11 November 2017

Weekend Cooking: In Search of Israeli Cuisine (Film)

Review: In Search of Israeli CusineI had other plans for today's post, but after I stumbled across this documentary about Israeli food, I decided I didn't want to wait to share it with you. (Available on Netflix and Amazon)

In Search of Israeli Cusine, written and directed by Roger Sherman, follows award-winning chef Michael Solomonov (of Philadelphia's Zahav restaurant) on a journey through Israel to discover the defining flavors and dishes in that country's kitchens.

Let's start with the basic question of the film: What exactly is Israeli food? The word I remember most from the movie is complex. To say the country's food is global is a bit of an understatement. The cuisine has been influenced by thousands of years of indigenous peoples and cultures, by twentieth-century immigration, and by modern-day newcomers. The resulting dishes aren't what one would consider to be fusion, but something wholly different.

For such a small geographic area, Israel is a land of great diversity, from desert, to coastline, to lush hillsides and cold mountains, and each region has its own ingredients and traditions. In addition, you cannot talk about any aspect of Israel without taking politics and religion.

Review: In Search of Israeli CusineAs other reviewers have noted, In Search of Israeli Cuisine doesn't give us a definite answer, but through Solomonov's adventures and interviews, we discover the incredible variety of foods to be found throughout Israel. We visit cheese caves, wineries, tomato farms, fruit orchards, olive presses, and fishing villages. We learn the differences between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and how cultural and religious traditions affect the food choices in those cities.

I particularly liked meeting the people, including growers / producers, chefs, food writers, and merchants. I was surprised to learn that religious dietary laws are not particularly strict and that politics and cultural issues can have a strong affect on the fate of restaurants. I hadn't realized that Israel was on the cutting edge of a new kind of global cuisine.

In some ways, Israel is not all that different from other immigrant countries: People bring with them the traditional foods of their homelands. Yet in America, cooking the dishes from home can be comforting, whereas in Israel in the mid-twentieth century, foods from Europe were a reminder of hardships, war, and persecution. Still, it's difficult to shed the culinary expectations set in one's childhood. Thus Israelis have a unique perspective on their country's cuisine or lack thereof.

Review: In Search of Israeli CusineMichael Solomonov has a relaxed, natural screen presence, which makes the film easy to watch. He doesn't have the slick, broad vocabulary of a Food Network star, and--frankly--I find that refreshing. We aren't subjected to a drawn-out assessment of each dish; instead Solmonov often gives us just a simple, "That's delicious."

The filming of In Search of Israeli Cuisine was nicely done, showing us the scenery, the food, and the people with equal attention.

Even though the search may have left more questions than answers, I can recommend In Search of Israeli Cuisine to anyone interested in how a country or region comes to be identified with a particular palette of flavors. Politics, religion, immigration, environment, and culture all play a part in defining the dishes coming out of Israeli kitchens. Here's the trailer:

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

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Mae Travels 11/11/17, 6:33 AM  

Thanks for reviewing this documentary -- now I know I have to see it! I have several Israeli cookbooks both by Israelis and outsiders, originally published throughout the history of this very young country, and it's amazing how a cuisine has developed from the historic elements you mention.

best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

gluten Free A_Z Blog 11/11/17, 6:39 AM  

Thank you so much for sharing this. I love Israeli food and have been to Zahav in Philadelphia a few times.Can't wait to see this.. Oh- I goofed on the entree and submitted twice. Can you remove one of them.. thanks

Jackie McGuinness 11/11/17, 9:12 AM  

I would love to visit Israel. John is a little leery, however.

Esme 11/11/17, 9:40 AM  

I will have to watch this-tonight is the perfect night-husband has other plans. It is interesting how Middle Eastern food is almost the same but not the same with each country having it's own variation. Check out this restaurant Mokonuts in Paris. I ate there last week. She has a chocolate chip cookie with black olives. I know sounds strange -just outstanding food. The pastry chef is Japanese and the food chef is originally from Beirut.

jama 11/11/17, 10:51 AM  

This film sounds really interesting. I know nothing about Israeli food and I love the idea of a complex combination of many cultures and aesthetics.

Deb in Hawaii 11/11/17, 11:38 AM  

This looks like a documentary that I would really enjoy. I love Israeli cuisine and have quite a few different cookbooks that feature it and I love learning about the cultural and regional aspects of food. Thanks for sharing!

Molly 11/12/17, 8:37 AM  

Sadly, I know very little about the Isreali community, but I know I would find this documentary fascinating. Thank you for sharing.

And also... thank you for providing Weekend Cooking as a place where we can gather and share our culinary lives with one another. I look forward to this series every week :)

Les in Oregon 11/12/17, 11:06 AM  

I love food documentaries and this one sounds intriguing! Adding it to my list to watch this week. Thanks, Candace!

(Diane) bookchickdi 11/12/17, 1:23 PM  

I love to learn about other countries and their food origins. This one looks terrific!

Heidenkind 11/13/17, 1:39 AM  

Thanks for the red! Sounds like Jerusalem by Ottolenghi

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