Writer Linda Laboun of Cookpad says the word “nafas” itself means “soul” or “breath.” But when taken in the cooking context, nafas undergoes a metamorphosis and becomes the passion and emotion that someone might bestow on their cooking. It is the care and concern that is poured into the meal, whether it is prepping ingredients, mixing them up, cooking them, or serving them at a meal for family and friends. It also explains why an identical recipe with exactly the same ingredients will end up tasting a bit different depending on who cooks it.
Food scientist Rob Dunn uses science to try to explain nafas. He says it has to do with “the microbes on our hands and in our environment [which] lead[s] to variations in the flavor of our dishes,” according to The New York Times. John Hayes, another professor of food science, believes that the context in which food is consumed, along with the emotional state of the eater, plays a part in skewing a diner’s perception of the quality of a meal.
But as California-based home cook Raja Ereiqat tells The New York Times, “You can try to break it apart into different elements. [But nafas] is cooking with love for the food, the process and for feeding people.”