#18: Be Our Guest! (Chef Yotam Ottolenghi & Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman)

In anticipation of joining us for our VOICES 2022 event, Rabbi Zimmerman talks with Chef Yotam Ottolenghi about what’s truly essential about communal gathering, food, and life around the kitchen. Chef Ottolenghi shares intimate stories from his upbringing, his partnership with Palestinian chef Sami Tamimi, and his ever-evolving culinary career. We look forward to learning more from this inspiring chef when he visits our community in early May. Please go to templeisrael.com/voices for more information. Please subscribe to TEMPLE TALKS and review the show. Comments and questions can be directed to TMoss@TempleIsrael.com. Talk with us! An excerpt from this week’s Temple Talks follows below.
An edited excerpt from this week’s Temple Talks follows below. 

Rabbi Zimmerman
I am a rabbi who cooks and I love being involved in your cookbooks. They're amazing because of the food and the rose water and all the beautiful tastes and smells that come from every one of your recipes. Now I’m wondering—we've gone through COVID. How has that changed the reality of food and gathering around food? What, what for you is essential about bringing people around the table in the time that we're living in right here, right now?

Yotam Ottolenghi
The key word there is essential because I think the way I’ve changed my perspective is about what are the essentials. We've all had that notion that certain things had to be done in one particular way, in another particular way. And that often applies in the kitchen, but I think what we've discovered is that there's many ways to do things. COVID forced us into this from the very beginning where there's a shortage of ingredients and in some supermarkets, we couldn't get what we wanted to, what we thought we needed.

All of a sudden we were stuck with things that were maybe a bit less glamorous, a bit less exciting. You know, like a can of chickpeas or a bag of short grain rice. We dug up things from the bottom of the back of the freezer that were never going to be that the stars of the party, right? I think that was a really wonderful wake up call because it means that you understand that you can create delicious meals with what you had. I saw that I could still create delicious meals with whatever was there. 

This thinking on your feet was a bit like people in previous generations used to do. They would go out to the shop every time they needed just a bit of fish or a fillet of beef. There was just not that kind of sense of abundance that we were used to now.

But this new situation has led a lot of creativity. In my home, I can tell you we served lots of curries because we just had lots of lentils and split peas and things like that. Or, with whatever vegetables that were around, often I would slow cook them into something. I would cook eggs into something a bit like a shakshuka, but with whatever was available. All of a sudden you make do because otherwise, you know, you're going to just sit around and pray for the day, pray to go back in time.

Now we are all thinking creatively, thinking on our feet, and just doing things slightly differently. This is one of the lessons of this time.

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