Hi, this is Joel Haber. And my favorite thing is the Shabbat Stews.
Welcome to the Finding Favorites Podcast, where we explore your favorite things without using an algorithm. Here's your host, Leah Jones.
Leah Jones 00:17
Hello, and welcome back to Finding Favorites. I'm your host, Leah Jones. And this is the podcast, where we learn about people's favorite things without using an algorithm. I am back from my sabbatical. Thank you for understanding and thank you for keeping my RSS feed in your pod catcher. It's Sunday afternoon, October 9th. It is a few hours before Sukkot begins which is the continuation of fall holidays, on the Jewish calendar. I will be headed out to the Chicago Sukkah Design Festival in Lawndale, organized by a number of organizations but specifically my friend, Joel Joseph Altschuler of Could Be Architecture. So since we last talked, I went to Israel for a week and a half, two weeks, where I ate hotel food, ate hotel breakfast buffet every morning and saw two or three friends a day. The trip was wonderful, very restorative. The beginning was difficult because I started in Jerusalem and I just physically was very limited. And Jerusalem is so [Not audible [00:01:48]] that I couldn't do all the walking, I usually do in Jerusalem. So that was hard. I didn't stop me from seeing friends. Of course, it just meant that I took cabs instead of walking. But when I got to Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv is a flatter city. It's not completely flat, but certainly compared to Jerusalem, it's a flat city. There are benches every block. So there was a day where I walked a mile brought to you by the benches on every block and Tel Aviv, so when I was tired, I sat down. It was wonderful. I saw friends. I did a few podcast interviews. It seems that at least two of my three interviews survived. One, there was a write error like truly in the last 10 minutes, it seems like I overstuffed my SD card. And despite having taken four with me, I didn't use a fresh one for my interview with Harry. So I don't know if that one will see the light of day, I will try. I had a really lovely Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur at my synagogue with my friends and family. I don't know things are just pretty good. I am just a few days away from my final cancer infusion. I have been getting immunotherapy every three weeks this year. So the final infusion is on Friday. So I'll be celebrating that. A week later, I will get my port removed. And then at the end of the month, I will start a new type of infusion for sarcoidosis, which ultimately was the diagnosis, I got from my three trips to the Mayo Clinic this summer as well. I am healthier. I am stronger. I'm back at Pilates. I'm doing more stretching. I'm getting back into physical therapy. It's just been a lot. A lot has happened in the last six weeks. And maybe, I'll do an episode where I just kind of a catch-up episode of what has happened. But it's 01:00 in the afternoon. This podcast is late already. So I just want to get into it. This is my conversation with Joel Haber. He is a tour guide and food tour guide in Jerusalem. We've known each other many years and we are talking about Shabbat Stews with a little bit of at the very end we talk about Top Gun Maverick. So, spoiler alert for Top Gun Maverick and Star Wars. With that wear mask, wash your hands, get your booster, get that Bivalent Booster and your flu shot maybe not the same day. But get that booster before we head into winter. And with that keep enjoying your favorite things and welcome back to Finding Favorites.
Leah Jones 05:07
Hello, and welcome to Finding Favorites. I'm your host, Leah Jones. And this is the podcast where we learn about people's favorite things and get recommendations without using an algorithm. I am not in my living room. I am not on a Zoom call. I'm in fact, in a hotel room, high above Jerusalem with my friend Joel Haber. Joel is a tour guide and specifically a food tour guide in Jerusalem. His website is tasteofjew.com. And I'm so pleased to be with you today. How are you, Joel?
Joel Haber 05:40
I'm doing great. So really happy to be with you as well. And good to see you back here in our land.
Leah Jones 05:45
It’s good to be back. Last night, we met up as we often do when I'm on a trip for most Shabbat outing. It was good. And we went to burger barn, not barn, bar. There are no barns in Israel. What am I saying?
Joel Haber 06:04
Of course there are, on along the [Not audible [00:06:06]] and stuff. It's not the best burger in Israel. But it was the most available one.
Leah Jones 06:12
That was most available. And then we went around the corner for drinks. What was the bar, we went to? Red Bird?
Joel Haber 06:21
The Red Lady.
Leah Jones 06:22
The Red Lady.
Joel Haber 06:23
Yes, we’ll give them a nice shout out.
Leah Jones 06:25
So we went to The Red Lady and had beautiful cocktail. That was like a Bourbon and Tennessee and Maple. It was almost like a Manhattan, old fat Manhattan. It was beautiful. And then I had a delicious Gin and Tonic.
Joel Haber 06:42
And I stuck with the standard Guinness.
Leah Jones 06:44
Yes. But like a surprisingly, not surprisingly; you know them, they have a good pour. But like a really good pour for again us.
Joel Haber 06:51
Yeah. No, they're a nice new Jewish bar here in Jerusalem. They open like, either right before Corona or during and so they survived. And yeah, they're doing all right.
Leah Jones 07:02
Yeah. That felt weird. So Joel, we've known each other. I think we met for the first time before you move to Israel.
Joel Haber 07:11
I'm not sure. I don't think so. Because I think we met via Twitter and I didn't do it much before I came here.
Leah Jones 07:17
So right. You won't remember. I believe you were on like your grand tour before you moved to Israel. And you were having a bar night in New York. Because then you were in LA.
Joel Haber 07:32
That was like, literally the night before I moved to Israel.
Joel Haber 07:33
And I was somehow in New York with Esther to spend with. And believe, we dropped by and she's like, it's this guy Joel – Fun Joel, you'll get to know him.
Joel Haber 07:43
I believe you. It's not surprising. I don't remember much of that night. It was also like the night before St. Patrick's Day.
Leah Jones 07:51
Oh, boy, yeah, that all makes sense.
Joel Haber 07:55
Yeah. So just before, I'm…
Leah Jones 07:57
Just literally just before, but we make a point of seeing each other every time, I'm here.
Joel Haber 08:01
And it's great. Good to see you back here.
Leah Jones 08:05
So good to be here. So what keeps you busy?
Joel Haber 08:09
So as you mentioned, I'm a tour guide, a licensed tour guide here, in Israel and I guide all over the place. But one of my very popular tours that I do, that I've done for many years now is, culinary tasting tour and Machane Yehuda market, that's the main outdoor food market here in Jerusalem. And out of that, developed as I would research the food that I was guiding and things like that. So it opened up this whole world for me of Jewish food history. Also, I wouldn't say, I was friends, but I personally knew Gil Marks, who was one of the great Jewish food writers of the last few decades and unfortunately passed away, very much too young. But he was always very open to answer questions. And at that point, I didn't necessarily think that this was going to become an application of mine, but he was definitely what if I had questions, he would always answer them and very, very encouraging. And so he was also an inspiration on that front. And so what that led to is, now I also research and write and lecture about Jewish food history.
Leah Jones 09:17
Amazing. Yeah, because after I'd been to Israel a few times, I was like, Oh, I'm getting too comfortable, just in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and I don't do anything new anymore. And so there were two trips, when I hired you to like take me on tours. We did one that was like Old City and the Israel Museum one day, which was amazing because we would go on top of the building, and then you would pull out a copy of the Torah. And you'd be like, this chapter, this verse, this is where we're standing. I was like, great.
Joel Haber 09:52
And as we got to say , oh, yeah?
Leah Jones 09:54
We did. That was a day. That was the first time, I ever rented a car in Israel. Because legally tour guides aren't drivers, right?
Joel Haber 10:04
You need another license, if you're also going to drive, which I don't have other necessarily one.
Leah Jones 10:09
So I was driving, you were navigating. And we went to Caesarea. And I feel like we went to maybe a winery. It was a super fun day. And then, I feel like it was after then that you that the food tours really started to pick up for you.
Joel Haber 10:29
I mean, they certainly have increased over the years, but I was certainly doing them back then. And then, last year, I guess, maybe about a year more than that a little over a year ago, probably a year and a half ago, or a quarter ago, I was trying to figure out, how many people I've actually guided in the market itself. And I don't remember the number now. But it's somewhere over 3000 people that I've taken just in the market, which blows my mind.
Leah Jones 10:56
That's amazing. And you remember, every single one of them?
Joel Haber 11:03
Leah Jones 10:04
I think you have a better face for names than I do.
Joel Haber 11:06
Yeah, maybe. Face for names?
Leah Jones 11:10
Names for faces? A face for names. Whatever.
Joel Haber 11:13
Yeah, I mean, I'm not as good as with it as I was, when I was a lot younger. But…
Leah Jones 11:20
You also know more people than almost anyone I know.
Joel Haber 11:24
I do know a lot of people. It's my mom who said that I collect people.
Leah Jones 11:30
Joel Haber 11:31
Yeah, I like people.
Leah Jones 11:32
And when people are coming to Jerusalem for the first time, let's say, they've got 24 hours to eat in Jerusalem, not will say not on Shabbat. What are the like, either can't miss meals, if you were doing Joel, 24 hours of food, outside of your apartment, because they know, you're a good cook. What would you have people eat?
Joel Haber 12:00
So I am not a one size fits all kind of person. So whenever people asked me, I always start with, what kind of food do you like? What are you in the mood for? Because there's a lot of good things. Frankly, I don't know, there's that many things that are like, this is awesome. You have to try it. There are a few things really, I try to tell, what people like. So if somebody is more into like the Middle Eastern thing, I might send them somewhere. If somebody else is looking for more modernist types, I might send them somewhere else. Are they looking for street foodie type stuff? Are they looking for more upscale? It’s a hard question for me to answer.
Leah Jones 12:40
Let's say it's a street food likes to party a person.
Joel Haber 12:46
I might send them, first of all to Ishtabach. Have you been to Ishtabach?
Leah Jones 12:50
I don't think so.
Joel Haber 12:51
So, Ishtabach is two blocks from the Shuk. They basically make one main dish that was invented here in Jerusalem. So it's a local Jewish Jerusalem food, invented by a member of the local Syrian Kurdish Jewish community, as a way of repurposing the leftovers from Shabbat. Obviously, in the restaurant, they're not using leftovers, but that's the idea of it. So it's basically like a flat disc of really good bread dough with sesame seeds and nigella seeds on it. On top of that was a really good mashed potato. On top of that goes meat, got about 10 different options there, even a vegetarian option, on top that goes a nice flavor for vegetable topping. Twist the end stick into a brick oven for about 10 – 12 minutes. When it comes out, it's crispy, appealing, delicious and not expensive costs around 50 Shekels, which is, I guess about 15 Bucks these days like that. And the name of the dish Shamburak, is a play on words, as is the name of the restaurant. The name of the restaurant has a pun on a prayer. Ishtabach means, he is praised like God is praised.
Leah Jones 13:58
Joel Haber 14:00
Leah Jones 14:01
Joel Haber 14:02
Ishtabach means cook man. And the name of the dish Shamburak is spelled with the same letters as the word Scheme voha that is blessed. Because it's the food from Shabbat. That way. And it's really special, really yummy dish.
Leah Jones 14:16
It sounds like a cross between Shepherd's pie and a calzone.
Joel Haber 14:22
Yeah, so those are definitely things that are related. So they do for those who are gluten free, they do make a shepherd's pie version of the same thing. So they'll put the same stuff just without the dough, they'll put it into like, I guess,
Leah Jones 14:34
Like a crock or something.
Joel Haber 14:35
Something like that. And I often say, it's like a meat calzone but the dough is so much better than calzone dough. Though the calzone dough is nice. What's good about this is that instead of being chewy, it's crispy. It's yummy. But there are similarities for sure. And the shape of it. Do you know Khachapuri? So that's another great place for dairy food, interesting Khachapuri. So Khachapuri is a collective term for a number of different regional dishes in Georgia, the country not the state, it's not local castle.
Leah Jones 15:09
We use the word, peaches.
Joel Haber 15:12
So Khachapuri means cheese bread.
Leah Jones 15:16
I am into it.
Joel Haber 15:17
The most famous Khachapuri that most people know, that's some people only know that one. It's called Adjaruli. And it's basically like a boat shaped bread. And then the middle is open. And inside it has melted cheese and you pop an egg in there, it's butter and whatever. So this is the same shape. It's like kind of points at the end and open at in the middle.
Leah Jones 15:40
All right, that sounds amazing.
Joel Haber 15:41
Exactly, it just not going to be Ronnie because it's me.
Leah Jones 15:42
And what The Red Lady is where we went last night. What are other good? So you mentioned you said, if you want beer, we'll go to like the Burenau?
Joel Haber 16:01
Biratenu. I'm sorry to say once again, it's a pun. Because Biratenu means "our beer”. But also the word for a capital city, which ran is, Ir Habira. So you can say Ir Habira which means like the capital city, you could say Ir Habira like the Beer City. So it's also our capital and also our beer. They're a local bar / pubs / bottle shop / Home Brew Supply Store. They focus on craft beer is not only Israeli craft beers, although they have a lot of those. And also lots of other craft beers from around the world and have other things to eat and drink as well. It's a fun place to hang out a lot.
Leah Jones 16:38
There's a place in Chicago called Beermiscuous.
Joel Haber 16:44
I have a T-shirt from them. I guided somebody who used to be their manager, at the time. I don't know. Maybe you sent them to be fired now. No, but some guy hired me for a tour once in like two days or something that at the end of day, he's like, I know you're like beer and he gave me the T-shirt. I wear it around.
Leah Jones 17:01
I love that.
Joel Haber 17:01
He doesn't work there anymore, though.
Leah Jones 17:02
But Beermiscuous is, you go in and it's just walls and walls of craft beer and incredible things on tap.
Joel Haber 17:12
And I like to refer to it as a Craft Beer Cafe. Not a craft beer bar.
Leah Jones 17:16
I've gone once. A friend of mine has a business called Magic By The Slice. Where he does close-up magic and Deep Dish Pizza. So he comes to your house, he bakes Deep Dish pick pizza like in your kitchen, magically and then while it's in the oven, he does close-up magic. It's amazing. And so once, I went to a fundraiser that he was the entertainment for at Beermiscuous. Because I don't think they have a kitchen. So you bring in your own food. You buy their beer, magic. It was so fun.
Joel Haber 17:56
Yeah, if and when I get to Chicago, I will definitely have to check them out.
Leah Jones 17:59
Yes. And high on your list. Nice.
Joel Haber 18:04
And I'll wear my shirt.
Leah Jones 18:04
That'd be so funny.
Joel Haber 18:05
They'll think that I've been there before.
Leah Jones 18:07
Just first time are you here from Jerusalem. First time caller, long time T-shirt wearer, drinker.
Leah Jones 18:27
Joel, you know the podcast, I talk to people about their favorite thing. And one of your favorite things lately is Shabbat Stews. I only know cholent. Which is beany, meaty stew? I don't know much about Shabbat Stews.
Joel Haber 18:56
Maybe I should first even describe, what I mean by the term. So first of all, the term is not like a standard. It's a term that I'm using to collectively refer to a lot of dishes. Basically, most Jewish communities from all over the world throughout history, have some kind of a multi-ingredient Stew, although it's not always a Stew. It's not always very Stew like sometimes it's a bit drier. But that is prepared on Friday and then cooks through the whole night, Friday night, to be eaten for lunch on Saturday. The reason for it solves a contradiction. Two things that don't work together. One of them is that according to traditional Jewish law, it is forbidden to cook actively on the Shabbat, meaning from Friday night until Saturday night. But at the same time because you're supposed to have your best food and things like that on Shabbat, you want to have hot food. Now Friday night that's easy. You just cook something and…
Leah Jones 18:57
right up until the…
Joel Haber 19:58
yeah, and then it'll still be pretty hot, not warm. But what do you do for Shabbat day? And so since ancient times, literally, Jews have found ways to basically leave something warming through the night on a relatively low flame, so we call it low and slow. and then eat it on Shabbat day for lunch. Now the Cholent that you mentioned is perhaps the most familiar to American Jews because it is Eastern European Ashkenazi. But in fact, there are many different ones from around the world that have different ingredients, different names, and yet all of them are prepared on Friday, left to cook through the night and eaten for lunch on Shabbat day. And so to me, I view them as all versions of the same dish rather than different dishes. And the way, I collectively refer to them because you need some way to talk about them all is a Shabbat Stews.
Leah Jones 20:53
I'm curious, growing up, were you into like Cholent community and did you know that about anything other than Cholent and before you got to Israel?
Joel Haber 21:05
Before I got to Israel, yes. But growing up, no. My mom would make Cholents and her background, her parents were from Poland and Austria etc. Silesia, which is South Eastern Poland depending on when you look at, it could be Poland, it could be Austria, it could be Ukraine. And she would make kind of what I would call the standard Ashkenazi Cholents. Ashkenazi Jewish being those of Central and Eastern Europe.
Leah Jones 21:32
Is it a meaty, beany dish?
Joel Haber 21:34
The standard ingredients would be beans, barley, potatoes, onions, meat. And then water and salts and stuff like that. But those are the core ingredients. There will be many variations, but that's the core of it.
Leah Jones 21:48
And as you need things that can stand up to heat, I mean, most people listening will have had done cooks something in a Crockpot. I cooked it too long, cooked… at least people listening, if they haven't made Cholent, have made something low and slow in the Crockpot. But you need things that are…
Joel Haber 22:08
But few people have probably left in the Crockpot for 15 hours.
Leah Jones 22:12
Right. On purpose now.
Joel Haber 22:13
So the thing you, have to look at this dish and say who thought of that? Who thought that it would be a good idea and obviously it grew out of necessity. They say, “necessity is mother of invention”, and it was an amazingly, it's actually really good. Actually give like, people can make Cholents or other Shabbat stews and cook them for fewer hours. For example, in the late 1800s, when German Jews after they'd been emancipated, they started getting really secular. A lot of people even when your religious views change, your stomach doesn't. So they would still cook Cholent. For them, it'd be shallot, it was still cooked their shallot because they liked it. But they would cook it for two hours or three hours and eat it on Friday night. And it does not have the same taste. I've eaten many times, my children, even though I'm cooking it overnight, midnight, on Friday night, I'll take a little sample because I'm hungry. It's good, but it's not the same thing.
Leah Jones 23:11
So you've been collecting recipes, and but does this basic Ashkenazi Cholent, are you starting with like soaked beans? Are you starting with canned beans? I imagine, you're starting with dry beans that maybe you soak because again you want things to be able to stand up to 15 hours of heat.
Joel Haber 23:33
I guess traditionally, it would be dried beans that you took overnight. Frankly, and I'm sure there will be people that will think that I'm mad. But I use canned beans. I don't notice a difference in taste. In addition like this, when you're eating like a dish where beans are forefront and you might want something better. I used canned beans all the time. I don't think anybody tastes a difference. And frankly, I wouldn't recommend it. But I know people that have not had the time or forgot to soak their dried beans and put them in and after the all that time cooking, they're still pretty fine. But it's not just for the Ashkenazi, like most of these Shabbat dinners, not all of them are most of them will have beans of some kind or many of them will. But what you mentioned before about the idea of needing things that can stand up to the long cooking is definitely a thing. Because I'm very much in cooking in general, and especially with something like this that has been around 1500 years or so. And has changed and transformed over time. Everybody should feel free to experiment and do what they like. If they're like, “oh, I don't like this ingredient. Can I leave it out?” Of course, leave it out. Your grandma left it out. So it's not a delicate dish. I say, try it and when people say, “oh, will this work?” I might say to them, "look, it sounds like that's going to get mussy inside, you might not like it but give it a try”, worst comes to worst, you won't do it again.
Leah Jones 25:04
Because I also imagine, you're getting a beef cut. I really have become in the last few years a huge fan of Chicken thighs. Where were they my whole life? I don't know. I have learned that they are on the Chickens. As easy to eat as a drumstick but way more meat. I love chicken thigh, but a Chicken thigh for 15 hours?
Joel Haber 25:32
There are plenty of overnight Shabbat Stews, it used Chicken.
Leah Jones 25:36
Really? Okay, not just like tough Beef cuts?
Joel Haber 25:40
No. So, one of the things that I [Not Audible [00:25:43]], mentioned the book. So just to give the quick background, I'm not making a cookbook, although I'm actually doing a little mini cookbook that I'm going to release soon as a little promotion and e-cookbook. But the book is a book of food writing, food history reading, where basically I'm looking at these different Shabbat Stews from all around the world. And since I view them as different versions of the same dish, I use them as a way of tracing the routes of our migration through the diaspora. How do we get from place to place? When did we move there? What were the different scenarios? And therefore, how did this dish change in each place? And why did it change that way? So when I look at those different Stews from around the world, I see that there's a certain breakdown of ingredients. So for example, with the meat, none of this is 100%, cut and dry. There are always exceptions. By and large, Chicken is the primary meat in Asia. Lamb would be the primary meat in Africa and Beef the primary meat in Europe. Grains – so rice would be the primary grain in Asia, wheat in Africa and when I say Africa, I mean North Africa, and barley in Europe. There is always exceptions to these. I don't mean this to be universal. But on average. So that's an interesting thing. But really, I think that we can trace them all back to the same core dish, which is a dish that's ancient, literally ancient, called Harees. Not the spicy paste from North Africa. Same name different dish. And Harees is basically wheat and lamb originally, maybe some onions, that's it, and it cooked like a porridge consistency, and then you sort of beat it, so it becomes a real porridge. And then it'd be served with extra fat drizzle on top and some cinnamon. That's pretty much it. A really basic dish. The Jewish version of Harees was recognized as different than the Arabic version of Harees, started in the Middle East. That's why the Jewish in the air, although its precursors are before there were Jews or Arabs. It was recognized as a different dish. And we know that in modern times, there are still Jews who cook what they call Harees. So which is a similar version of this as their Shabbat Stews. So one of the most logical explanations is what made the Jewish version different? There is a few things that could have made it different, but one of them most likely is, that they used it as a Shabbat Stew overnight cooking.
Leah Jones 28:09
So they wouldn't have done the final pounding.
Joel Haber 28:15
They might have. That's depends on who you ask whether that's permissible or not. But that's not a core element, I would say. But although the name Harees actually comes from that step, it means pound it. But it's possible. In modern times, they were definitely, I've read about I think, maybe in Claudia Roden, I can't remember, I've read about that in Iraq, Jews would have a Shabbat Goy, meaning somebody who was not Jewish, who might work in their house doing stuff, and they would have them pound it for Shabbat.
Leah Jones 28:48
So you said that, growing up you're from a Cholent house, a Cholent Community.
Joel Haber 28:56
So my mom would cook Cholent, but I will say to her credit, she would make it even though she doesn't like it, she doesn't need it.
Leah Jones 29:05
But then, as an adult, before you came to Israel, you started learning about other Shabbat Stews. So can you remember the first time you went to somebody's house for Shabbat? And there was a Stew that was so different? And you're like, Ooh, I going to know more about this.
Joel Haber 29:21
No, because what I've seen in America and it's logical understanding the American community and modern times and it is a modern Jewish community… First of all, there's a blending of cultures together, of course. I don't want to exacerbate that usually has a bad connotation, but increased I guess, by the number of people who have converted to Jewism or who have become observant, who didn't grow up observant and therefore didn’t have their own Shabbat Stews growing up and then wanting to make one and so they’ll pick and choose as they like. So we have this big mixing of different cultures and also, who was a Thomas Friedman who said the world is flat? I think it was Thomas Friedman is the name of a book. In the digital age, the world is flat. So anybody who wants to make anything can just go online. So lots of people will do things and so instead of having a strictly different version of the Shabbat Stew. You might find one that just has the influences like, oh, yeah, well, I like putting, sweet potatoes and carrots into my Cholent, even that might be more common in North Africa, or something of that nature. So I don't remember distinctively first time I had one that was completely different. But certainly, I would see the influences or somebody who's putting in different spices or dates or something.
Leah Jones 30:46
Yeah, dates. Isn’t it a hard?,
Joel Haber 30:49
Just they often dissolved, but it'll give it a little sweetness.
Leah Jones 30:52
That makes more sense.
Joel Haber 30:55
Common in Moroccan Toffee or icecream.
Leah Jones 30:59
I guess it's sort of like hummus.
Joel Haber 31:02
Well, you wouldn't have that many dates in there. So it wouldn't be it's not a primarily dried fruits. They're just in there, as flavorings.
Leah Jones 31:09
So like a cup of bean , you use cup of dates.
Joel Haber 31:13
I don't know, if I've ever seen bay leaves in there but it could be. And then you can go interestingly, since we're talking about the dry fruits, you go to Bukhara, which is in Uzbekistan, Central Asia; and their Shabbat stew, which is called Osofo also has dry fruits, are not the same kind. They'll have things like dried apricots or dried prunes in there and grated green apple. They do like a sweet and sour stew. It's actually really yummy.
Leah Jones 31:37
Interesting. Have you had that here over there?
Joel Haber 31:42
Here. It's interesting. And one of the things that I love most about this dish is when we look at Jewish food and that could mean so many things, and people sometimes will almost make a demand of indigeneity and uniqueness that it needs to be a food that you invented and that only you eat, which I think is ridiculous.
Leah Jones 32:07
But it's hard to get there.
Joel Haber 32:09
In any cuisine. But, despite that, there are certain foods that meet that characteristic for us. I think the most obvious one is Matzah. It grows. It's in the Torah. It grows out of our tradition, out of our history. And pretty much nobody else eats it, as you be crazy to.
Leah Jones 32:30
Actually you'll see people in Chicago who are like, what a deal on giant saltine crackers! And then, I just imagine, they buy the six packets, it's marked down after Passover. So it's so cheap. And it's just like, oh!
Joel Haber 32:47
Although I was two months ago, I think it was, it was in the summer already, I was up in the Golan Heights with a tour group. I went into a supermarket in a Druze village, the entire village is Druze not Jews, it’s Druze.
Leah Jones 33:01
Joel Haber 33:03
Correct. And they had Matzah for sale! Which means these people eat it! In summer! Not in passover. Anyway, what was I saying?
Leah Jones 33:15
Joel Haber 33:17
Matzah is an example of a food that is unique and indigenous to us. And I believe that the Shabbat Stew is as well, it’s another example of that. So it's not only something that would be hard to argue, is not a Jewish food. And on top of that, I think that it's in many ways the most Jewish food. Matzah we wanted to eat this week, in every week. And the fact that as I'm arguing in my book, it really accompanied us on our diasporic wanderings. It embodies the Jewish experience. So to me, that's what's fascinating to me about this dish. I think you can look at this dish and see the Jewish people.
Leah Jones 34:08
As you've been collecting recipes, testing recipes, hosting people for Shabbat and introducing them to new Shabbat Stews; is there a diasporic path? What’s in this Stews that surprises people, that they're like, whoa! What would surprise me, not your normal guest, who come over all the time, but like me who's had Cholent once?
Joel Haber 34:43
When I started the things, I don't always I'm not like a professor or something. So I don't sit at the meal and describe to them how it got there. They can read the book for that. But often, it’s just the taste. So I think one of the ones that is, has been a hit in most times, I served it and people really like it and it's recognizable, but different enough. So in India, there are three distinct Jewish communities or five, depending on how you're defining your terms. But let's say three. One of them the most modern of those three is the Baghdadi Jews of Iraq, who moved there starting in the late 1700s. And so they certainly have influences from Iraq, but they also have the influences in India, like different spices and things like that. So I have a recipe for Baghdadi Indian, Hameen. Hameen is another term for this Stew, just like the Cholent is the most common generic term for it in America, Hameen would be the most generic term for it here in Israel. And it's made with Rice and Chicken and some really nice spices that give it a real aromatic flavor in the Rice. But what also makes it really Indian is that it’s served with this chutney of cilantro and ginger and lemon and a little bit of garlic. And I like to take that and I just kind of stir it through, and I pull the meat off the bone on the chicken and mix it with the Rice and then stir this chutney through. And it gives us brightness to color and in taste. Because that's not cooked chutney is on the side. So people love that one.
Leah Jones 36:29
That sounds amazing. That's great. Because we talked about the e-cookbook that you'll be releasing, as we want to like get all these names. You've toured with 3000 people through the Shuk, you don't have all their email addresses because the person who organizes the tour you got them but not the other 10 people, right? So we want to bring people back through this Shabbat Stew Cook Book. How long have you been collecting Shabbat Stew recipes?
Joel Haber 37:04
I mean, actively not that long, or actively maybe a year or two. I'd say what it started with as I began to drill down on the research of this topic was, I'd say about three or four years ago now, I made like a survey via Google Forms. That I passed around. Well basically, I didn't get recipes, but it had a whole bunch of things like, what's the name that you call your Shabbat Stew? What are the ingredients? Things like that. Where are you from? It's that kind of stuff. And I collected a lot of, I don't remember how many, but I got good responses. So that was the beginning of it. And that was about, let's say three or four years ago. Actively collecting recipes is probably within the last two years. But like I said, it's not only about the recipes, that's a big part of it. The e-cookbook will hopefully be out within the next month. And beyond that also in the book, although it's not a cookbook, there will be recipes in there. Because I think people would be upset if there weren't, to read all about this food and not able to cook it. And so there's going to be, probably two recipes in each chapter plus a few more at the end, in an appendix. So I have been collecting them and tasting them, and I had a few other people who have helped me to taste the recipes and stuff like that. So there's that. And what will help me to collect more is, that the other side project that will maybe in another month and a half or two months is, I'm launching a website that's connected with the book; Cholentbook.com. And one of the big things about that will be that it will there's the opportunity there for people to upload their own recipes and see everybody else's recipes and hopefully create a community and be the “one stop shop” for all things Shabbat Stew.
Leah Jones 39:00
That is fantastic. Do people think having a recipe for this is antithetical to the Stew? I'm sure there are people, if you are observant and grow up with this and cook it every week. People just know how much to put on right?
Joel Haber 39:32
That’s a legitimate question. I myself was like, why should I put recipes in? You just put all these different ingredients in. Let me just tell you what the ingredients are. And you'll do it. But as I've started to do more, I realized that first of all, there are differences in terms of certain types of Stews do require certain techniques. So for the traditional Ashkenazi one that I described before, when I put that recipe basically right, put them all in the pot. Stir it. That kind of thing. But other ones, there are steps that are involved. And so for that you would need a recipe. In terms of the quantities, one of the things that I encourage and I mentioned before but also in this e-cookbook, in the introduction or early on, I basically say, try it. Don't ask. Can I do this? Can I do that? Try it. You don't like that ingredient, leave it out. If you want to see that ingredient will go on there, try it once. Worse comes to worst, it won't be the best Shabbat so you ever had, you won't do it again. I do that all the time with my students. I'll say, oh, let's see what happens if I do this. And I always change things up. I think, one of the recipes that I plan to have in the e-cookbook is, one that I invented, that's totally different.
Leah Jones 40:44
Tell me about it. Or do you want to save for the..
Joel Haber 40:47
I don’t mind talking about it. It’s not like the most unique recipe in the world. But like there's a vegetable that we get here does grow in America, but I don't remember ever seeing it in America called Cardoon. You know what Cardoons are? It looks like a prehistoric celery. It's like, bigger and kind of a less vibrant green. It has thorns rained on the sides of it. Basically it’s a type of a thistle that's a relative of artichoke, let’s say.
Leah Jones 41:12
Joel Haber 41:13
We get it in winter in Israel. I love it. It's labor intensive, because you have to peel the whole outside of it. But then because it's kind of tough, it holds its form when it cooks for a long time. So I was like, Oh, that would be perfect in the Shabbat Stew because it doesn't turn mushy. So I made one with that. I've done it with Rice. Although I think I'm going to change it to wheat. I think it'd be better with wheat. And some of the things and some spices and that's my wintry because we only get into winter. So it's my wintry Israeli invented. But it's just really yummy. It's also interesting, by the way is when you look at the Shabbat Stews from around the world, and the majority of them are coming from what we would call the Old World, meaning Europe, Africa and Asia; how prominent new world vegetables have become? Meaning, you know about the Columbian Exchange? All these new world foods that came to the old world and also in the opposite direction. Cool things that were brought to new world but like potatoes. Corn, I don't see very frequently in Shabbat Stews although it should be there's no reason why not. I mean potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, beans that are-what we would call common beans, pretty much all the beans except for fava beans, chickpeas, lentils, which are not beans. But those were the legumes that were used in this area before the Columbian Exchange. White beans, kidney beans, cannellini, all of those are new world foods. And now they're like ubiquitous Shabbat Stews, which is amazing.
Leah Jones 42:48
Because I haven't thought about, certainly in Israel, I feel like my friends, the food here is much more seasonal, then in the US.
Joel Haber 43:06
It will be frustrating when you first moved here because I always put those two things together on the sale. We're sorry that's in season in March, and that's an August. I never had them together.
Leah Jones 43:13
Never had them together again. That first on Shabbat. They're like, It's lime season. It's real limes, squeeze a lime in your seltzer because it's finally lime season. It's the three weeks of lime season.
Joel Haber 43:27
Well, it's going to a bit better than it used to be. It’s been a little longer, they're planting more, my guess.
Leah Jones 43:31
But that's definitely something that you feel more here.
Joel Haber 43:36
And that's what I was talking about the Cardoons because for me, if I go to the Shuk now, it is nowhere to be seen now. It's only in the winter. So to me that's what I'm thinking of. And by the way, in that recipe I'll say also it is since Cardoons are probably hard to find in America, though, I know that they existed because like they were popular in revolutionary times in America. But I've used frozen artichoke bottoms in place to them and they work just because they're a very similar flavor also, and they won't get too mushy, though. That's like a good replacement for the Cardoons.
Leah Jones 44:07
That's good. It's interesting. What is a summer stew or do you want hot food on Shabbat and a summer here?
Joel Haber 44:22
I do, not everybody does. I have a Moroccan friend or Moroccan French friend who lives here, and he gave me his recipe for his Dafina. But he says, we only make it in the winter time. We don't have it in summer. I'll eat in the summer, but I understand those. But the first that I'm aware of, I think it's the earliest, certainly, I know of 4(four) cookbooks that have come out all dedicated to Shabbat Stews 2 (two) in Hebrew 2 (two) English. Two in English our smaller books put up by a woman Kay Kantor Pomerantz. But her the first one is called “Come for Cholent” and the second one is “Come for More Cholent” or something like that. I forget the second name of the book. They're nice books. And then there was two in Hebrew one by Sherry Ansky was the earliest one called Hamin and then on the English copyright page says Cholent which is interesting to the users. And then there was a woman named Asnot Lester, who had one called like, [Not understandable [00:45:30]] like Shabbat Stews or something like that. Anyway, in Sherry L Shamansky’s book, which I believe was the first one. I think they came up before the American ones. She was doing fewer of traditional recipes. She was also inventing some of her own etc, but she had a whole section of Summer Hamin, which essentially if you look at it meant like Rice and Chicken rather than Beef. Which was interesting, not exclusively, but that was what I saw in there. So there are people, who will do summer ones. I don't think a lot of the summer vegetables hold up that well, although, I have had ones and I've even used them myself where I'd put in summer squash is like zucchinis and stuff like that. They do get a little bit mushy. But it doesn't mean that you can't have them in there. They don't absolutely disintegrate.
Leah Jones 46:19
Because those are not on Shabbat, you would just grab a juicer, a blender, a stick blender. Oh my God, I'm finding the word; I need more coffee! And you would just blend away that mushy squash and turn it into a smoother soup altogether. I was just trying to think of like what I want. Because when I've come here and done like Shabbat lunch with friends, a lot of times, it's just like a big chunky salad, like avocado and…
Joel Haber 46:56
Yeah, one that might be lighter. I'm actually probably going to make it this week because I haven't made it yet. That from Tunisia, I found recipes actually in sharing an [Not Audible [00:47:10]] book to a Fish Hamin, instead of meat. And it's going to be using more like ocean fish, so it's a little bit more meatier fish. That seems interesting, and it's obviously going to be a little bit lighter I think so. It may be good for summer. I’m going to try and say how that comes out for a summer.
Leah Jones 47:27
Nice. What else is there about Shabbat Stews that I have not asked you that you will be so sad. So sad, If we didn't talk about?
Joel Haber 47:38
I don't know if there's any one thing. I mean, like I said, for me that the way that they summarize the Jewish experience, is fascinating. But I think, we just like to eat them just because they taste good. So I don't think we need to focus on that. Is there anything else that's really interesting?
Leah Jones 47:59
Or another very special recipe or someone who gave you a special recipe that you're excited to share with people?
Joel Haber 48:07
One of the things that I find fascinating is, how and it may be less direct, in terms of being able to trace the routes. But that Stew has arrived in or some of the most far flung Jewish communities. I have a friend of Surinamese descent from Suriname. She’s actually from Holland, but her roots go back to Suriname. And there's an ingredient there called, I'm sure, I'm going to mispronounce it, has asked the head, I think it's called Pomtajer which is in English, I think they call it, I forgot what it's called an English, but we can look it up. But basically, this is a dish that is not exclusively eaten by Jews. But that the Jews make this dish with it is called Pom because it's come from Pomtajer; which has this grated Pomtajer, Chicken and usually citrus, which you need to counteract something in the Pom. And then it's cooked almost like a Potato Kugel.
Leah Jones 49:18
So like in a casserole dish?
Joel Haber 49:22
I am yet to taste it because it's hard to get that ingredient here. Her mom came from Holland and brought it but she was in Tel Aviv, I was here. I didn't get a chance to sample it. But hopefully, I will still, at one point. But apparently this dish now because there's a lot of certain Amis who have gone to Holland is, now a street food in Holland as well. So that's one thing. And I think, maybe that's one last thing we can end with that which is very interesting is, the connection between this very Jewish food and non-Jewish foods around it. So I'll give you a few interesting examples. In Hungary, where the Jewish community basically came of age and was emancipated at the same time that Hungary gained its independence, and so they came of age together. And therefore the Jews were very integrated into Hungarian society. Charlotte as it's called there, which is obviously someone who Cholent, it sounds but there are its unique elements is, something that Hungarians of all stripes eat. You can go to any bar in Hungary and there's a pot of Charlotte. Although, it’s made with pork. But like it is the dish, there are three non-Kosher brands of Charlotte canned in the supermarket. And then you might talk about Spain. So the Jews, of course, were there for a very long time and then we had a not so pleasant ending there in 1492. But many and this is not from a Jewish like many Spanish culinary historians will look at some of the main dishes, they're like, Cocido Madrileno, which again, I'm sure I'm mispronouncing Madrid Cocido, which is like a Stew. This looks very much like a Dafina [Not Understandable [00:51:08]], which is the Stew that was eaten there by the Jews with the prominent placement of pork, and they said it was likely crypto Jews, who kept cooking the same dish and just stuck a lot of pork and said, “look, I'm a real good Christian”. So that influenced on the non-Jews. There are people that look at various slow cook stews in France, like Cassoulet, which is from the south of France. And they'll argue, oh, this was actually the precursor of Chilean in my book, I go into a long explanation of why I don't believe, that is the proper influencing. Anything the influence was in the other direction or that they were just both developed separately. I don't need to get into that. Now, it's too long. The idea of just all of these things, where it connects because this dish has been around forever. So I think something that's really interesting, and it shows how, when you look at Jewish cuisine throughout the world and you look at the various interactions with the non-Jewish dishes that exists alongside the Jewish dishes. It shows our relationship. Sometimes we took a non-Jewish dish and just used it. Sometimes it was not-Kosher, we would change certain elements to make it acceptable for nature. Sometimes we had dishes that they adapted and adopted. And that's really, what's fascinating is because we've literally split spread all over the world, that the Jews are the most globalized nation in the world. Our cuisines have touched all of the cuisines of the world and have interacted with them in both directions. And to me, that's one of the most fascinating things that there is when we look at Jewish food in general, and at the Shabbat Stew in particular.
Leah Jones 52:56
Amazing. Wonderful. So I have an unrelated question.
Joel Haber 53:02
Leah Jones 53:06
Yes. This is primarily for the benefit of Shai and Esther who do listen. You had some commentary about Top Gun Maverick and the similarities between the…
Joel Haber 53:24
So let me start by saying I did enjoy Top Gun Maverick. No, really, like, I don't think, it's a bad movie. I enjoyed it. It was fun. It was great fun, kind of nostalgic. I was just reacting when there were people like, this is great. I did not think, it was a great way. It was a good movie. It was fun, totally fun. But one of the things that I saw that I felt made it super derivative, maybe they would say, it's homage. But I thought it was derivative. It was like the entire final sequence, where they're flying to blow up the thing in the mountain, where they're flying really low and they're being chased by the other planes and they going to go up and go down and shoot this one – five square inch spot and the whole thing and then fly back out. That was straight out of the Death Star sequence in the original Star Wars movie. It literally even looked like that. Where they got to fly low and fly through the okay, It's a canal in this case. It's not but there's mountains on both sides.
Leah Jones 54:21
It's essentially a canal.
Joel Haber 54:22
And so the X wings chasing them. You have other fighter planes chasing and it has got to go up. It's got to hit, this tiny spot. It's the same thing. So that's what I saw.
Leah Jones 54:28
Right. So we were looking…
Joel Haber 54:32
It doesn’t ruin the movie, but I was just like, they could have been at least a little bit more creative.
Leah Jones 54:36
And so I know that Shai and Esther are both Star Wars aficionados, who Shai saw the movie, I think I assume, Esther did. So that was specifically for them and anyone else who have seen Star Wars Death Star.
Joel Haber 54:52
You didn’t give the spoiler alert.
Leah Jones 54:52
I'll give a spoiler alert in the Intro.
Joel Haber 54:58
You're going to ask me about that scene where they were sitting down to a Shabbat Stew.
Leah Jones 55:02
Well, yes. without humor, Shabbat Stew scene
Joel Haber 55:07
That brought tears to my eyes.
Leah Jones 55:12
If you were in what's that bar in Star Wars?
Joel Haber 55:18
Oh, I know what you mean. I forget what it's called. But I definitely know….
Leah Jones 55:20
The Cantina. What do you think, Shabbat stew served at the Cantina?
Joel Haber 55:28
And clearly paid for an advanced before Shabbat, of course.
Leah Jones 55:30
Joel Haber 55:33
That’s a darn good question. I'm not enough of a Star Wars nerd to even know what foods existed in the Star Wars universe. I'm sure, I know you had your Vulcan speaker. I don't think, there's a language from Star Wars that people speak the same way they do with Star Wars. But it would probably have steam or a smoke coming up from, it'll be something that like bubbled and had smoke coming up was probably be green, just guessing. Maybe it would be? Oh, you know, it'd be awesome, if we could, I'm sure you'd have to shift at first. But if you could, do like Ewoks do.
Leah Jones 56:12
Where the Ewoks are...
Joel Haber 56:14
Are at the knee.
Leah Jones 56:15
Joel Haber 56:15
That's what, I'm [Not Audible [00:56:17]] I mean, that's the best I can think of.
Leah Jones 56:20
There's also those little birds, when Luke is like off on his island alone, there's little birds.
Joel Haber 56:28
Oh, I don't remember that at all. I told you, I'm really not that big of a Star Wars geek. I did see them but a long time. So those were the only animals that I remembered. I mean, at first, I was going to make a big faux pas talking about the giant things from the snow thing and it was like one of those were like robotic things.
Leah Jones 56:46
They were robot.
Joel Haber 56:49
That’s exactly. Luckily, I caught myself before I made that error. But I copped to it now. And I mean, I wouldn't want to eat like chewy. You probably are too chewy. Sorry, I couldn’t help it.
Leah Jones 57:01
Oh, boy. Joel where can people find you on the internet?
Joel Haber 57:11
So let's see, Tasteofjew.com is my general Jewish Food History blog. Soon childrensbook.com and for tourism specifically, Fjisrael.com, for Fun Joel – that’s my nickname. And if they want to email me about foodstuff, JewishFoodBook@gmail.com, very easy to remember anything.
Leah Jones 57:33
Joel Haber 57:38
That is correct.
Leah Jones 57:44
Well, Joel, thank you so much.
Joel Haber 57:45
My pleasure. It's been great. Thank you so much, and great to see you again.
Leah Jones 57:44
So good to see you.
Joel Haber 57:45
Look forward to seeing you back here again soon and all of your listeners also.
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