Delicious new movie opens this Friday starring James Beard award winning chef and author Michael Solomonov
Though Israel has been fraught with political tension and drama, many chefs have put this aside to embrace cooking and have started their own revolution of sorts: a culinary one. Three decades ago, people were poor and barely could sustain themselves, and now people are experiencing a much better standard of living, which has led to world-renowned cuisine in Israel. The film, In Search of Israeli Cuisine, profiles chefs, home cooks, vintners and cheese-makers drawn from the more than 100 cultures—Jewish, Arab, Muslim, Christian and others. And since the country is a melting pot of cultures, the film shows what happens when these cultures combined. What happens in the kitchen when a Moroccan Muslim marries a Polish Jew or when a Europoean Jew joins forces with someone from Iraq.
Israel’s sophistication mirrors the current state of the Israeli people and their food: secular, outward looking and innovative.
The star and guide of In Search of Israeli Cuisine is Michael Solomonov, the James Beard award-winning owner of Zahav and several other restaurants in the Philadelphia and New York area, as well as author of Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking. So what does the north easterner know about Israeli cuisine? The film answers that question in the beginning, with Mike telling us he lived in Israel briefly as a teen, and had moved back there for several years too. To Mike, Israeli cuisine is full of delicious contradictions: the food is both vibrant and elemental, rich and healthy, old and new. It’s both a melting pot and barely melting pot.
“It’s important for Americans to realize that regardless of what you see on TV, regardless of your political stance, Israeli cuisine reflects humanity at its best. Sometimes the easiest way for people to relate to a country is through its food and culture.” – Michael Solomonov
The film, In Search of Israeli Cuisine, takes us on a journey into chefs’ kitchens, and discusses their heritage, what their grandmothers cooked, and how they are integrating global influences into their cooking. We learn that even for such a small country, Israel has distinct regional influences and what is considered in one region may not be local in another despite only a 3o minute drive separating them.
- One of the biggest surprises is how Israeli advanced high-tech agronomy has literally changed the way the world eats. Visit a tomato farm in the Negev where cherry tomato vines grow to thirty-six feet, producing for two years. Eggplants and peppers do, too. They’re all made sweeter by drinking a combination of fresh and saltwater.
- Viewers will be surprised to learn that Israelis invented seedless watermelons and seedless lemons, too, which are about to come to market. Drip irrigation transformed agriculture worldwide when it was invented in Israel in the 1950s.
The film strives to answer the basic question, “What is Israeli cuisine?” The problem being that the country has roots in Jewish, Arabic, Moroccan, Lebanese and many other cultures. To one, the cuisine is charred eggplant which is mixed with fresh vegetables, olive oil and lemon juice. To others it is fried fish you eat with your hands. No matter what, as many chefs demonstrate, Food is not political, which is always a great thing.