences and implications of mansaf. What we do see — quite regularly, actually — is a free-for-all hodgepodge of antagonistic and unfiltered opinionating on Twitter. (We may or may not be acquainted with the source of many of these embarrassments.) Nevertheless, a single question stands: Will there ever be an arena for prudent discourse on mansaf? The answer is an emphatic yes.
We at Sixteen Minutes to Palestine are proud to bring you The Great Mansaf Debate. In the coming months, we will present you with a variety of insights, opinions, and thoughts on mansaf and the very passionate identity-driven reactions it engenders. How can a single plate of yellow rice, greased meat, wet bread, and runny yogurt shape our community dynamic to the extent that it already does?
Our hope, through this debate, is to formulate a deeper understanding of the dish, both culturally and politically. But our real goal is to provoke and poke fun at the fervent pride mansaf-related discussions typically inspire.
Now, we’ve already faced concerns from people who have a hard time understanding why a mansaf debate would be hosted on this website. “It’s rigged,” they say, citing the website founder’s utter disdain for the dish. “Plus, Palestinians shouldn’t concern themselves with this glorious Jordanian dish.” We suppose if we want to be really crude and insensitive we can mention how, at the end of the day, Jordan’s population is basically an extension of the Palestinian disapora. As much as we would love for Jordan to have all the claim in the world to it, mansaf has truly become a defining element of Palestinian culinary, social, and political culture.
So what will it be? Will mansaf be brought to victory by its greatest devotees? Will its staunch opposition convince the public that mansaf is to be avoided at all costs? Will we finally come to a consensus and prove Ghannam’s observation wrong? The great debate begins now.