Long ago as I was pouring over blogs (because cookbooks were way too expensive for our budget at the time), I found Food Bridge. The pictures drew me in but the stories captivated me. This was a time when I wasn’t really sure how to express myself and the experiences I had. My blog was a recipe index and my cooking skills were mediocre. Oh how I wished I could write like Sarah. I bookmarked and visited her page daily for weeks watching and waiting for a new post. Every new post allowed me to, if even for a brief moment escape from the normalcy that was my life. Sarah’s life in Israel transcended the political and religious borders that seemed so cut and dry. I also knew that her goal – that food can bridge the divide between people was true. I’ve seen it, I live it. Thank you Sarah. I hope you’ll enjoy and be inspired by her blog as much as I have.
Tell me a little bit about your blog and what you write about.
For a food blogger, I am often out of sync with the latest culinary trends; I am clueless about the best cookbooks, hottest chefs and must go restaurants. Instead, I focus on what endures, the culture and history of ethnic cuisine. My aim, as the title of my blog suggests, is food as a bridge between cultures as well as their relationship and similarities with one another. I also incorporate my other interests, including travel, edible wild plants, ethnobotany, photography and food science.
Why did you start blogging?
My first blog platform was blogger which I used to help publicize my Middle Eastern cooking workshops. I hoped it would act as an online business card, linking me to potential customers. It didn’t work as I expected. Blogging triggered a passion for writing and photography and teaching fell to the way side.
In time my blog linked me to like minded people as well as created new writing opportunities.
What is your earliest memory in the kitchen?
I wish I could say it was the smell of grandma’s butter cake on a Sunday morning or my mother’s slow cooked stew. Instead I remember digging my little hands into a Cracker Jacks box anticipating the prize hidden within. I also recall hating a vast number of foods. Eggplants, cooked carrots, onions, garlic- all of them were on my untouchable list. Peas were beyond disgusting and I refused to eat them even under threat of no dessert. And liver…just the thought would make me gag. I am reconciled with my kitchen repulsions and can even describe myself as a non picky eater.
Who or what influences you in the kitchen today?
I am mostly influenced by beautiful ingredients. I am ridiculous, falling in love with piles of parsley, burgundy plums and the scent of ripe mangoes. I always buy too much and arrive home with enough to supply an army. It’s wasteful and expensive. The solution is to send my husband out on the shopping expedition. He doesn’t meander very much from the list I give him.
What is your favorite ingredient?
Lemons. I love their versatility, zing and sun shiny color. I use lemon juice is instead of vinegar in vinaigrettes, marinades and sauces. Zest adds a bright citrus flavor to both savory and sweet dishes. One of my favorite drinks is lemonana, lemonade flavored with fresh mint sprigs.
Everyone has a favorite recipe that we just can’t re-create the same way as our mom, grandma etc. Which recipe is this for you?
My mom is a one hit wonder type of cook so not only can I not replicate her food she can’t either (which is fine since she ends up making another hit). She never follows recipes but just invents things along the way, combining ingredients from experience and innovation. One particularly memorable dish she prepared was chicken topped with sliced lemon and brown sugar. The sugar caramelized on the fruit so they were almost candied, infusing the chicken with lemony sweetness. I tried replicating this recipe but it is never quite how I remembered it.
Who is your favorite “famous/celebrity” chef and why?
I don’t watch food shows. I have never seen an episode of Master Chef, No Reservation or even the Food Network. It’s not that I try to avoid them. I simply don’t own a television and have no idea who the famous chefs are supposed to be. I do however read many cookbooks and would have to give Paula Wolfert celebrity status for her dedication, mastery and preservation of ethnic recipes.
Which of your recipes is your favorite?
I don’t really have a favorite. I have taste bud fatigue and get bored eating the same thing repeatedly. At home I do have about a dozen recipes which I make regularly including lahmacun, pasta Bolognese, chili con carne, meatballs with olives and preserved lemons, osh plov (Bukharan rice with carrots), kubba (semolina dumplings in lemony tomato soup) and spaghetti with anchovies and parsley.
What was your least successful recipe attempt?
It was a recipe for curried chicken with red lentils. It is truly unfortunate that red lentils lose their vibrant orange color and degrade into what looks like sewage sludge. I gave it to my kids to eat and they said “we’re not going to eat it until you do!” Not a chance.
Which kitchen tool couldn’t you live without?
My cast iron pan. I use it most often to sear meat, for shallow frying, caramelize onions and even to scramble eggs (I turn off the heat in the middle and the eggs continues to cook until set). I never put my cast iron pan away.
Last meal. What would yours be?
Have no idea, not sure I want to think about it.
Anything else you’d like to add/share with my readers?
I have a large collection of cookbooks, many of them written by home cooks. The authors often have no professional knowledge of styling, photography or editing recipes. What they do have is a thorough knowledge of their family’s cuisine, whether it is Polish or Tunisian and a passion to share it with others.