If the prospect of Israeli cuisine leaves you hungry to learn more then there is one documentary film for you. In Search of Israeli Cuisine attempts to answer the question, “What is Israeli cuisine?” In doing so it examines a diverse range of different influences and food styles on Israeli food, which ranges from street food and cafes to home cooking and fine dining, plus everything in between. This film will make your mouth water, will leave you wishing smell-o-vision existed and will whet your appetite for more.
The film is directed by documentarian, Roger Sherman. It is presented by an amiable, down-to-earth Israeli-American chef named Michael Solomonov. The latter grew up in America and Israel and he owns his own restaurant in Philadelphia. At Zahav, Solomonov has created a menu that specialises in Israeli food.
In Search of Israeli Cuisine features a number of talking head interviews with chefs, food journalists, farmers, producers and cookbook authors. Some of these commentators claim that the definition of “Israeli food” is hard to quantify. Others claim that Israel is a country that is too young to have a “cuisine” as yet. There are Palestinian commentators that say that the Israeli recipes borrow heavily from the Palestinian and Arabic traditions. But at the end of the day the best comment made by chefs of either Israeli or Palestinian extraction is that food is not political and that anyone can be your friend provided they are eating at your table. It’s a wonderful comment especially when you consider that Israel has been long associated with war and conflict.
Solomonov travels to some Israeli wineries and restaurants. It is great to see that many of the latter have a big emphasis on using local produce. It seems that the tides have turned because in the past many people in Israel were eating merely to survive, rather than for pleasure or enjoyment. Solomonov also visits a cheesemaker who produces his products in a cave. The presenter also describes the kosher laws even though the inhabitants of a major city like Tel Aviv are currently more secular in their beliefs and approaches to food. Solomonov also describes Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jewish people and their different cuisines. One fascinating thing in this documentary is how important ingredients like: olive oil, hummus, lemons and eggplant are to their recipes.
Israeli food looks positively mouth-watering in this documentary. The filmmaker and presenter have done an excellent job of showing such vibrant and rich Israeli food is, as well as showcasing chefs, writers and other food professionals who are knowledgeable and passionate about it. At the end of the day this documentary is also like a travelogue, cooking show and history lesson in that it celebrates how exciting and dynamic Israeli culture and cuisine is. At the end of the day this is a joyful celebration of food, glorious food!
Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
In Search of Israeli Cuisine plays in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth as part of the Jewish International Film Festival. For more information and tickets please visit: http://jiff.com.au/films/search-israeli-cuisine/