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My name is Dana Koschitzky, mother to Alon, Yoav and Tamar, wife to Maayan.
I was born and raised in Jerusalem, Israel, and have been happily living in Napa Valley, California for the last decade.
Even though I graduated in Baking and Pastry at the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) at the age of 37, my journey with food started when I was much younger. Throughout my life, I have been fortunate to spend significant time in my grandmother’s kitchen. I have fond childhood memories of licking batter off beaters or licking leftover whipped cream in my grandmother’s kitchen. As I grew up, I cooked with her, learned from her, mimicked her cooking and baking style, or simply enjoyed her company in the kitchen, and while I may not have seen it happening at the time, looking back, it is now clear to me how much of who I am and why I am passionate about baking has been thanks to this remarkable woman.
Moving abroad created a need, a need for home, and yes even after so many years, I still feel that Israel is my home and I identify as an Israeli living in California. When I miss home, I find myself in the kitchen creating comforting Israeli food which takes me back to my roots and feeling connected again. So, what is Israeli food?
Israeli food is not necessarily Jewish food but a combination of recipes that Jews from all over the world brought with them when immigrating to Israel. In addition, there is the influence of the local Palestinian food in the Israeli cuisine and other influences as well, such as Hummus and Falafel from Syria and Lebanon, Couscous from Morocco, Kube from Iraq, Jachnun from Yemen, Burrekas made with filo dough from the Balkans and Turkey, Schnitzel from Austria or Borscht and Varenikes from Russia and Ukraine. Some of these foods are eaten in the streets and others at home. No doubt that Jerusalem is recognized as a melting pot of cultures and religions that is reflected in the food.
Even when I try to follow a recipe, the memories in my taste buds will tell me, “this is not exactly right.” When I continued to have the experience of tasting a “Fatush” salad or a chocolate “Babka” after following a recipe and realizing that the outcome is not matching my taste bud memories, I then understood that no recipes followed exactly can match such a profound memory. Every recipe holds a story, a snapshot of life, history and family that we carry with us, wherever we are. It is the meals our mothers made for us when we were sick or sad and the ones we prepared for celebrations and events that become the collective memories of our family. I started to understand how much of my identity, memories, tradition, and family history were held in food.
I found myself spending more and more time in the kitchen thinking about our food and what it means to me. I would call my mother in Israel to ask her cooking questions or my grandmother for her recipes. But if you ever tried to get a recipe from a Jewish grandma, you know how hard it is to get exact measurements. So, I kept experimenting and trying. Cooking for me was therapeutic and a way to connect back to my family’s kitchens.
I want to recreate the flavors and smells that are as close as possible to the flavors I enjoyed at home. I want people to know what real Jewish-Israeli food is, to experience it the way I did growing up.
The Tish, “The Table”, is about my desire for connection and belonging. Inviting new friends to eat at my table is a very intimate act, an expression of love. I am welcoming you into my life and sharing with you not only the food, but the history and the stories the food holds.
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