I get to the Miriam Hachim center with two other volunteers, all of us equally uncertain if we are in the right place. But it is 10:30 and a stream of Palestinian woman are walking by carrying platters of baklava and rolled grape leaves so there is no doubt that we are. In the centre that is the location for oldest woman's institute in Nablus, there is a flurry of activity as men and women rush to arrange the final touches on their dishes in order to lay them out on the large table in front of the four French judges.
After a few announcements the testing starts, for the judges, as well as for the audience who are privy to the platters of jibne and zaatar bread. As the plates of marghshe (stuffed zucchini with meat in a yoghurt sauce) and mujadera (lentils and rice with vegetables and fried onions) come I realize very quickly that I shouldn't have pounced so quickly on the zaatar bread. By the end of the savory tasting the judges have the hollow eyes of those that have seen and eaten too much. New judges are obliged to be escorted in for the heloweyat (sweets). Platters and platters of bin arren (knefeh with cream), chocolate cake and baklava follow. A few of us are taken into the kitchen to try the fatir (a type of Nablusi sweet with cream) of one of the chefs.
Though we are not able to stay till the end to hear the results, all the cooks were winners in my mind, as I am sure the Palestinians and internationals attending will agree. A wholly delicious event.