Hungry Jerusalemites Line Up for a Taste of Grandma's Cooking

Jerusalem food festival features home-cooked recipes from around the world, prepared by city's elderly cooks.

Trying to get a precise recipe from one of Jerusalem's elderly cooks is impossible - they have neither specific quantities nor cooking times.

"It's simple," says Rachel Guate, who was preparing a couscous and a black-eyed pea dish, delicacies from her native Tripoli that are much more complex than this description would imply.

The cooking process will have to remain a mystery. When asked, Guate listed only some of the ingredients: white beans, mangold leaves "ground really well and fried," stuffed intestines, some sort of beef patties that were cooked for hours, made from "beef fat, eggs, semolina, garlic and spices," and couscous.

It is a lot simpler to describe the "recipe" behind the first Festival of the Jerusalem Pot, which was held on Sunday. Guate was one of its big stars.

The festival, initiated by a Jerusalem youth organization called Awakening, drew thousands of hungry Jerusalemites into the narrow alleys of the Mahane Yehuda market.

Several of the city's most august home cooks - all unknown - were paired up with famous chefs from local restaurants, who helped them create large quantities of their traditional ethnic delicacies.

The dishes represented foods from various communities, and were on offer for a symbolic NIS 15 each, and all the proceeds went to Elem, an organization for youth in distress.

The enormous pots of food sat on improvised tables, while several road shows offered additional entertainment. Unlike every other food festival that has been held in recent years, this one offered a rare combination of roots, groove and even Hassidic robes.

Neighborhood centers throughout the city found Guate and her colleagues; each center was asked to send its own representative.

The chefs Keren Kadosh and Tallie Friedman, who organized the festival, visited each of the candidates in their homes. "We tasted food at the homes of 50-60 grandmothers, and we selected the dishes that most excited us," Kadosh says. The final event included dishes from Morocco, Italy, Iran, Poland, Ashkenazi Jerusalem, Kurdish culture and Tripoli.