Jerusalem, if I forget you …

Make food not war: The Jerusalem authorsJerusalem cookbook that gets you dreaming. The headline just about says it all. But then, Haaretz isn’t writing my blog. Well I’ll be damned if I didn’t just buy the cookBOOK of the year – Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, natives of Jerusalem – one Israeli and one Palestinian from East Jerusalem.

It’s more than just a cookbook. We can call it a lifestyle book because let’s face it, this diet is proven to be just better. Really, there’s proof. Read this. I’ve tried three recipes since I got the book last Saturday, all of which have been a success. It was amazing to make hummous that for the first time, really tasted like authentic Israeli hummous. Hmmm … Maybe I can stop buying tubs of that Sabra stuff after all.

Not surprisingly, the Syrian grocery store in my neighborhood is welcoming a new stream of customers looking for sumac, ras al hanut, zaatar, barberries, and other ingredients imported from Lebanon, Morocco, and such. These guys told me at least one person a day comes in looking for ingredients with a specific recipe in mind from this book. Just yesterday I was at the Syrian preparing my next Jerusalem recipe when older couple walked in doing the same. We all talked. Me, them, and the Syrians. It was fun. I never knew the old Syrian guy behind the counter even spoke English, and he always looked kind of mean … but turns out he’s actually kind of cool.

Jerusalem, the cookbook that is, is full of interesting historical, cultural tidbits; calling out what ingredients are specific to Iranian Jews, or those attributed to the Ashkenazim. Or the modern day habits of some Palestinian women get the butcher to grind meat with herbs and spices included … Smart idea for meatballs, burgers, and such. I’m a sucker for food history. This also happens to be a picture book that captures the vibrancy and beauty of Jerusalem without having to sweat your ass off at Jaffa Gate while trying to figure out the sherut schedule.

Dear reader, you already know how I feel about politics. It’s not my area of expertise and it makes me extremely uncomfortable. That being said (heheheh) you can’t help but to feel the spirit of this book truly is inclusive. Everyone enjoys this food (everyone). Honestly, I don’t remember the last time I read anything that talked about an area of shared interest that was as light, happy, and inspiring (really, I mean it), that had anything to do with this region. For a moment, or even a few, I can look at Jerusalem (the place) through the lens of the food lover who could, through a fog of deliciousness-induced food euphoria, decide we’re not so different …

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