Food / Eat an omelet, fantasize about meringue
Passover is the holiday of spring, the celebration of freedom and the festival of the-family-goes-to-Galilee. It is not the holiday of tasty food. There is nothing succulent about the Hebrew word "Pesssssach."
Al Hashulchan - The Israeli Gastronomic Monthly, editor-in-chief Janna Gur, editor Yael Miron-Canaani, issue 193, March 6-13, 2007, NIS 38
One can give this lovely holiday a title that will make it even more beautiful. Passover is the holiday of spring, the celebration of freedom and the festival of the-family-goes-to-Galilee. It is not the holiday of tasty food. There is nothing succulent about the Hebrew word "Pesssssach." Dry desert dust rises from it. Its festiveness begins and ends in a single evening on which only a meal and memories sometimes connect family members to one another. This meal has an ironclad, inflexible rule: The menu must repeat itself. Every year, with no changes.
Passover food is not an exciting subject to discuss. It has so many kashrut restrictions that it is preferable, at least for the seder, to submit to them and set things right the following day in Abu Gosh. If the food is not important, we are left with the tradition and the folklore, and these, too, fade with time.
Even though Al Hashulchan also publishes non-kosher recipes, at Passover, it sticks to the rules of tradition. However, no food magazine editor would be caught dead giving a recipe for plain old chicken soup. Al Hashulhan does have a recipe for soup with kneidlach (matza balls), but it has been upgraded to "Chicken Soup with Matza Balls in Two Colors." Needless to say, my mother wouldn't buy this. Any kneidl that isn't grayish would convince her that there is a plot to poison her.
Alongside the colored kneidlach, there is also a recipe for "Fish tartare with seared artichoke and argan oil." This recipe again raises the question that accompanies all specialized magazines: Does an automobile magazine need to deal with the Hyundai Getz which most of its readers, regrettably, are driving, or should it deal with the Porsche 911, about which they dream now and then? Should a food magazine give its readers the ultimate recipe for an omelet or should it pleasure them with "Meringue and chocolate mushrooms?" The answer is: Eat an omelet and fantasize about meringue.
As with cars, when it comes to food, fantasizing is everything. You fantasize about a meal that you will not eat, just as you fantasize about a car you will not drive. Many readers read recipes before they go to sleep and enjoy menus the way a musician enjoys reading a score; they fall asleep with a smile. I admire recipe-readers. I don't have the skills to join them (my spice cupboard lacks argan oil, saffron, gray sea salt, rosewater and star anise, without which readers of gastronomic magazines cannot exist), but I can understand why they enjoy Al Hashulhan. This is a magazine that arouses the appetite. It contains news from the world of food in Israel and abroad; some of the items, for example "Smoked Paprika is a Hit in New York," are truly exciting.
There are also easy recipes. These, like "Chicken balls in citrus sauce," may be easy to prepare, but it is more than likely that the citrus will be greeted with suspicion by pint-sized fans of schnitzel and mashed potatoes. There are also recipes for quinoa, an international health champion, the mere mention of which in Al Hashulhan is like a recommendation for goose fat in the alternative, spiritual and tree-hugging magazine Haim Aherim.
The design of the magazine is pleasant, the photos are pretty and the style is clear and lucid. I am a bit uncomfortable, however, with the total blurring of the line between the editorial pages and the advertising. This discomfort is a little anachronistic. Do I really care if the excellent recipe for Sabrina with strawberries is published under Tnuva's White Chef brand?