Food and Identity, Celebrating Lebanese Cuisine in New York

211 E. 46th Street, New York

The New York Academic Center is hosting a panel discussion titled “Food and Identity: Celebrating Lebanese Cuisine in New York”.

Over generations, food traditions among the Lebanese diaspora in New York have remained a strong marker of their identity, and have provided them with a sense of attachment to their homeland. The website of the Sahadi’s grocery store in Brooklyn mentions a strong link between food and heritage: “With bins of fine grains and exquisite spices, bulk containers of imported olives, nuts, and dried fruits, old fashioned barrels of coffee beans…this feels like an old-world place…”

The purpose of this event is to have a lively discussion on how Lebanese Americans construct their identity through preserving the food of their ancestors. How do they keep food traditions alive in the public sphere? How do Americans frequenting Lebanese restaurants and grocery stores view Lebanon through its food? Matthew Stiffler writes that non-Arabs reviewing Arab American foodways describe them as ‘exotic,’ which reflects an essentialized Arab identity. Can a conversation on food followed by a tasting promote cross-cultural understanding and a positive image of immigrants in New York? We hope that the event will draw an audience that engages the panelists in those questions and then samples food from different restaurants and caterers representing a taste of Lebanon in New York.



Manal Kahi - Lebanese entrepreneur who started Eat Offbeat, an innovative social business that hires refugee chefs. The inspiration for the startup came from her desire to have real Lebanese hummus when she moved to New York.

Charlie Sahadi - Owner of Sahadi’s, an iconic Lebanese family grocery store in Brooklyn that has been doing business for over 65 years.

Christa Salamandra – Associate Professor of Anthropology, CUNY, and an expert on Syria and Lebanon. She wrote her thesis on the construction of immigrant identity through Middle Eastern restaurants.

Matthew Jaber Stiffler - Research & Content Manager, Arab American National Museum, Dearborn.  He wrote an article entitled Consuming Orientalism: Public Foodways of Arab American Christians.