Charlie and Nava Fadida share a love for Moroccan cousine, but she was surprised by the traditional
Charlie and Nava Fadida share a love for Moroccan cousine, but she was surprised by the traditional Ashkenazi food Charlie says he can’t get enough of. Photo by Daniel Tchetchik
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When Nava and Charlie Fadida first met 15 years ago, she was knew they were good for each other in at least one way: a shared affection for Moroccan food. Nava has a good command of the cuisine, specializing in matbucha and fish in spicy sauce. Charlie was no stranger to the kitchen either; his father was a cook at the Sheraton Tel Aviv and today Charlie is the hotel's head chef. And so it took Nava by great surprise when she was invited to a meal with the Fadida family and was served pickled calf's foot, gefilte fish, chopped liver and carrot tzimmes.

"You could say I was shocked," she says. "I didn't know what they ate at their home. To this day it's Charlie's favorite food."

The Fadidas are an example of two partners with wildly different culinary tastes. Love may conquer all - or at least increase mutual tolerance - but don't ask Nava, who owns a bridal salon, to taste the gray and trembling square of what's known as pickled calf's foot. She has her limits.

"I was raised in the hotel and when I grew up I worked in hotel kitchens," Charlie says, explaining his preferences. "I cooked and tasted a lot of Ashkenazi food and fell in love with it. I love sweet-and-sour gefilte fish with lots of horseradish - I immerse the fish in horseradish. I also love calf's foot. I've cooked this dish numerous times and improved it along the way. I really love how it turns out."

The couple's two children do not, by the way, share their father's taste. Maor, 13, and Shiraz, 10, prefer heavily spiced food, and pop sushi in their mouths "as if it were sunflower seeds," their mother says.

My sink, your sink

Differing tastes in food can be hard on couples, but among those in which one partner keeps kosher and the other does not, life can be even more complicated. M. of Tel Aviv is religiously observant, while her partner of nine years is completely secular.

"We keep kosher at home. Two sinks, separate milk and meat dishes, and so on," says M., a psychologist by profession. "The problem is when we eat out. I will only eat at places that are certified kosher, while my partner will eat anywhere. Luckily, kosher restaurants in Israel have improved greatly in recent years and you can eat sorbet or chocolate desserts made without milk. There are more choices and we can also invite friends to join us."

"Still, I prefer to invite friends over for dinner at home," she adds. "I have friends and family who keep special dishes for me in their homes, but that makes me uncomfortable. I always prefer inviting them to my house."

According to M., the problem gets worse when traveling abroad. "After all, part of learning about a new culture is tasting local foods," she says. "Sometimes my husband will fly out earlier so he can eat freely before I arrive. Then we'll look for vegetarian restaurants together. Once we were in Lyon, France and the only vegetarian restaurant was closed for the season. You could say I had a bit of a problem. I'll remember that trip forever."

Hummus vs. ravioli

Sometimes the differences in food preferences stem from the fact that one partner enjoys variety and a desire to break from routine, while the other prefers sticking to safe shores. Chef Marcus Gershkowitz of the Angelica restaurant in Jerusalem is married to Shira, who works in high tech. At work he cooks gourmet food, but afterward he craves street food: shakshouka, hummus and most of all shwarma. His wife, unlike him, "is incapable of eating standing up," he says.

"She always prefers to eat off of a plate. I'll order excellent hummus as opposed to chestnut ravioli with truffle oil. I guess it has something to do with my occupation, but it's always been like this," he says. "My wife won't go near pita, shwarma or shakshouka, she prefers the most gourmet food out there. But she doesn't cook anything at home - she even ruins omelets."

The first vegetarian

When Fabio da Silva immigrated to Israel from Brazil as a 25-year-old carnivore, he'd never heard of vegetarians. Life had a surprise in store for him in the form of his partner, Yuval Siboni, a vegetarian for reasons of conscience. "I taught him how to make a salad," Siboni recalls.

In the three years that Siboni, a television editor, and da Silva, a hairdresser, have shared a kitchen they've tried to come to terms with the other's wishes. "It isn't easy, but it's doable," Siboni says. "I convince Fabio to eat vegetables and he convinces me to try meat now and then. I love meat, but I stopped eating it 10 years ago."

While Siboni chops the salad, da Silva prepares meat dishes for himself at his father's home. For example, feijoada, made of rice, beans and chunks of meat. "I can't go near meat, or rice and beans," Siboni admits.

Then there are those relationships that include more than one culinary difference, and still the couple manages to stay together. Hagit Bezalel of Jerusalem is a city planner; her partner Einam Amotz is a physicist. She keeps kosher and he does not; she is a vegetarian and he is not; and to top it all off, she eats fruit while he is not even interested in tasting any.

"Say 'grill' to him and he springs to life," Bezalel says. "I don't understand what he sees in it. I don't eat meat and so he cooks meat dishes for himself. I also can't stand to eat chicken or even have it around, so he has to prepare this for himself as well."

The dissimilarities don't end here. "My ideal meal is salad and quiche, which according to Einam isn't even food," Bezalel says, but she still shrugs off their differences. "The world is apparently divided into those who say, 'Wow, a salad,' and those who would rather starve."

Perhaps, if one is willing, even this challenge can be overcome.