Food

The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - CONTENTS - • Text, photos and styling: PASCALE PEREZ-RU­BIN Trans­lated by Han­nah Hochner.

One of my fa­vorite pas­times is en­coun­ter­ing a new eth­nic cui­sine. I love meet­ing the chefs, who show me the del­i­ca­cies they learned to pre­pare when they were grow­ing up, and I love tast­ing the new fla­vors and then watch­ing how the dishes are put to­gether. And as I learn the new tech­niques, I of­ten hear sto­ries from their child­hoods and the cul­tures of their or their par­ents’ home coun­try.

It’s kind of like speak­ing of ter­roir when re­fer­ring to French wine, which is the set of all en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors that af­fect the wine’s char­ac­ter. I feel this way when I meet peo­ple who cook eth­nic food.

This week, I met Ziona Ozatzkir-Masri, who agreed to pre­pare a tra­di­tional Egyp­tian meal con­sist­ing of dishes she learned to pre­pare from her mother, For­tuna. For­tuna grew up in Alexan­dria in a fam­ily with roots in Spain, and the fam­ily spoke Ladino among them­selves. They had lived for a few gen­er­a­tions in Jerusalem be­fore mov­ing to Egypt, which was a lib­eral and eco­nom­i­cally strong coun­try at the time. She re­calls hear­ing sto­ries about neigh­bors from Europe and other Arab coun­tries who spoke English, French and Ital­ian.

Masri’s great-grand­fa­ther on her fa­ther’s side reached Egypt from the Aus­tro-Hun­gar­ian Em­pire. He was an ac­tive Ha­gana op­er­a­tive and helped many young North African Jews reach Pales­tine in pre-state days. At one point he was caught and spent a year and a half in prison. Af­ter serv­ing his time, his fam­ily was thrown out of Egypt, and Ziona’s fam­ily made its way to the Be’er Ya’acov ma’abara (tran­sit camp) in Pardess Hanna, where they be­gan ac­cli­mat­ing to life in Is­rael with all the other new im­mi­grants.

Egyp­tian cui­sine is based on fresh sea­sonal veg­eta­bles, such as ar­ti­choke, leeks, okra, green beans, cau­li­flower, radish, gar­lic, onion, sweet potato and herbs, such as pars­ley and cilantro. It also uses lots of legumes and fruits, such as pomegranates, figs, grapes, dates and mango.

In Alexan­dria, ev­ery­one used the neigh­bor­hood oven to bake their own bread, and this was also where ev­ery­one would leave their hamin (cholent) pot for Shab­bat lunch. Desserts in­cor­po­rated a lot of silan and honey.

For­tuna would use leftover bread in desserts or as bread crumbs and add leftover veg­eta­bles to omelettes. Noth­ing went to waste. On Rosh Hashanah they would make fried pump­kin with honey and cin­na­mon, and on Passover they’d make haroset from dried dates, nuts, raisins and cin­na­mon. When a baby’s first tooth be­gan show­ing, they would pre­pare a big cel­e­bra­tion fea­tur­ing a dish made from wheat, milk, raisins, al­monds, honey and cin­na­mon.

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