Melika Belhaj is a Moroccan American Muslim writer. Her work explores the dynamics of authenticity, tradition, and identity. She designed, printed, and hand bound her first self-published piece, Binti: Daughter of Arab America in March 2016. Since then, Melika started an Arab American Art Collective called Ya Banat with her sister, Ananas Mustafa. Together they are developing pieces that look at the nuances of North African Arab identity through celebrating the wisdom of their ancestors.
One sentence to describe yourself and where you came from: Melika loves basketball and does not belly dance.
What will you be presenting on? Love letters to my childhood butcher.
Best piece of advice you ever got about cooking: Always sweat eggplant.
If you could only eat one meal forever, it would be: Bread with honey and olive oil. Mint tea.
Favorite food: My auntie Tahani’s grape leaves; Fried eggs and khlyeeha; Bread and olives
Recommended reading: ZaatarDiva, Suheir Hammad; My Father, Mahmud Darwish; Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth, Warsan Shire; Food For Our Grandmothers, Joanna Kadi
Best meal(s): Uncle Muhammad’s Maqluba with chicken and carrots, roasted pine nuts and blanched almonds; Auntie Ayda’s Maqluba with ground lamb and eggplant; Auntie Raabia’s lamb tagine with kharshoof; Auntie Aasiya’s lamb bone marrow and hot dried apricots; Baba’s cous cous with lamb and carrots, pumpkin and zucchini, chickpeas and raisins; My friend Chiara’s tomato eggs & her father Ciro’s bread
Food you’d like to try: Sardines on the coast, where my mother and father used to go when they lived in Rabat.