Salma Serry is a food history researcher, filmmaker and founding curator of @Sufra_archive, a library dedicated to the modern food history of Southwest Asia and North Africa, housing the largest collection of +600 historical Arabic cookbooks and culinary ephemera. She is an awardee of the prestigious Arab Fund for Arts and Culture/ACSS grant for her ongoing project that documents a 100 years of SWANA’s culinary ephemera. She was recently commissioned research projects by Art Jameel-Dubai, Hayy Jameel-Jeddah, and the Arab Council for Social Sciences-Beirut.
Her approach centers on contextualizing and analyzing history, archives and memory to highlight the politicization of food through forgotten, contested, or marginalized narratives that tend to disappear against hegemonizing national cuisines and identity politics. The result of her work is often an investigation - habitually in writing and occasionally in a film format- of the entanglement of food in politics and migration.
Her latest writings on food were published in Bloomsbury Handbook of Schools and Religion, Oxford Food Symposium Proceedings (in press), Arab Literature Quarterly, CNT Traveller and You Are Here: The Journal of Creative Geography. She also enjoys designing and conducting workshops that invite reflections and dialogue around the aforementioned topics, as recently commissioned by Art Jameel, Al Serkal Avenue, and the Islamic Arts Biennial.
She is part of Super Melon, a collective art project that aims to investigate the intersectionality of food and politics in occupied Palestine, bringing into view the everyday overlooked aspects of lived experience.
A space to reimagine and rethink food and foodways of SWANA with all its abundance: stories it tells, histories it boasts, recipes it creates, businesses it nurtures, benefits with which it heals and people it brings together.
Awarded AFAC & Arab Council for Social Sciences Research on The Arts Award 2022.
A Menu & It's Leftovers: Finding Jeddah's Food Voices
A public program commissioned by Art Jameel as part of the exhibition 'Staple: What's on your plate?"
The project consists of a series of workshops that look into Jeddah's local food sites, community cookbooks, personal histories, and archival material to unravel the ways that food, history, and culture are interconnected. The programme culminates in a collaborative published work, conceived as the “leftovers,” i.e. testaments to the research conducted during the workshops.
Menus of Dubai
A project commissioned by Art Jameel Library
In autumn 2021, this iteration of Library circles explores food menus as a site of confluence where history, knowledge, politics and economies, senses and semantics become interconnected elements produced and reproduced continuously throughout time.
A project curated by Nahla Tabbaa and commissioned by Al Serkal Avenue
Rewilding the Kitchen is an online/offline project embracing what we call ‘rewilding’— ingredients and food become actors with agency, activating processes that unfold as the ingredients ‘intend'. Other participating artists are Namliyeh and Moza Al-Matrooshi.
(2023). School Meals in Multicultural/Multireligious Contexts of Denmark, France, the United Arab Emirates, and the USA”. In Bloomsbury Handbook of Schools and Religion. Co-authored with Amy Bentley, Samantha Brown, Shayne Figueroa, Claudia Shaffe. Ed. by James Fraser, New York University, USA. Jo Fraser-Pearce, University College London, England..
(2022). "A Menu and Its Leftovers: Hijazi Food History". Hayy Jameel. [In publishing].
(2022). “Cooking Summer by the Beach: Breaking Rules, Modernity & Wellness Policies in Three Egyptian Cookbooks (1950-1960)”. Oxford Food Symposium Proceedings 2022. Oxford Food [In publishing].
(2022). Dubai Migrants' Historical Menus. Art Jameel Library Circles- Salma Serry.
(2021). "Teita’s Bitter Orange Jam, The Nasserist Regime, and Umm Kalthoum". Arab Litrature Quarterly.
(2021). "A Taste of History: Cairo's Street Food". Conde Nast Traveller.
(2020). "My Chewing Gum Body: A Gulf Migrant Self-essay and Film. Journal of Creative Geography.
TALKS, WORKSHOPS & PRESENTATIONS
Oxford Food Symposium Presentation
Miraculous Water and the Concept of Barakah: Cooking with Rainwater, Water-Drinking Rituals, and Smoking Jugs in Saudi Hijaz
Public lecture at Islamic Arts Biennial
Food in the history of Hajj and pilgrimage.
Dubai Expo 2020 Talk
Why Archives Can Shape Our Future?: Value of Critical Migrant Food History
A.MAL Panel: Working with Archives
Working with family archives for researching food.
Oxford Food Symposium Presentation
Cooking Summer by The Beach: Politics, Modernity & Breaking The Rules in Three Egyptian Cookbooks (1950s-1960s)
Historical cookbooks and their socio-political contexts- a talk and performance lecture
A guide to approach food and history as means to reflect on the individual's own past and identity beyond the group's politics, collective culture and constructed heritage.
A chat on the intertwined relationship between language, food names, storytelling and history of the region. How is language important to food research and what can we tell from a dish's name?
A reading of an excerpt from my essay "Teita's Bitter-orange Jam: Home Economics, Umm Kalthoum and Gamal Abdel-Nasser", in ALQ's Kitchen issue. The readings are followed by discussions with co-panelists on food writing in Egypt and the region.
An investigation into 1950-60s Hawaa' magazine's culinary influence in Egypt with afikra
This public presentation investigated the influence Hawwa' magazine had over the Egyptian Kitchen in the 20th century. It looked into what Egypt & Egyptian cuisine were like at that time, the magazine and its cookbooks, the readers, and the recipes & content
(2023). Migrant Menus: A History of Dubai (1950-1990s). 2023 Conference of the Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS) and the Agriculture, Food & Human Values Society (AFHVS). Boston, United States.
(2022). Cooking Summer by the Beach: Breaking Rules, Modernity & Wellness Policies in Three Egyptian Cookbooks (1950-1960). Oxford Food Symposium Proceedings 2022, Oxford, United Kingdom
(2022). ‘Al-Tabkh al-Manzeli’ (1914): A Study of the First Arabic Female-Authored Cookbook. Arab Council For Social Sciences 2022, Beirut, Lebanon
(2021). Bittersweet Biscuits: History of European Pastries, Modernity & Class in Egypt. Middle East Studies Association 2021, United States of America
(2021). The (De)coloniality of Food: Global Cases of Power & Resistance. Association for the Study of Food and Society 2021, Canada