Eat and remember

Chicken shawarma and memories of Israel.

“The fondest memories are made when gathered around the table.” – Anonymous

We all have memories associated with food. Sometimes the very first bite of a certain dish will transport us back to time spent with a loved one or a special event or vacation. Think of your favourite comfort food – freshly baked bread, lasagne, chocolate chip cookies. Brain scientists explain that taste and smell are both senses that react to chemicals in food, creating in our brains a flavour associated with the food we are eating. This part of our brain is located very close to the amygdala and the hippocampus, both areas where our emotions and memories are structured, tying them all together. This could explain why I still love the taste of boxed macaroni and cheese dinner, despite what the wise adult in me knows about the nutritional value, or lack thereof. It brings me back to fun nights in my childhood, and my first taste of independent living and cooking for myself as a young adult.

Some scientists believe that this flavour/memory connection has developed as a necessary tool for survival, to prevent us from poisoning ourselves. But I’m quite convinced that our Creator God was much more intentional than that. Food was created to be so much more than fuel. The most important things God wants us to remember about Who he is are, after all, tied to food – bread and wine, grapes and a banquet feast. Take, eat, remember and believe.

After my husband’s return from his first trip to Israel, he insisted that I try some Middle Eastern cuisine. Words like fattoush and falafel and shawarma were foreign to me, but his assurances were right — I tried it and I loved it. When we lived in Hamilton it seemed there was a place on every corner where we could get our favourites, but when we moved to B.C. we couldn’t find any and we missed it! Eventually I found a recipe to make it myself and we were very pleased with the results. It brings me back to the adventure of trying it the first time, and it brings my husband back to the sights and sounds and smells of Israel!

Chicken Shawarma

  • 7-8 boneless chicken thighs
  • 1-2 boneless chicken breasts
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • 1-2 tsp cumin
  • 1-2 tsp paprika
  • ½-1 tsp alllspice
  • 2 finely diced garlic cloves
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • Hot Sauce to taste
  • ½ tsp each salt and pepper
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh parsley
  1. Slice chicken into strips. Mix marinade and pour over chicken in a glass or ceramic bowl. Let sit in fridge 1 hour or overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 400. Cover baking sheet with foil. Brush with olive oil. Place marinated chicken pieces and leftover marinade on tray. Roast chicken for 30-40 minutes or until edges are getting crispy and browned. Remove from oven. Preserve the drippings.
  3. Finely chop cooked chicken into smaller pieces. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a frying pan over med-high heat. Fry chicken and leftover drippings until further browned and crispy. Transfer to a serving dish.
  4. Sprinkle with additional lemon juice, parsley flakes and salt to taste. Serve alongside or wrapped inside warm pita bread, with any of the following garnishes: tomato slices, cucumber, shredded lettuce, pickle slices, feta cheese and garlic sauce.

Garlic Sauce:

  • ½ cup plain greek yogurt
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp finely chopped parsley
  • Pinch of fresh dill
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Whirl together in a processor. Store in airtight container in the fridge.


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