For my love of discovering new tastes, I caught up with a Netflix documentary called ‘In Search Of Israeli Cuisine’ also due to my keen interest in Israeli traditions and culture. I have always believed a lot has been misinterpreted and misunderstood about the State of Israel given the geopolitical nature of the Middle East, and so apart from the military and tech industry news that I keep reading here was a documentary that presented me with a hitherto unexplored food lifestyle of Israel.
The documentary is guided by Israeli chef and restaurateur Michael Solomonov who is on a quest to find if there is indeed such a thing like ‘Israeli Cuisine’. The film follows Chef Solomonov to over 100 locations (or so I’m told) through the Israeli hinterland in search of unique culinary experiences, and on a scenic tour of Tel Aviv, Nazareth, including a place called Taverna near the Sea of Galilee for the taste of freshwater fish and crabs, and the Golan Heights to indulge in the choicest Israeli wines. It wasn’t until the the early 80s and the economic boom when Israelis traveled great lengths as tourists, experiencing the western world lifestyle and realized they needed to develop and nurture a distinct flavourful identity that is established from locally sourced ingredients only. A cuisine that is their own.
The documentary traces Israeli flavours and texture from the Jewish communities of Ashkenazi and Sephardic and outlines the uniqueness it has brought to local cuisine. Basically, the Ashkenazi Jews have their origins in Eastern Europe, and the Sephardi Jews in the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal), besides also gaining its rich taste from middle-eastern cultures such as Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon. Chef Solomonov profiles home cooks, chefs, farmers, and even food writers to get to the depth of Israeli food traditions and local recipes with an elaborate history behind its source, and also goes hunting for dishes on the streets and hotels of faraway cities in Israel.
Although there were mostly non-vegetarian dishes (being a vegetarian) it left me awe inspired to learn that Israel is a historically rich land of multi-faceted ethnicities and customs whose food is not just influenced by Arabs, Christians, Druze, and Jews but also Moroccan, Turkish, Uzbek, German, Iraqi, and even French culinary traditions.