Seven Dishes for Seven Decades.

Author:Guttman, Vered
Position:Talk of the Table

The long tradition of Jewish food, wrote culinary historian Gil Marks, has always been one of "transforming and transferring," and Israeli food is no exception. On Israel's 70th anniversary, we look at Israeli history through food: We selected seven dishes, one for each decade. A word of warning: These dishes by no means represent the entire story of Israeli cuisine. But they can provide your taste buds with a reminder of how the country's culinary traditions evolved--and what they say about Israeli history.--Vered Guttman


Spurred by austerity, Ashkenazi Jews turn eggplant into "chopped liver"

A key challenge facing the struggling newborn nation was feeding the droves of immigrants arriving at its shores. The shortage of supplies and the lack of foreign currency to import food forced leaders to impose food rationing. Each month, every citizen was allocated, for example, unlimited rye bread, half an ounce of rice and legumes a day, one-and-a-half pounds of onions and about two ounces of meat. Egg powder and fish oil supplemented the nutrient-scarce diet.

Ashkenazi Jews, coming from a cold European climate to the sunny Mediterranean, were confronted with unfamiliar ingredients, among them eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes. With chickens being scarce and expensive, they were forced to reinvent vegetarian "chopped liver" by frying eggplant, which has a malleable flavor, then putting it through a hand-cranked meat grinder and mixing it with chopped eggs. Unable to buy herring, the immigrants also came up with a herring-flavored eggplant salad, topped with green onion, dill, mayo and pickles.


Sephardi & Mizrachi Jews introduce spicy fish stew & couscous

In Israel's second decade, interactions among immigrant groups became more common, and Sephardi and Mizrachi Jews began sharing recipes and kitchen secrets. Among them were Moroccan, Tunisian and Libyan dishes of spicy fish served over couscous, as well as Libyan beef-stuffed potato in tomato sauce, a Turkish burek pastry stuffed with feta cheese or spinach, and ghiveci, a Romanian vegetable stew. Families began to serve a mix of Sephardi and Ashkenazi dishes, and East European chicken soup became a staple of all Israeli Shabbat dinners.


Prosperity leads to local dishes such as grilled meats & mezze

A sense of prosperity, coupled with nationalistic euphoria following Israel's victory in the Six-Day War, brought a wave of restaurants offering local Palestinian-style fare...

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