Saturday, August 30, 2008

Leon de Bnei Brak

A few posts ago I told you about Jeff, the foremost pig scholar in my life. Jeff's year in Israel, during which he researched the theme of Kashrut and the pork industry in Israeli society, is coming to an end. We will be losing him in two weeks or so.

His final project this time around was to interview Israelis on camera about their relationship with food and Judaism, and to do so in their kitchens, while they cook. When Jeff asked me to participate I asked him whether I was obliged to prepare pork. He said that I could prepare whatever I wanted. I chose seafood.

If anything changed in the Israeli menu over the past decade, it is the penetration of non-kosher shellfish into our diets, besides, the ban on seafood is more severe that the ban on pork. what is pork? another kind of meat, and we know meat. By forbidding us to eat seafood, the good lord almighty prevents us from tasting a very unique element of creation, one that resembles nothing else.

For me, the ban on seafood is an insult to sensuality. In my view, religion uses taboos mainly to weaken us, it makes sex look dirty so as to distance us from our bodies, once we are distanced - our lives become disharmonious and we end up relying on the religious powers that be to provide us with harmony. Shellfish, bottom feeders though they may be, are sexy (much sexier than pork, to be sure), and the ban on them calls for rebellion. So while Jeff set the camera

I went shopping for mussels, then showed them some love.

See, the first step in cooking a meal is usually uncorking a botlle of wine, then sauteeing an onion (you'll need sauteed onions no matter what you make), but when a mussel-deprived israeli gets his hands on a kilo of the forbidden black gold, he must commence with showing it effection.

Sari, Tel-Aviv's #1 coolest young curator and artist came to show the mussels some effection of her own. She couldn't believe I was having a guest over who keeps kosher (Jeff does) and chose to make him food of which he can't partake.

I pointed out that I also prepared glatt kosher "Pretty Girl Medallions", thus named since I invented them in hope of impressing a pretty girl (she was duely impressed, though why didn't I think of making her mussels?). Pretty Girl Medallions are made up of bucheron goat cheese, semi-molten over browned slices of eggplant and crowned with slices of fig. Sari, being pretty herself, presented them to the lens,

then removed the lid to allow our Belgian friends similar immortalization. This time i'll keep the recipe a secret, but it's very similar to classic Moules Marnieres.

The best part of the meal was of course the conversation around the table. It went to strange places (remember my comment on seafood being sexy?) and also involved some complex issues of life in a semi-theocracy. Judaism is all about how you interpert it and what empheses you choose to place. The Israeli establishment focuses on banning public transportation on the sabbath and the import of foreign salami. I prefer to focus on my beloved Song of Songs: "I have come into my garden / my sister, my bride / I have gathered my myrrh with my spice / I have drunk my wine with my milk / eat, my friends, drink and be intoxicated with love."

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