My plan to experience as many Palestinian and Jewish Diaspora meals as possible
The year was 1993. I was visiting my father in Tel Aviv where he was taking a sabbatical. We had lived in Israel many years before, when I was a small child, but this was my first time back as a culinary professional. I was on a foodie mission.
I systematically planned out our meals, so I could experience as many Palestinian and Jewish Diaspora meals as humanly possible. There were restaurants and street food vendors from the Levant communities (Cyprus, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Turkey), Iran and Iraq, North Africa, Eastern Europe, Yemen, the Balkans, and the former Soviet Union. I had my work eating cut out for me. Imagine all those cuisines in a country the size of New Jersey.
I ate spicy fish in a heady red sauce from a Moroccan restaurant, Yemenite stuffed vegetables of every possible persuasion. I skipped the Eastern European stuffed cabbage since I grew up on my grandma Ida’s. I had numerous falafel’s and Egyptian Sabich sandwiches, and plenty of hand whipped humus that was so taut and sesame forward, it made me completely rethink what humus was meant to be.
What really rocked my world was a dinner at an Iraqi restaurant in the slightly run-down neighborhood of HaTikva. It started with a lovely array of bright salads, savory spreads and freshly baked pitas. However, the platter of wood-fired grilled meats was the main attraction. We sampled skewers of spring chicken, lamb and chicken hearts. All good, but the real show stopper, was the grilled foie gras. Chunks of fatty goose liver, simply skewered and grilled over plumes of fragrant smoke — perfectly charred on the outside, yet rendered velvety and unctuous on the inside. — utter perfection.