An Arab and a Jew: More Alike than Different
Imagine two brothers, related not by blood, but both with claims of lineage to the biblical Patriarch, Abraham. One day they happen to meet in the kitchen of a poplar bakery in London. It was destiny! They both had a passion for cumin, the taste of a Jerusalem artichoke, and the shuffle and bustle of a busy kitchen! These two friends, brothers really, would go on to create a gustatory empire together, with four restaurants and a slew of award-winning cookbooks.
But there’s a catch! Who knew these two men, Yotam and Sami, born in the same year, were reared only blocks away from each other in the divided city of Jerusalem. One in the Jewish quarter, the other in the Islamic. One speaking Hebrew and celebrating the Passover, the other Arabic and kneeling to Allah. And yet on neutral ground, they proved that if given the choice, human beings can and yearn to make peace, not war. Especially when a yummy falafel is at stake!
The Gaza-Israel conflict continues to rage with no truce in sight. We turn on the news and watch from a distance as women, men, and children are sacrificed on a battlefield that was drawn so long ago. These two chefs have chosen to find a common ground: a butcher block table, a glass of Merlot, and a lamb stew bubbling on the stovetop.
When we break bread together around a table, we realize that whether Palestinian or Jew, black or white, gay or straight, vegetarian or carnivore, we all have bellies and souls that yearn to be fed. Although we don’t live in the Gaza strip, holding our coffee cups as rockets begin and end our day, there are many battles waging all around us.
We have the power to bridge the divisions, whether with the shake of a hand, agreement to agree to disagree, or the sharing of a meal together. All of us. Let me say it again. ALL OF US are created in the image of God, love and cherished uniquely and equally. It’s about time we start acknowledging that we are more alike than different!
The story in the Gaza strip, Ferguson, Eastern Ukraine, and right here in our very own backyard can be written differently. We can choose to let go of the past, the resentments, the fear, and instead look for the good, and honor one another on a common ground. I think what we will discover, like Yotam and Sami, is that we are all more alike, than different.
I highly recommend all of the Ottolenghi cookbooks, but my favorite is Plenty. Parnassus and Amazon cannot keep them in stock! I love their simplicity, use of Middle Eastern spices like cumin and turmeric, and their signature use of fresh herbs like cilantro and mint!
This is one of my favorite side dishes to accompany my delicious roasted chicken recipe (previous post!)
1 cup of couscous
3/4 cup of boiling water or chicken stock
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1 cup chopped cilantro
2 tbsp chopped tarragon
2 tbsp chopped dill
2 tbsp chopped mint
6 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup unsalted pistacios, toasted and roughly chopped
3 green onions, finely sliced
1 fresh green chile, finely sliced
1 1/4 cup of arugula leaves
Follow directions on the box for couscous. To make herb paste, put all ingredients in a food processor, or blender and blitz until smooth. Add the herb paste to the couscous and mix together well with a fork to fluff it up. Add the sautéed onion, the pistachios, green onions, green chile, and arugula and mix well. Serve at room temperature. (recipe, p 255, Plenty)
Live in Hope,