By Tova Norman
“In Search of Israeli Cuisine” not only provides insight into the cuisine of Israel, but also into the country as a whole.
Watching the closing-night film of the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival feels like being on a food tour of Israel, with one of the most qualified guides in the world: Michael Solomonov, a renowned cookbook author, James Beard Award-wining chef, and co-owner of Zahav, a top-rated Israeli restaurant in Philadelphia.
As Solomonov delves into food, restaurants, ingredients — touring all around Israel’s best restaurants, meeting chefs and home cooks, visiting farms and wineries, and interviewing journalists — it becomes clear that this film is about more than food.
And while the documentary would be satisfying for the person interested only in Israeli food, this is also a film for anyone interested in the complex history of the country.
In many ways it is an exploration of the identity of Israel and the people who live there. What seems like it might be a simple food documentary becomes much more, and defining Israeli cuisine turns out to be a complicated question.
In the discussion about food it also becomes evident that the question “What does it mean to be Israeli?” is one people in the young country are still grappling with.
In the end, there seem to be more questions than answers.
What does it mean to be Israeli? In a country of immigrants, which foods can the country “claim”? What about the Arab foods? Are they also Israeli? Does Israeli food mean kosher food? Is there a relationship between Jewish practice and food?
“In Search of Israeli Cuisine” is a valuable film to explore the past, present and future of Israel — all through food.
While viewers may not know the answer to what Israeli cuisine is when they finish watching the film, they will certainly want to eat some, which those attending the film festival’s closing night will be able to do.