Choosing which country a recipe belongs to has consequences
It IS a beautiful thing. But people like me get worked up about these issues due to nostalgia.
I love that restaurant also. I had excellent hamoth there.
I love how the food from that entire area is shared in some version (perhaps with different names or twists) with neighboring countries and it’s a beautiful thing in spite of the cultural and religious differences, politics, and wars that divide the people. Make food, not war!
It's so important to give the credit where it's due. Sabich is so delicious and there is nothing like Iraqi Jewish food! One of my favorite places to eat it is at Azura, a restaurant in the Mahane Yehuda Market in Israel, an Iraqi Jewish family owned restaurant that slow cooks the most delicious dishes for hours.
I’m so glad you wrote in, and unfortunate that you weren’t fully heard. I will never forget the sabich sandwiches I ate in Israel at the Iraqi-Israeli place that claims to have originated the Iraqi-Israeli version of the sandwich with Iraqi-Jewish amba, tahini, and hot sauce. And I will never forget the Kurdish-Jewish kubbeh (both khamusta—sweet and sour, and bamyeh or okra varieties) I would eat at the Kurdish-Jewish worker restaurant in Or Yehuda. The owners helped their mother prepare these dishes at the restaurant. Her knowledge and love for the cuisine of her birth was palpable in every bite. The last time I visited Israel, I ate there again, but it wasn’t the same. The owners’ dear mother had passed. When I try to recreate a dish like t’beet, I look to the recipes written in Hebrew to find the closest analogue to the wonderful foods I remember from those little family-run eateries. We need to write it all down, in English, to keep it alive.
Very interesting article, and the one I truly agree with. Whilst reading it, I am thinking that these things often happens when politics enters the kitchen. Some words become ‘untrendy’ or ‘undesirable’ to use. I see this now with the Russian dishes, they are presented as Eastern European for the reasons that Russia isn’t the flavour of the month these days. Though in this case there is no danger yet of them seizing to exist, but similar tendency.
Thank you for your insights ... I always love to try different, new cuisines. Mazel tov!
It’s a minefield and I’m so sorry this happens - we all lose out when there’s disregard for people’s cultural heritage. What a ludicrous ‘correction’
It’s becoming more and more difficult to define what we are proffered to eat, what with the new crossover cooking.
Definitely geography is lacking in that respect. When I write my Couscous: Fresh and Flavorful Contemporary Recipes, I did not include "israeli" couscous. It is not couscous, it is a pasta. I called the importers in NY, and they were quite open in saying they had made up the name for marketing purposes in the US!
Diane i have noticed the same happening to the sephardic cuisine of morocco
It is NOT Middle eastern it is north african
Though Israelis have appropriated a number of specialties including israeli coucous
It is NOT couscous but a Lebanese pasta called maftoul
Always a great newsletter
Ha, Diane! Well, this is exactly how I feel about the whole Cajun/Creole food dilemma (you may remember I have some issues with this). I wrote an article for an in-room hotel magazine a few years aback, where I referenced "Creole" food, and the editor changed the word Creole to "Cajun" - without my even knowing it - until I read the article after it was already in print.
I agree wholeheartedly that every effort should be made to give credit to a recipe's place of origin. Cooking and Sam Sifton showed a tone-deafness in response to your email that I don't think, in all fairness, is typical for the website.
I spent the weekend searching the Cooking website with the terms Middle Eastern, Iraqi, Persian, Israeli, Iranian, and Jewish. In summary, Cooking did a decent job of crediting the country(ies) of origin in each of the recipes I found in those categories. The country(ies) of origin is not always in the title, but most often documented in the headnote.
Middle Eastern could have been forgiven for its generalization but Israeli is an outright error (for obvious and historical reasons discussed in this thread). Cooking should be asked to correct this error. I also think the headnote should be improved by listing the Middle Eastern countries that documentation shows come into question with regard to the origin of the recipe.
If you want another example of a Cooking recipe whose headnote exhibits gross generalization look at the entry German Potato Salad. There is no one German potato salad (each region has its own style) and those “German settlers” mentioned in the headnote certainly came from somewhere in particular in Germany. And don’t get me started on the license taken in Cooking with classic Italian dishes. So much gets lost (along with the gains) in our melting pot!
I agree with you about the importance of crediting a recipe’s origin. It’s particularly offensive that the NY Times didn’t correct its error (or mis-corrected it!) after you called them to account. I did notice in my copy of Michael Solomonov and Steve Cook’s “Israeli Soul” that the chapter on Sabich does give a lot of attention to the Syrian roots of this dish, including theories of how it got its name.
I still use and love Claudia Roden’s “The Book of Jewish Food” as much for its deep dive into diverse Jewish food histories and stories as for its recipes.
Such an important story you’re telling here and wonderful that you wrote to Sifton! I am dismayed by their insufficient correction but hopefully your comment challenged their thinking a bit.
This piece is an awakening and reminder of how food is deeply steeped in history. And nostalgia can be a key ingredient in a particular dish. I confess, vintage recipes have become my comfort food lately.