A recipe for success

A guide for the perplexed helps new immigrants find their way around Israeli cuisine.

feinblum irwin 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
feinblum irwin 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Jerusalemites Gila Feinblum and Ariel Irwin feel the pain of every new immigrant who’s had a meltdown in Mega, mangled metric conversions or discarded favorite recipes because the ingredients aren’t available in Israel. They’ve been there, done that.
But more than just empathy, Feinblum and Irwin are offering help to Anglos stymied by grocery shopping and cooking in Israel. Their forthcoming kosher cookbook, whimsically entitled Yashar Yashar Ad Hasof: Navigating the Israeli Kitchen, features side-by-side ingredient lists in English/US measurements and equivalent Hebrew/metric measurements.
While the recipes were chosen to appeal to the typical Anglo palate, they do not call for ingredients that are difficult to find in average Israeli cities, nor do they include combinations of produce that aren’t in season here simultaneously.
The title – meaning “straight ahead, to the end” – refers to the old joke about the uniform, if not always accurate, directions Israelis give bewildered newcomers.
“Our book promises to help alleviate the confusion,” says Feinblum, who made aliya 15 years ago.
Born in South Africa, the avid home chef was frustrated at “constantly having to Google how to convert measurements for every recipe” and scrapping menu ideas that required “three different kinds of fruit not in season here or an [imported] ingredient I’d have to mortgage my home to buy.”
More recently, she noticed that friends newly arrived in Israel often called her from the supermarket, desperately seeking translation help. It takes time to learn that “cashew” is not the same as kishu (squash), for example, and that cuts of beef are identified by numbers rather than names.
She and Ariel Irwin, a 2005 immigrant from New Jersey, met in their Katamon neighborhood and discovered a shared love of kitchen experimentation. They were both looking for interesting but easy recipes (“something that doesn’t require two ovens and four bowls”) to serve friends on Shabbat and holidays.
In October, the friends created a Facebook group to solicit recipes. Word spread quickly; the group now has about 500 members. The pair set up a separate e-mail account and sent out weekly requests for recipes in specific categories.
“Now we are testing the recipes we accepted and asking for whatever we feel is missing,” says Feinblum, who works for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
The full-color book, to be published in the fall as a fund-raiser for an umbrella organization that feeds the hungry in Israel, will include about 30 recipes in each of nine or 10 categories. Its graphic designer, Tanya Kanner, and several photographers for the project are all immigrants. A deal is in the works with a major Israeli publisher.
The co-editors rejected any recipe that would be difficult to assemble in Israel, such as strawberry mango salad, whose main ingredients cannot be found during the same season. They also rejected recipes with items such as fresh blueberries, cranberries and shortening unless they were able to suggest readily available alternatives.
The book will not, therefore, include Feinblum’s favorite mint chocolate chip cheesecake because she makes it with mint extract brought by visitors from overseas. “We are only using things we found in supermarkets in Jerusalem, Beersheba and Ra’anana,” says Feinblum.
Irwin, a financial analyst, says the book will also be sold in Judaicastores in the United States. “A lot of Jews in America are looking foranother way to connect to Israel, and this is a great way to do it – bypreparing foods that friends in Israel might be making as well,” saysIrwin. “At the end of the day, it’s another kosher cookbook with newand interesting recipes. And if it’s successful, we’d be happy to doanother.”
The co-editors are offering the first of several planned tasting eventsto the public on Thursday. The largest will be a progressive meal, withsoup, sides, salads and desserts each served in different Katamonhomes. Admission is NIS 40, and tasters are free to start and finish atthe location of their choice. One-stop tasting events will be offeredthe same night in Givat Shmuel, Modi’in, Efrat and Alon Shvut. Allproceeds will go to charity.
For information on the tastings: bit.ly/taste_testing_extravaganza
To pre-order Yashar Yashar Ad Hasof: Navigating the Israeli Kitchen: bit.ly/Cookbook_PreOrders