Chefs Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi were both born in Jerusalem in 1968. Both men had mothers who served lavish breakfasts with mystifying ease, and both inhaled falafel on their midday walks home from school, spoiling their appetites for “real” lunch. In many ways they led parallel lives, with one crucial difference: Ottolenghi grew up in a Jewish family in the western part of the city, and Tamimi in a Palestinian family in the east. These parallels and divergences are explored in their new bestseller, Jerusalem: A Cookbook.
The recipes in Jerusalem: A Cookbook are as diverse, colorful, and contradictory as the city’s population. Traditional fare such as shakshuka and chicken soup are contrasted by a’ja (bread fritters), chermoula, seafood and fennel soup, and braised quail. The photographs are exquisite, an homage to the city as much as its food: men reclining on plastic chairs against a stone wall, smoking water pipes; a worker hefting wooden crosses through the Old City; lunch tables adorned with salads, pickles and pitas. At a recent event in New York City, Ottolenghi conceded that though food probably won’t bring peace to the Middle East, it does bring people together, and that in itself is worth celebrating.