Disclaimer: This post has nothing at all to do with any current events.
When I first lived in Israel from 2006-2008 I was looking for work while I studied at a tiny school in Nachlaot, Jerusalem. Before I share that story, let me tell you that Nachlaot is an amazing neighborhood which I would compare to Greenwich Village on another planet. It started out with small ultra-religious enclaves long before Israel became a Jewish state, and much later had a heyday with a dark, druggie scene. It has since achieved a rarefied status as the hippest neighborhood in the city. Nachlaot is the place where all the cool young Israelis, hippie religious Anglos, and the doyennes of Middle Eastern families who have been living in the city for centuries can be found. Thanks to an art school, a marketplace full of fresh everything and an amazing spiritual scene of inspiring religious figures and families (Yeshivat Simchat Shlomo, Sulam Yaakov, Havayah, V’Ani Tefillah) there are plenty of good reasons why Nachlaot is the place to be.
When I arrived in Israel just after college graduation to visit my then-boyfriend Mo, I found that he had chosen a basement apartment in this area of the city. Once I got over the dust and stray dogs, my eyes were opened to so many wonders, which are another long story. in themselves. As you may know, days filled with wonder must be financed, so I found myself looking for a job doing….I wasn’t sure what, with my recently completed degree in English Literarture. Thankfully a wonderful family asked me to clean and cook for them and I discovered my true calling as a chef. This family received a bounty of organic produce delivered in boxes each week, with no prior warning of what might be inside. I learned to think on my feet and experiment, thankfully mostly successfully. There were a few memorable failures (who knew they didn’t like oregano?) and lots of lovely dishes that I still make versions of today.
Fast forward a few years….When we arrived in Israel the second time, in the summer of 2011, I started taking Hebrew classes and looking for a similar cooking gig. I was extremely lucky to find the loveliest family who lived just up the block. Not only did they appreciate my freewheeling style and have great, adventurous taste, but they also had the best kitchen in the neighborhood and radiant heating in their floors! The days cooking at their house really made the winter in my unheated apartment bearable. I also learned how to plan meals ahead and shop for the meal, instead of shopping, then improvising. I have found both to be extremely valuable skills.
Here is a blog post from my friend and delightful pastry chef Ariella. She took over my job when we left Jerusalem and has thankfully been enjoying it, as have the lucky individuals who get to eat her delicacies. She includes a recipe for a yummy sounding African Peanut Stew, which I think the sweet potatoes on my counter will find their way into by the end of the week! Enjoy.