There is every reason to assume that this cookbook will be a great success. It has a scarcity value. I am sure there are lots of copies available but how rare is a book that talks about mutual respect, friendship and hope between these two constantly warring peoples. How could such a book come to be and why would the marvellous Claudia Roden take sufficient interest in this little book to write the foreword?
Robin Soans is the compiler of this book. I don’t describe him as the author because the authors are the Arabs and Israelis who eat together. But it all started with a play! Two forward-thinking directors, Tim Roseman and Rima Brihi, one Arab and one Israeli, had a dream. They would plan a play about the conflict. The characters would not be soldiers, bombers or politicians. They would be ordinary people caught in the middle… as they always are. Cooking is at the centre of most people’s lives, whatever religion. This book is a product of that play.
The Arab-Israeli Cookbook isn’t an over-worthy tome. It’s about people but it’s about food and the food that those people are happy to share. There are lots of Middle Eastern classics here. These are recipes that you can trust because they are family recipes that have, in some cases, been passed down for many generations. The dishes start with breakfast and continue to dessert and they are tempting.
The traditional dishes include hummus, falafel, fattoush, tabboulet and kibbeh, but there are others that are new to me. Paprika Prawns has its roots in central Europe and a gorgeous chocolate cake was a surprise: a moist sponge with a chocolate-butter cream filling and a rich coffee and chocolate icing.
The final chapter of the book reflects upon the author’s diary of his stay in the Middle East. It makes sombre and sober reading but it reminds us that ordinary men, women and children continue to live their lives under the most tragic and dangerous of circumstances. The issues are complex and seem beyond resolution but we must put our faith in those who still believe that the fork is mightier than the sword… or gun… or bomb.
The Arab-Israeli Cookbook has delicious food and a message. Robin says… “there is a whole other side you don’t read about or see in the media… individuals who, in their own private way, are building, not burning bridges…”
The Arab-Israeli Cookbook
Author: Robin Soans
Published by: Aurora Metro Press
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018