June 20, 2018

Fabulous Flavours from the Land of Milk and Honey

H.E. Mr. Dimitrios Chronopoulos, Ambassador of Greece, H.E. Andrea Gustovic-Ercegovac, Ambassador of Croatia, H.E. Aviv Shir-On Ambassador of Israel, Dr. Mayelinne De Lara, Diplomat Magazine’s Publisher, H.E. Regina Cordeiro-Dunlop, Ambassador of Brazil and Mr. Ronaldo Dunlop.

By John Dunkelgrün.

Israel is a small country surrounded almost completely by entities that are sworn to its destruction. One would think that this would result in an insular mentality, a shutting itself off from a hostile world. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Israel has taken in immigrants from all over the world and absorbed many cultures into its own strong identity. Nowhere is this more clear than in its cuisine. From the very beginning, the early immigrants from Eastern Europe mixed their foods with local foods from the Eastern Mediterranean. Then came Yemenites and Jews expelled from North Africa following the establishment of the State of Israel.

Israel then was a poor country, but rich in good local produce, produce that is a staple of its cuisine to this very day as evidenced by its great and thriving food markets.

For additional Robert Huibert’s pictures please open the following link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/121611753@N07/albums/72157696090793871

H.E. Alexander Shulgin, Ambassador of Russia with the Ambassador of Israel, H.E. Aviv Shir-On.

Spices like zatar, hummus and tejina, pita breads became as ubiquitous as challah and gefilte fish. By today its cooking has been spiced up by foods from a host of African countries, America’s and Asia. Young Israelis are inveterate travelers and they have brought tastes and recipes from literally all over the planet.

This experience along with a growing economy resulted over the years in a unique Israeli cuisine with a bevy of chefs that are enjoying international renown. In recent years Israeli food has become fashionable as far away as New York and London. Some chefs, like Ottolenghi and his partner Sami Tamimi have become celebrities and household names all over the world.

Chef and author Jonathan Borowitz, from Israel Food Channel, chef Sido de Brabander, from Crowne Plaza and Head-chef Amid Aaronsohn.

Why is this? As H.E. Ambassador Aviv Shir-On explains, “Israeli chefs, coming from a myriad of cultures opened themselves to the world, traveled widely, taught and learned.

They are not political, working with fellow chefs from everywhere and in the start-up country that Israel has become, there are many start-up initiatives in cooking as well.

Partnering with Palestinian chefs, cooks from Mali, Asia and almost anywhere you care to name, Israeli chefs are in a very real sense cooking for peace. For example, a renowned Israeli chef Ram Shmueli cooked at a food festival in Vienna together with the chef of the American Colony Hotel in East Jerusalem, Mohammad al Jawi.”

The Ambassador of Israel with Midori Inomata and the Ambassador of Japan, H.E. Hiroshi Inomata.

It is lucky for The Netherlands that Mr. Patrick Aarsman, General Manager of the Promenade Crown Plaza Hotel included Israel in its series of international food festivals. He was lucky to get chefs like Jonathan Borowitz and Amid Aaronsohn to work alongside his own chef Sido de Brabander to prepare a magnificent spread of exquisite flavours.

Your correspondent is not a professional food writer, but to put it succinctly, they made ordinary sounding dishes truly spectacular. Baby pita breads with lamb and a tahine sauce, beefsteak tartare and a spicy tomato fish stew among others were real taste sensations.

Jonathan Borowitz considers it amazing that a country of just 70 years old with immigrants from so many countries has developed a real and recognizable Israeli cuisine. He attributes it to the terroir, the people, and the histories. Jewish holidays like the Shabat and Passover were celebrated with different dishes everywhere and they have come together in Israel. Thus food has become a way of communication.

“We are now the third generation”, he said, “we cook from our memories but with modern, international, adaptations.” He worked for fifteen years for different Ministries, but the work didn’t touch him and he didn’t touch people with it. “I hope I can now touch you with my food. Food is a language, food makes people come together, maybe food will bring final peace”.

H.E. Mrs. Regina Cordeiro, Ambassador of Brazil, spouse Mr. Ronaldo Dunlop sharing with Ambassador Shir-On.

The opening evening of the festival was a great success, there were over one hundred people among which almost thirty ambassadors. They enjoyed the food, the cordiality that enjoying good food together can bring and, last but not least, the excellent wines.

It is a sad thing that thinking about Israel has become overshadowed by thinking about the conflict, a conflict of two peoples living on the same land. Perhaps, by sharing the produce of the land, each other’s foods, learning cooking techniques and above all eating together may bring the peace for which so many millions are hungering

Israeli beers brought specially for the occasion.

 

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