Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Shakshouka

Lin is a true genius at making shakshouka: a spicy North African ratatouille crowned with eggs. It was a staple of our kitchen and in a way a symbol of our togetherness. A good shakshouka takes over an hour to cook and making one alone would be silly, you need four chopping hands at least. A shashouka is not only a dish, it is an evening in a fragrant home.

I haven't had homemade shakshouka since we separated, but in a way I've been having shakshouka constantly. You see, this summer is a shakshouka. It's hot, garlicky, made up of so many different elements they can hardly be distinguished. At times it burns the tongue, at others it delights the senses. It is salted by seafoam and Jaffa, with its Lybian restaurants and muezzin calls, assures that it's richly flavored. Shakshouka is food full of longing, full of pepper, it is dark food, motherly and street-wise. It really is something.

In trying to comprehend this summer, I decided to cook a big shakshouka and see who would come to eat it. Ravid came first, sitting on the balcony, being Ravid (one of the greatest compliments anyone can get). Yanki joined her and they made peace for the first time in months. Susanna Kokkonen, who's Finnish and lives in Brussels but her heart is right here, came with her Italian friend Marina. Both went out to help me shop and drew no little attention from Yeffet street vendors. then came the French crowd: Theo, Olivier and Joy, with beers and fish to grill.

The Ketem poets Carmelli and Vizan arrived, Vizan's phone rang, it was his ex-girlfriend Tzipi, the one who threw a stereo system he bought her as gift right over the ledge of her balcony. No luck, Tzipi, the man's here with his new amourette, Shelly. Shira from Australia came with a crystal ball. I've never met her before. Anat Balint arrived with her fantastic smile. Adam Rubin, who came without his famous hat, made comment of that smile. Tamar came by bus all the way from Ramat Aviv, Amit came with a jar of honey he bought me in Jerusalem, Ori came with a hug.

Of course there was only barely enough food for everyone, of course it wasn't made by the real shakshouka genius, who is very far away. Of course this flat is an incredible mess now. There are squished grapes on the kitchen counter and an overflowing pile of caseless CDs by the television. The floor is full of sand, borne back here after a communal dip in the sea. Still, a night on which one runs out of both whiskey and olive oil is a good night. I saw my different layers of friends, The old ones like a terrific base of tomatoes and peppers, the new ones like eggs getting poached slowly on top, all of them having a wonderful time. What's Berber for "blessed"?

2 comments:

olivier said...

let's add that this shakshuka was so delicious also because of the great team spirit that put so much love in it: onions gently cut by myself, Joy and Yuval monitoring the cooking, theo preparing the barbecue, and all the others taking care of music, chatting, smoking...Very good initiative yuval!

Yuval said...

Much credit is indeed due to all, though no one stayed to help me clean!