“With only a few simple ingredients, you can experience millions of flavours and tastes”,” said Aya Shaban, one of the co-founders of Namliyeh, a local organisation that recently launched the innovative catering concept of “The Humble Table”.
“’The Humble Table’ celebrates the beauty of modestly made material and the tastes of locally produced food”,” Shaban told The Jordan Times at the launch event on Wednesday.
Started in 2012 to highlight the diversity and quality of Jordan’s biodiversity and forestry, Namliyeh seeks to reveal to the urban society the treasures of the Kingdom’s landscape through original food experiences.
“We came up with the idea of ‘The Humble Table’ as a way to feature all those locally produced items together in an interactive and creative manner”,” the young woman said.
Structured around three sections, the table invites the guests to create their own combination of flavours in an orchestrated journey for the senses.
“We really want people to experience the ingredients, by touching and smelling them, and by making their own version of the meal”,” Shaban continued, adding “even though everyone is given the same core ingredients to work with, each will come up with a totally different tasting experience.”
“We purposefully chose to include what people see as ‘poor people’s food’ such as grains and seeds, all locally grown, to show how delicious these can be when twisted up with spices, pickles and drizzles”,” the young woman explained.
For example, the local sprouts are provided by Muna Shibly, a food maker who invents wholesome recipes from home, she noted.
Wild pepper, whole summaq from the highlands, and wild fennel flowers are some of the herbs and spices available on the table, along with the simple yet elegant tableware “modestly made” from local material.
“These mortars and pestleswere hand carved from basalt stone, which you find in Um Al Jimal, in the north of Jordan”,” Manal Abushmais, the other co-founder explained, noting that “although they look simple and modest, this ‘down to earth’ look is also very aesthetic”.
The table features “only 100 per cent” natural elements, created from the rich resources of the Jordanian landscape. “These producers and farmers live in remote areas and have practically no access to the national market. If they do, they do not have the resources needed to penetrate it successfully”,” Abushmais said, noting that Namliyeh helps them disseminate their products and raise awareness on their traditional production techniques.
The two founders also partnered with local bread maker Kareem Arafat who supplies them with the canvas for their work: artisan bread.
Citing the challenges of working with such a large number of people, Shaban voiced her hope to expand the collaboration even further with local producers.
“We take a lot of risks, by paying in advance for instance; but if we don’t do it, no one will. So it is worth the try”,” she noted.
“There are no rules, only your imagination. ‘The Humble Table’ is here to help you release your inner chef”,” the duo concluded.