Some of my most memorable meals have been enjoyed in the Middle East. I shared iftar with a Palestinian family in Ramallah on the West Bank, and was an unlikely guest at a Kurdish wedding in the Turkish city of Van. In Iraqi Kurdistan, a politician-turned-aid worker put our meal on his tab even though he didn’t have to. The next night, a couple of guys I’d become friendly with, and who were showing me around, did the same.
These experiences were characterised not only by the sheer volume of food consumed, but also by the volubility of my hosts: they were meals at which it was difficult to eat because there was so much conversation going on.
Hakawati belongs to this tradition: hospitality infused with, and animated by, talk. If it suffers at all, it is from formality: it suffers, in a way, from being theatre.