Israeli Cooking on a Budget by Sybil Zimmerman
With a title like that, it must be written for me! I live in Israel, I love to cook, and I have to stay within my budget. When we first made aliyah and invited over Israelis for meals, they would be surprised at how “expensive” my meals were. They then proceeded to teach me how to make food that costs less.
Americans, especially those who use a lot of coupons, buy a relatively large amount of processed foods and carbohydrates. How often are there coupons for vegetables, fruits, kosher meat, or cheese?
In Israel, however, the opposite is true. Locally produced foods are much cheaper than imported foods. Vegetables and chicken are relatively cheap. Cheese is outrageously expensive as well as fish and red meat. Pasta is relatively inexpensive compared with cereals and other processed foods, especially since you can rarely find coupons for those items.
The author’s recipes reflect this concept. She bases her meals on vegetables, with meat/chicken/cheese/fish as a minor ingredient. She almost always uses locally-produced foods in her recipes.
The best part of this book is that it reads like a history lesson. If you are like me and read cookbooks like you read novels, this cookbook will take you back over 30 years to a simpler Israel- at least culinary-wise. 1978 was before Tivol, which revolutionized the vegetarian market. The author discusses how to use SVP-Soy Vegetable Protein- which is dried and shaped into flakes, crumbles, and powders. As she describes it, it has the consistency of a sponge and virtually no taste. They are still on the market, and I agree 100% with Sybil’s description.
The author transliterates the names of many foods from Hebrew to English and even Arabic to help the new oleh learn the navigate the supermarket. There are many outdated words, such as fruit squashes (petel syrup), sterilized bottled milk (chalav amid), Afikal (shortening), and Marie biscuits (see Wikipedia). She also lists the different cheeses on the market and describes how they are made. Reading these lists makes me realize how far we have advanced over the past thirty years. The variety and selection of food in your average supermarket has expanded exponentially since this book was written, much to my pleasure.
If you like food, and you like Israeli history, it is worth it to pick up a copy of this book. Particularly when you can get it for as little as $1.40 at Amazon.com. You will also find a lot of the standard recipes that every Israeli chef should know how to make- tehina, eggplant salad, falafel, and the like.