As a daughter of a convenient-feminist psychologist and a short tempered army general , I was dealing with dualities from a young age. While my mother was quoting Freud and Jung theories and dissecting every aspect of my personality, my father was preparing me for war. The agreement between them in regards to my education and upbringing, was that both sides will pick for me extracurricular activities of their choice and for no surprise at all their choices were the complete opposites of each other's. She chose for me the ballet and he chose Karate. She chose art and crafts and he chose the firing range. She chose cooking and he did, hunting. This kid , me, was totally confused and had a very busy schedule.
While they were arguing which activity next and who will drive me where, I was planning my escape. The images of films I was forced to watch by my father , (who actually wanted a boy) like, Guns of Navarone, The eagle has landed and all of Bruce Lee movies were embedded in my young child's brain at the same time as The Red shoes ballet , and Turning Point. My Ballet shoes were hanging on top of a Bruce lee poster just above my bed, and my napkin collection was stored in a Katyusha rocket crate box. My wardrobe consisted of army green pants and white t-shirts alongside flower dresses sewn by my mother and heavy boots to fit any outfit. I was torn between the vegetarian diet of my mother’s choice and a heavy meat diet of my Romanian father. I did not like the cooking attempts my mother made to appeal to nor the barbecues my father was preparing in the backyard. I was a small, skinny girl that mostly refused to eat. My hair, to cut or not to cut was a monthly argument between them and I was practicing negotiations and diplomacy to keep home peace.
It was in 1973 Yom Kippur war when I first discovered my passion for food.
One Saturday morning, my father opened the window and announced he smells war coming. Before he was called to the front he was already on his way there. My mother who was anti war had stripped the house from the convenience of the 70’s modern home and joined the protesters with exchanging electricity to oil lamps, replacing living room sofas to floor mattresses, and traded my father's American car that was his pride and joy, to an orange beetle, the symbol of peace by any hippie those days. I was 8 years old and my sister was only 3 and it was all very exciting and liberating. While the men were away and only the women left in the neighborhood life was not the same. Doors were open throughout the street and kids were running from one house to another. I was led by my nose down Mendelson street and stoped to inhale the warmth and the aromas. The boiling pots and the ongoing conversations about food, released me from my doctrine reality. I found myself in different kitchens exhilarated by the fragrance of spices. At night in my dreams I was again a fighter running across the battlefield with a bazooka on my shoulder or docking under an airstrike. It was in the daytime when I was back in the kitchen of my neighbors where i could travel to exotic places with the colors and flavors of foods. The neighborhood was like the streets of Babylon. Polish, Romanians , Moroccans, Tunisians, Algerians, yemenites and their sounds all blended as a symphony to my curious ears and their food to my pallet. I was standing on my tiptoes to reach above the pots, intoxicated by the aromas and eager to learn what those mamas were cooking. I was asking million questions only to be answered that those recipes are not found in any cook- book and they were passed from mother to daughter for generations. When I asked
‘ how much cumin spice?’I was told ‘ like the size of your eye’, and how much of the sweet paprika ? “ like the size of your big toe’, and how much ginger did you grade in? ‘ as much as you could fit into your palm’ I was told. And these were my first recipes notes, drawings which would make no sense now. Scribbles of different body parts, quantified by symbols. It was then when we were down in the shelter that i became a cook and a host. While other kids were playing board, card games and drawing , I was helping the women to cook, serve and wash the dishes. This is where it all started. My passion for food and the joy of pleasing others with food, followed me through the years. At 12 I was a full time cook for my family and by 16 I had sandwich business delivering to offices around town. By the age of 19 I opened my first restaurant and by 21 the second. What happened since then ? That's for another time.