Here's a recipe to chill out for summer - fix yourself some watermelon ice, or maybe some chilled vodka watermelon soup (recipe follows), and sit back with a light, relaxing read. Preferably about watermelon.
Did you know that the first wines of the Levant were made not with grapes, but with watermelon? That's right, the Egyptian pharaohs highly prized this ancient fruit, storing it in special earthen jars, as Haaretz's legendary wine columnist Daniel Rogov wrote. There were fine vintages and not-so-good wines, such as the ones doled out to slaves. Want to know more? Read all about it, here.
A watermelon with the Arabic word for Syria carved into it at a restaurant in Gaza City. (Reuters)
Many, many years later, watermelon still plays a pivotal role in the region (well, relatively speaking). Many an Israeli artist has been inspired by the striking fruit. In fact, it's such a common motif that an entire exhibition was devoted to it at the Rubin Museum in Tel Aviv back in 2009. Want to read - and see - more about the history of watermelon in Israeli art? Here you go. You're welcome.
Nahum Gutman, "The Watermelon Vendor," 1965.
Since this is the Middle East, after all, watermelon has also played a role in the conflict. In this case, at least, it's serving as sticky pink glue along the seam line, helping create bonds between Jews and Arabs on the border between East and West Jerusalem.
The watermelon stand near Musrara, Jerusalem, in late July 2012. A tribute to a bygone idyll. (Emil Salman)
Fish salad with watermelon and sauteed chard. (Dan Perez)
This simple recipe mixes pureed watermelon with mint and vodka, and serves it up with a tangy sorbet. Recipe courtesy of chef Ilan Roberg.
For 12 servings:
2 liters water
300 grams sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 watermelon (3 kilograms without the rind)
chopped mint leaves
1/2 cup vodka
1/2 cup lemon juice
tart sorbet for serving
Boil the water, and stir in the sugar and the cinnamon stick. Let cool.
Cut the watermelon into cubes, and blend in a food processor. Add the mint and blend again. Add the vodka, lemon juice and sugar water. Serve cold, with a scoop of sorbet in the center.
Watermelon soup. (Matan Roberg)