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It’s one of the hottest topics on the Israeli culinary scene. Nearly every panel discussion with chefs and food personalities addresses the matter — what is Israeli cuisine? Does it even exist?

And plenty of the country’s most renowned chefs say that it doesn’t. It’s too early to call it Israeli cuisine; there is no such thing; it’s beginning to form but it’s not there yet, they say.

Alon Shaya feels otherwise.

“I’ve heard a lot of chefs say since I’ve been here . . . that there’s no Israeli cuisine,” he explained. “I know why they say that,” he added. “I don’t’ know how many times [Israel] has doubled in size in the last 50 years,” but every time that happens, things are bound to change.

“I crave shwarma, falafel, labaneh, Israeli salad. That’s what I crave when I’m here. And that’s what I consider Israeli food,” he said. “The people are what make Israel Israel, and the land is what makes Israel Israel. Not the name.

“The food that exists here is Israeli cuisine – food that people eat every day. What everyone loves about food here.

“The more people discount that, the less special that becomes,” he said.

These are the things people should embrace and work with — chefs need to turn these dishes into something.   “The more they try to manipulate ingredients, technique, history, the less Israeli cuisine you’re going to have,” he said.  Shaya qualified his words — he’s speaking as an outsider, not a local. This also gives him a less jaded perspective, he said.

Sometimes it takes an outsider to see the forest for the trees.

(By Liz Steinberg)
 


Comments

02/05/2012 14:07

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