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Amanny Ahmad



Amanny Ahmad is an artist, chef, writer, and food activist based in New York City. Born in Utah to Palestinian immigrants, her work addresses themes of travel, the preservation of culinary traditions, foraging, and a marriage between art, the natural world, and social consciousness.
Shaina Mote — Amanny Ahmad

What shapes, textures, and palettes encompass the sensory details of your present self?
I spend a lot of time in nature, in the woods, by water. The natural world is endlessly inspiring to me. All the creatures that live in it, big and small, their vibrant colors, their textures, the infinite manifestations of variables that make up rocks, water formations, plants, trees, endless variations of mushrooms. I am always collecting little pieces of the outside world, and bringing them in, to make things with, to look at, to eat, to learn from.

What is something you have loved for a long time?
I have always really loved foraging, or looking for objects, both outside in nature, for plants and mushrooms and pieces of life, and inside at thrift stores, flea markets, yard sales. I think I started going to thrift stores and digging around when I was 10 years old. I have been hiking and keeping little pieces of life or learning about plants for as long as I can remember. This kind of search for a gem within a landscape filled with so many other things puts me in a very serene, zen state. It's very therapeutic and meditative for me.

What is something you have recently rediscovered?
I was estranged from half of my extended family for 15 years. We just reconnected a few months ago, and that was a very strange and interesting rediscovery of sorts. Lots of feelings to sort through and process, people to re-meet, memories to recall, places to rediscover.

Please share the story behind a modern “talisman” you own — an object in your possession that you consider either a token of good luck or energy.
My talisman is always changing - I tend to keep a few tiny trinkets with me, in my purse, in my pocket, tucked away here and there. Especially when I am traveling/moving around (which is mostly always), it makes me feel safe to have a little piece of a crystal that my mom gave me, or a medallion from a friend. Jewelry often functions in the same way, I always wear the same gold ring that I had made in Palestine some years ago. It reads “yalla”, which is a colloquial slang word that carries the sentiment of 'hurry up' / 'lets go' / 'come on'. It makes me feel at home, and reminds me of where I am from in a way that is very particular with Arab culture and language.

At what moments are you the truest version of yourself?
Always when I am near the beach/an ocean/the sea. Just to be within view of the ocean makes me feel so calm, serene. Something about seeing the coast, the edge of a landmass that I can never quite grasp the scale of in a tangible way, resets my perceptive on vastness, and makes me feel like a whole insignificant dot in the endlessness of space and time.

Can you share the story behind a meaningful garment you own — perhaps an heirloom, or something that feels weighted with a special significance?
My family has never been much into heirlooms, and I think that's partially to do with being displaced in the 1940s, and generally having a detachment to things (not a trait I have inherited). Just recently in our village in Palestine, I went into my long deceased grandmother's home, a crumbling old stone room, blanketed in 30 years worth of dust, and unearthed a tiny cloth bag covered in vibrant (after an extremely thorough washing) turquoise, mustard, and pink traditional Palestinian embroidery. I can imagine her using it to make change when she would take her wares to sell on the side of the alleyways in the Old City of Jerusalem, a time long before it was no longer accessible to my family.

Can you share a recipe or idea for a simple, healing meal that you make for yourself often?

This is my version of a simple Palestinian peasant lentil soup that I make whenever I need a quick & nourishing warm meal. This is a very rough recipe, as I usually make it up with what I have at the time.

Palestinian Fellahee Lentil Soup 

  • Red Lentils - 1 cup 
  • Shallots - A few 
  • Broth/ Water - about 2 quarts 
  • Olive oil - 2 Tbsp
  • Carrots - 1-2 
  • Turmeric - 2 tsp 
  • Cumin - 1/4 tsp 
  • Cinnamon 1/4 tsp 
  • Sumac to taste 
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Sauté the shallots and carrots for a few minutes on low in some olive oil, when they are beginning to soften add in the spices, and stir it all up. Add in the lentils, and a pinch of salt, stirring to mix them with everything else, allowing them to sit a little bit before adding the broth. Add in the broth and simmer on medium/low for about 25 minutes. Add salt to taste. If the lentils absorb too much of the liquid, add more! Cook until the lentils have lost their form, and taste and season to your liking. Turn off the heat, squeeze in some lemon. Serve in a bowl with another squeeze of lemon, a dollop of yogurt, a sprinkle of sumac and black pepper, and some fresh parsley. Also nice with a piece of crusty bread. 

Can you share more details on one act of “wellness” that brings you joy in its ritual — maybe a special tea, or a favorite walk, or another ritual that you use to come back to yourself?
My mom has this contraption called the Chi Machine that I love and use daily whenever I go visit her. You lay on the floor, put your ankles in it, and turn it on, and it basically swings your ankles from side to side for 10 minutes. This makes me feel energized, takes away back pain, and clears my mind. Otherwise I practice self care at every opportunity I have, whether it is treating myself to a delicious beverage, or a 10 minute meditation, or a bath. The world we live in requires a constant re-up on the care of the self, both in and out.

 

    What books are you reading right now (or have read recently)?
    I've fallen into the habit of mostly reading non-fiction books in the last 5 years, so my book stacks are mostly plant and mushroom identification books, cookbooks, and how-tos. On my bedside table right now are: Agriculture by Rudolf Steiner, Manifestly Haraway by Donna Haraway, The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard (a classic I read years ago but am now revisiting, and think anyone interested in spaces/homes/interiors/relationship should read), and a few Etel Adnans. I'd actually love it if anyone reading this would recommend fiction to me (seriously, hit me up please.)

     

    What book(s) do you always recommend to friends?
    Mount Analogue by Rene Dumal is an interesting one. Any of Jiddu Krishnamurti's writings.

    What music is in rotation for you this month?
    I love Bad Bunny and Ozuna, Latin American Top 40 Rap & R&B is great for cooking and for summertime beach and dance party vibes. My beautiful/talented friend Okay Kaya’s debut ‘Both’ - it’s haunting, weird, pretty, lots of things. I make a mix as often as I have time that I share on my soundcloud (Valley Of Sound). I tend to get really into a few songs and listen to them over and over, and then they get put on to my mixes. The Individual You by T.J. Hustler has been on heavy rotation for me for months now!

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