His sleepy eyes welcomed me into his country in the late summer of 2013. He always presented effortlessly disheveled. He was exactly how I’d picture a writer... and exactly how I’d hope people would describe me. He smiled through his furry face, behind his tortoise shell glasses. Quiet at first - he couldn’t believe I was there.
“Shall we go for food?” he asked.
And did we! Israel filled a hole in my stomach that had never been coddled before. In Tel Aviv we dined in hummus and falafel, peeling back layers of onions and dipping them in pureed chickpeas. In Jerusalem, we stopped in the market and ate halvah. We bought enough for a week, but our taste buds were too stoned later that evening to care. And at night, I swam in Arak, enjoying it’s palatable dance of licorice and anise. Hay taught me everything I needed to know about the food in Israel. He kept me drunk in his arms on savory dishes.
Five years later, I still think of Israel’s “peaceful” cuisine. Peaceful to be used loosely, for the fresh dishes, so bright and pungent, are an intense metaphor to their political climate. Sewn into the fabric of the country, conflict was a part of their DNA - a part of their cuisine. What I ate in Israel was a melting pot of Middle Eastern influence, but I truly hadn’t grasped the conflict at that time. Yet, as i cut tomatoes in my kitchen, I remember it as one of my favorite places in the world.
Shakshuka; an Arabic classic served with simmered tomatoes and cracked eggs. I admired how beautiful it presented in photos. And how, never trying it, it made me miss my time with Hay. I relived our stoner moments eating halva as I chopped a pepper. And him skinning off my clothes as I gutted the tomatoes. I had reprogrammed my brain to understand the irrefutable political stance Israel’s food represented. Borrowed from neighboring countries around the Middle East. The idea I had of this cuisine was a facade. I hadn’t talked with Hay about the Jewish settlers that have taken Palestinian land. Or the frustrations the people of Palestine face everyday with their economy. The history is dreadful, for it was in alliance to the Palestinian people. But since Trump decided to name Jerusalem Israel’s capital, I knew I had to educate myself. I wanted to make sure I understood the severity of this decision. I too wanted to armed with facts. This being an unfortunate silver lining that Trump’s presidency has become the catalyst for myself and my peers to plunge into history.
I felt fifteen again, like I had just figured out how corrupt our political party was. How are we funding the loss of Palestine? Why can Israel get away with killing protesters? Why haven’t Palestinian stories been published everyday day?
This presidency has forced us to understand issues that are beyond our land. As much as I like to dive deep into US politics, we have to uplift groups outside of our peripheral. Do the companies we support have ties to the demise of Palestine? Are we supporting a stronger Israel and not knowing it? I mean, I went to the country and fell in love with it. Would I have had a similar outcome if I would’ve known what was going on just an hour away? The news is overwhelming, but we can’t turn away. We must continue to talk to the opposing side, take it to the streets, and stay up to date with the facts of the world.
The last time I saw Hay, here in New York, we spoke about the conflict in Israel. He was so knowledgeable and fired up about the issues. Shortly before our conversation, back in 2016, a series of protest had ended violently, to which he was disgusted by. His progressive ideas were all I needed in our reunion, for the gave me hope for our generation.
- 6 tomatoes, chopped
- 4 or 5 gloves of garlic, minced
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 bell peper, chopped
- 1 fresno chili, chopped
- 1/2 tbs sweet paprika
- 1 tbs smoked paprika
- 1 tbs cumin
- 1/2 tsp chili flakes (optional)
- Chopped parsley to garnish
- 1 c chickpea flour
- 1 c water
- 1/2 tbs tumeric
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 /2 tbs nutritional yeast
- Generous amount of salt and pepper
- In a cast iron skillet heat up some oil over medium high heat. Once hot add onions and garlic - allow to blacken a bit.
- Once translucent, add pepper. Allow to cook for about 5 min.
- When they have reach the desired texture, add in your tomatoes.
- Bring them to a simmer and a stir in your spices.
- Over medium low heat, allow to thicken for about 20 minutes, until you have more of a gravy.
- While your tomatoes are thickening, mix chickpea flour and spices.
- Whisk in the water until your batter is thick and lump free.
- When your tomatoes have reached the desired thickness, make dips in your your sauce and add the batter into those holes. You want to batter to be dunked in the red ocean... not drowning.
- Cover your pan and allow for the batter to cook.
- When the center of your "eggs" are no longer loose, pull away from the heat and top with parsley.
- Serve and enjoy.