Foodies' delight / Gil Hovav
Gil Hovav, culinary expert, journalist.
1. For my last meal on earth I’d like to eat:
The kubaneh bread of Grandma Mazal (my grandmother from the Yemenite side). That’s what we used to eat at her home in Katamon [in Jerusalem] every Shabbat morning in the 1960s, and miraculously − although Grandma was blessed with seven children and 18 grandchildren, and though there was only one small pot on the gas burner − there was always enough for everyone. And still, although I’ve already learned how to prepare kubaneh [which is traditionally cooked for a long while over low heat] for myself and I try to serve it to my daughter every Shabbat; and although the alternative Tel Aviv family I’ve created is much smaller than Grandma’s Jerusalem family and there are always several slices of kubaneh left in the pot − I always have a feeling that this poor man’s food is a rare and expensive treat, of which there is a limited supply in the world.
2. An unforgettable childhood memory related to food or the kitchen:
My parents, who every year forbade my brother and me to go on the annual school trips, claiming that “our children won’t sleep in tents and eat canned food,” would provide us with fake notes saying we were ill, release us from the class trip and take us instead for a two- or three-day vacation at the Accadia Hotel or the Hasharon Hotel, where we were exposed to the wonders of elite Israeli cuisine (all kinds of horrible kosher imitations of French dishes that had already become passe; but still, anything was preferable to Telma hummus from a can).
3. An unforgettable food experience:
When I filmed the series “Captain Cook,” about the best restaurants in the world, I exploited the fact that I wrote the script for all the episodes, and wrote my brother into the episode about the El Bulli restaurant in Catalonia, which for a decade was chosen year after year as the best restaurant in the world. When we arrived for the filming, the production vehicle got stuck in the sand (the restaurant was on the seashore). We could see the restaurant on the horizon and the Adria brothers, who owned it, said they were giving us no more than an hour of their time. But we were forced to wait 40 minutes until the car was extricated, and meanwhile to drink beer and eat a sandwich from a local food wagon. Afterward we filmed in the Adria brothers’ kitchen (far more beautiful and luxurious than our own Presidents’ Residence), while the stressed-out brothers kept threatening, “You have 10 more minutes. Then the King of Sweden is coming and you have to leave.” In the end, when they served us a few of their flagship dishes, my brother refused to swallow the food. The restaurant has since closed, but I recently asked my brother whether he remembers what fun it was in Catalonia. And the jerk replied, “The only tasty thing was the roll we bought from the food wagon.”
4. An unfulfilled food fantasy:
Just as children dream of being locked up in a candy store, I dream of being locked up for one night in a housewares store, entirely by chance. When I confessed that to the owner of the amazing KitchenAid store in Tel Aviv’s Mandarin Hotel, she gave me a small and mischievous smile, and said “That can be arranged.”
5. I will never touch:
Who do you think you’re dealing with here? My rule says that you taste everything once, and therefore, when I filmed a program called “Kill Gil,” I ate duckbill soup from Bangkok, the spiciest curry in the universe in London, 1,000-year-old eggs in China, grilled cockscomb in Italy, and more. And still, I think gefilte fish is contrary to human nature.
6. An unforgettable meal from books or movies:
The layer cake Anne Shirley (“Anne of Green Gables”) longed for throughout so many volumes; the jam that Meg (the eldest and stupid sister from “Little Women”) didn’t succeed in preparing; and the gefilte fish Yehoram Gaon almost choked on and secretly fed to the cat under the table in “Kazablan” (I hate when people are cruel to cats).