Yom Kippur is a solemn day. A day spent asking for atonement, asking forgiveness for our sins and forgiving those we have mistreated. While I could take this time to elaborate on all this, I’ve decided to take a slightly different route. As important as it is to atone, after a 25 hour fast, my stomach is grumbling and all I can think about is the meal that will end the pains.
Isabel came to Israel with two main objectives; to learn Hebrew and to work on her cookbook, La Cuisine de mes Jolies Mamans. What better way to accomplish these two goals together than by cooking with people here in Israel and learning the language in the kitchen.
I met Erez at Suzanna Dalal in Neve Tzedek, a symbolic place: in between the former boy’s school, where boys studied in French for an international business career, and the former girls school, where girls were instructed in Hebrew to help settle the new country. I remembered a very nice walk he organized on Jerusalem’s city walls on Tu b’Av in 2009 for the people of my conference. This time we met as friends and had a lovely evening in Jaffa. He told me right away that what I was looking for in this country is not the language but a missing piece in my soul: בואו לבדוק את זה! (Let’s check that out!)
For my book, I first cooked with Esther. Her parents are from Morocco, and Esther’s French is great. It takes you back in time. I enjoyed listening to her old fashioned expressions, people used some decencies before. Actually, La cuisine de mes jolies mamans tells the story of how I learned to cook. I did not learn with my mother, a great person who knows everything, besides cooking. So I learned to cook from my friend’s mothers: I have already cooked with Ilse (German), Alessandra (Italian), Elfriede (Austrian), Sylvie, Elise, Isabelle (French) and Esther (Israeli Moroccan). Jolie mamans(meaning pretty mommies) allude to belle-mère (mother in law), but my jolies mamans are much better than every mother in law, because, they really want to share! You know, when the question arises of sharing their boys, it gets difficult. So share what everybody loves to share: אוכל! (Food!)
With Esther, I learned to cook mafrum, potatoes stuffed with meat and cooked an eternity in a specific spice sauce: habarat that we ground fresh: rose leaves, cinnamon, English pepper, black pepper and cumin. We cooked everything together. Esther’s daughter Ronit is the real chef of mafrum and even her daughter is starting to learn how to get along. But we cooked so much more: Moroccan styled stuffed red peppers with Iranian dried lemons – at least in food, borders, origins, ethnics are sources of community, not conflict. We then prepared oriental meat balls, all kind of Moroccan salads: beet, tomatoes, carotts, beans. Of course we also made challah and something sweet for dessert, indeed very sweet; oranges confites: השולחן היה עמוס באוכל! (The table was packed with food!)
I left Gedera with enough food for the whole week but my next cooking adventure was already awaiting me. With Frida, I learned to make cakes from Northern Africa: from Morocco to Egypt, with influences from Syria and Lebanon as well. We started at 8am and finished at 6pm! We made so many cookies and I loved the beignets, especially as they were fried in olive oil that comes from trees on Frida’s land. Yes, you have to cultivate your land in Israel when you have property. They decided to get rid of the water sucking orange trees and replace them with olive trees, so now the water is for their swimming pool: הבית שלהם באמת נהדר! (There house is really amazing!)
Stay tuned to hear more of Isabel’s wonderful adventures of cooking in Israel!
To all of our fans out there, have an easy fast and may you be written in the book of life. גמר חתימה טובה!