GIL HOVAV

Gil Hovav (55) is a culi­nary jour­nal­ist, TV per­son­al­ity and au­thor. He has writ­ten cook­books and fic­tion. Born in Jerusalem, he lives in Tel Aviv with his part­ner, Danny, whom he met dur­ing na­tional ser­vice in the Is­raeli army, and their daugh­ter, Naomi (

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - WAKING HOURS - In con­ver­sa­tion with Ciara Dwyer

I’m 55 years old, but I think that I’m at least 80, be­cause I have the habits of an old per­son. I go to sleep at 8.30pm each night, and then get up at 5am. I’m the first one up. I live in Tel Aviv with my part­ner, Danny. He was my of­fi­cer in the in­tel­li­gence ser­vice in the army. We have a 13-year-old daugh­ter, Naomi. As she pointed out when she was four years old, ‘Danny was Gilly’s of­fi­cer in the army, and Gilly is Danny’s of­fi­cer in life’. Danny is a pro­fes­sor of com­puter science.

When I first met Danny, we were both straight. I fin­ished my army ser­vice, grad­u­ated from He­brew Univer­sity and I was go­ing to marry my girl­friend. Then I re­alised that I loved her, but I wasn’t in love with her. After that, I came out. When I re-met Danny, we were both gay.

Al­though gay peo­ple can get mar­ried, we didn’t get mar­ried, be­cause I’m not go­ing to marry an Ashke­nazi Jew. It is be­neath me! I am Sephardic the Jews from Asia and Africa and Ashke­nazi Jews came from Europe. So, each side thinks that they are su­pe­rior. Of course, Danny thinks that I am in­fe­rior, too! Be­ing Jewish is all about not be­ing the per­son next to you, look­ing down at the per­son next to you. That’s the joke.

I’m an Is­raeli first; gay, sec­ond, and then Jewish. But I’m to­tally sec­u­lar. I do not be­lieve in God, and never have been bar mitz­vah-ed. I was never sent to syn­a­gogue and don’t eat kosher. Pork and dairy: I take the lot. I’m a hea­then. But be­ing Jewish is part of my legacy; it’s not a re­li­gion thing, but a know­ing.

At 5am, I read the news­pa­per. I’m en­joy­ing the world, be­cause the day be­longs only to me. Then I wake my daugh­ter. I tip­toe into her room. It’s very im­por­tant to be pos­i­tive in the morn­ing, so I say, ‘Good morn­ing, lit­tle sun­shine. The world loves you, it’s time to get up.’ And then this voice comes from be­neath the blan­ket, ‘Get out of my room. Now!’

Hav­ing kids was com­pletely Danny’s idea. I never liked chil­dren, but it was clear to me that it would be im­moral to pre­vent my part­ner from hav­ing a child. And now Naomi is the ap­ple of my eye.

We raise Naomi with her mother, a won­der­ful woman who used to be on the na­tional team for bas­ket­ball. We knew her, but it was of­fi­cially ar­ranged with a clinic. Bi­o­log­i­cally, Naomi is the daugh­ter of Danny and this woman, and I am just Gilly. That’s what she calls me.

Gay par­ent­hood is very ac­cept­able in Is­rael. Al­most all of my gay and les­bian friends have chil­dren. When a child grows up in two homes, it’s dif­fer­ent. There is less pres­sure. Her mother lives on the same street, so she grows between two houses, like a child of di­vorced par­ents, but hap­pily di­vorced. It’s great that she has a mother, be­cause when she wants to go to Dis­ney­land, I can say, ‘This is what you have a bi­o­log­i­cal mother for. Go with your mother’.

I drink cof­fee. I never eat in the morn­ing. Then it’s the worst hour of the day, be­cause I go to the gym. I hate it. Peo­ple around me are hav­ing the time of their life there, but I just hate it. Peo­ple tell me that the en­dor­phins will kick in, and I’ll feel good. I never do, dur­ing sports or af­ter­wards. I feel much bet­ter hav­ing a glass of wine. But I put on weight even with­out eat­ing, so I must go to the gym.

Af­ter­wards, I stop for cof­fee and then I go home. It’s al­ready 10am. If I’m lucky, I’ll sneak a baby’s nap between 10 and 11am. I re­ally like sleep­ing. I’m prob­a­bly the lazi­est per­son you’ve ever met. When I was work­ing in news­pa­pers, I was a slave, but then sud­denly I got out and I saw that there was so much more oxy­gen in the air. And now that I can af­ford it, it’s lovely.

At 11am, I call my day-time hus­band, and we ar­range where we’ll meet for lunch. Danny is my part­ner, but this friend, who is straight, is a di­rec­tor. We’ve done tele­vi­sion to­gether for 15 years. It’s some­thing I do on the side. I started out in news­pa­pers, do­ing bar re­views, then restau­rant re­views, and then I be­came an edi­tor. I used to do a lot of food shows on TV, but I moved away from food as I de­cided it was al­ready sat­u­rated. My last se­ries was about the evo­lu­tion of sports all over the world. I have a TV pro­duc­tion com­pany and a pub­lish­ing com­pany, so I have many work­ing lives.

I still do food be­cause I have a restau­rant col­umn, and I’ve writ­ten sev­eral cook­books, in­clud­ing my first one pub­lished in English

[In the book, Gil asumes the per­sona of a —a rabbi’s wife — and de­tails the food she makes for her seven chil­dren.] After Nigella, I knew that I could never be a do­mes­tic god­dess, but I could be a rabbi’s wife.

You would ex­pect me to say that I learnt ev­ery­thing from be­ing in the kitchen watch­ing my mother and grand­mother; not so. My mother never cooked she was a ca­reer woman. My grand­mother was the queen of the kitchen, but she never let me watch her. In Sephardic fam­i­lies, men in the kitchen bring only two things dirt and bad luck. But the day she died, I started cook­ing to re­mem­ber her, be­cause for me, taste and mem­ory go to­gether. That’s how it started. The food I cook is very ba­sic. I like stews from pots with lids and red sauce; some­thing trust­wor­thy, so that your plate is full, and so is your soul.

After lunch, I sleep from 2pm un­til 4pm. Then, when my daugh­ter comes home from school, I cook for her. That is the hu­mil­i­a­tion of the day, be­cause she tells me that I should learn from her mom how to make chicken soup. I say, ‘But your mom is the trac­tor-dyke and I’m the gay per­son here; come on’. Her mom laughs at this. I usu­ally cook very sim­ple food for her, like steak and chips, or sch­nitzel and pasta. Then, while she is do­ing her home­work, I do some writ­ing. I’ve writ­ten a novel, three col­lec­tions of short sto­ries, and I’ve just pub­lished my first chil­dren’s book.

Then I go to bed with a book. Danny stays up watch­ing TV. I sleep like a goat. I’ve had my share of dif­fi­cul­ties, of work­ing hard, be­ing poor and build­ing my ca­reer. I think I’m har­vest­ing now. I’m not afraid of it. I en­joy it.

I started cook­ing the day my grand­mother died. I wanted to re­mem­ber her. I be­lieve that taste and mem­ory go to­gether

Of A Kitchen Reb­bet­zin. Con­fes­sions reb­bet­zin

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