I hope she won’t be offended, but I consider Batya Medad the grande dame of Jewish food blogging. As the founder of the Kosher Cooking Carnival and a longtime dedicated Israeli blogger (her blogs are called me-ander and Shiloh Musings), she enjoys a dedicated readership and combines her love of food, Judaism, and the Land of Israel in her blog posts. This is not to say that she is a lover of 20-step recipes; on the contrary, what inspires me about her cooking is its uncomplicated method and blending of flavors that naturally go together. Remembering a friend describing how her sister dreaded Shabbat because of the volume and formality of cooking, I would love to have steered her toward Batya’s recipes. (This is the third in a series. If you haven’t had a chance yet, go back and read my interviews with Mimi and Leora.)
Please introduce yourself in a few sentences.
I’m American born, made aliyah after getting married 40 years ago, so I’m just short of two-thirds of my life in Israel, and since we’re 29 years in Shiloh, close to half my life here. I wasn’t raised in a religious home. Got introduced to Torah Judaism through NCSY when in high school and then learned about Zionism from other “Jewish activists” in Great Neck, NY.
From whom did you learn to cook? (If not from a person, how?)
I learned very basic cooking growing up, nothing fancy. I’m still a “simple” cook and always will be. That doesn’t stop me from cooking everything, as you can see on me-ander.
In what style do you cook predominantly (e.g. Mediterranean, Jewish, Asian)?
I cook healthy, simple, kosher, Ashkenaz Jewish Israeli. Very me.
What dietary guidelines do you observe (kashrut, vegetarian, vegan, Paleolithic diet)?
We’re strictly kosher, and I’ve been low carbohydrates for almost two years.
What are your favorite foods? What food aversions do you have?
I love vegetables. I can live without carbs. When I eat them I have no control. Since I changed my way of eating I’ve done some diet coaching and would like to do more. My favorite food I shouldn’t eat is Haagen Dazs 5 mint ice cream (or regular mint chip.) Actually I love ice cream, not chocolate, and can eat ridiculous quantities so I’ve made a rule: I limit myself to my Haagen Dazs mint when abroad, in the States. I can polish off an entire pint on my own as a meal. When in Arizona it’s convenient, since proper kosher meals aren’t easily available.
What is your relationship to your kitchen, to food, to cooking?
Strange question. I didn’t know much about kitchen design when we built the house, but we do have some good things, like slightly lower upper cabinets so I can reach both shelves. Most Passover stuff is in the kitchen in the second tier of upper cabinets. We have a very useful “pantry wall.”
I try not to obsess about food. I was a vegetarian for 25 years and drove people nuts, so now I try to be nicer. I do like things clean and cringe when seeing how people touch food without washing. I was cook in the baby day care center for four years and there were no cases of food poisoning nor stomach trouble from the food. I’m a lazy cook, simple and easy recipes for me.
What do you think cooking and food say about identity?
I’m not out to prove anything, compete in terms of fancy or quality. I’m more secure about my cooking than I used to be.
Please share one of your favorite recipes, either from a blog post or from your own repertoire.