Sunday, October 28, 2012

As an intro: O Jerusalem

Jerusalem is a city which, for thousands of years, has inspired extremely strong feelings of all sorts. It is easy to fixate on it in one way or another. I for one,have been a bit resilient to its magnetism in what little time I have spent there. To quote the British Jewish author Linda Grant:"Jerusalem sat, sits on me like a helmet. [...I had the feeling that, if I didn't watch my step I'd fall down a hole any minute into the 4th century and however much I shouted no one would come and rescue me from that crevasse." Obviously, I admired such amazing landmarks such as the Western Wall, the Holy Sepulcher Church, the Golden Dome but what I remember most vividly is being harassed by shopkeepers whose eyes lit with shekel signs when they saw me approach along la Via Dolorosa and risking a heart attack after having climbed a hill in tropical temperatures to get to the Dominus Flevit church (where I almost wept since it was closed).

However, Jerusalem began to work its spell on me too in an unexpected way. I was delighted to come across Yotam Ottolenghi and Sam Tamimi's Jerusalem. I enjoy cooking and buying cookbooks (something I've inherited from my mother, but truth be told I don't always use them), approve of any Israeli-Palestinian collaboration, plus the book is full of gorgeous pictures and bits of the authors' personal histories, plenty of the recipes looked doable and combined different cooking traditions. Eventually, I attempted to carry out one or two of the recipes that looked good and easy to make, and posted pictures of the results on facebook. I realized, as I perused the book, I was developing a mild obsession with culinary Jerusalem and decided to set myself a Julie and Julia kind of challenge, you know, as in the blogger who cooked her way through one of Julia Child's tome. Though the idea came, once again, from Jerusalem itself. While rummaging the drawers for cutlery in the singularly homey kitchen of my Zion Square hostel, I chatted with two American travelers, one of which taught (Italian) cooking. As the conversation touched on the joys of preparing and eating food, the idea of cooking your way through an entire cookbook came up.

Now I don't aim to cook my way through all of Jerusalem. I've no clue where to get some of the ingredients, for one thing (where do Messrs. Ottolenghi and Tamimi expect me to find kohlrabis?) not to mention lack of time, lack of self-discipline, etc. But I'm trying to make my way through as many of the recipes as possible, and use this space to discuss the recipes and their applications.

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