“The way to someone’s heart is through their stomach”

Anti-Orientalism in the Cookbooks of Habeeb Salloum


  • Amani Khelifa University of Saskatchewan/Western University




Orientalism, History, Memoir, Immigrant Memoirs, Immigrant, Diaspora, Cookbooks, Prairie History, Food History, Identity, Arab-Canadian Identity, Decolonization, Indigenous-Minority Relations, Canada


Immigrant writing is a unique forum that provides insight into both immigrant and mainstream life, where authors serve as brokers between two cultures. This is especially true of the two most personal genres, cookbooks and memoirs, where culture and family history are directly discussed. The writing of Arab-Canadian author Habeeb Salloum (1924-2019) combined both genres. His cookbook-memoirs fostered intercultural dialogue and combatted Orientalist stereotypes. This article examines how he practiced decolonization using three techniques: first, by assimilating into stereotypes of ‘Oriental’ culture; then, by retrieving Orientalist tropes and recasting them into positive aspects of Middle Eastern culture; and, finally, by attempting to position Arab minorities as allies of Indigenous communities. By revealing how Salloum succeeded, and sometimes failed, to push an anti-Orientalist agenda in his cookbooks, this study reinforces the central role that food and memoirs play in shaping the identities and experiences of individuals, communities, and nations.