Archive for February, 2008

Uncorked and Unveiled

Thursday, February 28th, 2008


There, I said it.  6 letters that represent undeniable suffering.  One word that has no doubt effected every one of your lives in one way or another.  A blanket category of disease that has not only eaten away at the bodies of us or people we know, but an illness that tears holes in our lives, breaking up families, taking away our family, friends, co workers, mentors, and pets.

Until you suffer side by side with an individual trying to beat cancer, it’s hard to comprehend the dollar amount that comes along with the personal struggle.  Insurance, for those who are lucky enough to have it never covers everything.  The loss of wages, the cost of in home care, of prescriptions, the countless trips to the hospital for treatments, all takes a huge toll on even those with strong support systems in place.

Even when you give everything you have, it is hardly enough.  Thanks to programs like the Leukemia and Lymphoma society, there is some relief for those struggling with the financial strain of living with cancer.

This Monday at Veil, from 6:30 to 9 we will be hosting an event to help raise money for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society.  This organization is focused on gathering funds to not only aid in researching the cure for blood cancers, but gives en enormous amount to individuals to help them cover the hefty price of medical bills and costs of care.

This event will donate 100 percent of the proceeds to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  Each individual is asked to make a 40 dollar donation, which can be made at the door, or online here.  In return you will be treated to a wonderful night of wine and food.

We have partnered with Seattle Sommelier David LeClaire and his wine club Seattle Uncorked, who has invited 3 different winemakers to share their wares with us.  You will have the chance to talk to the winemakers while sampling a few of their vintages, snack on food created by the kitchen at Veil, including sweet treats by yours truly, and give to a program that provides invaluable support to our community.

We are looking forward to hosting this event, and to having you be there.  I know many of you don’t live in Seattle, thus this event is something you can’t attend.  But there is still a chance for you to donate online, if you are so inclined.  Anything and everything helps, as these dollars are not going into a vast pool of research funds, but into the aid of individuals and their daily needs.

For those who can attend, the event is at Veil, 555 Aloha street on Lower Queen Anne, from 6:30 to 9.  And do pop back in the kitchen to say hi to me, I’ll be there all night making sure you are full of tasty treats all night.


Thin Ice

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

Shuna lost her job.

Shuna is a slashie like me. No, not a actor slash male model, silly Zoolander fan, blogger slash chef. Pastry chef to be exact. And she recently lost her pastry chef job.

I point this out, not to irritate what is a sensitive situation, but to shed light on the fragility of a pastry chefs job. Our position is a constant walk on thin ice, a weekly prayer that the ice won’t crack and swallow our position altogether.

It is a rare restaurant that can truly afford a pastry chefs salary, particularly outside hotel and restaurant groups, and in the small intimate passion driven restaurants I prefer. Labor costs on high end food run around 40 percent. What that means, is for every dollar that comes in the restaurant, 40 percent of that goes to labor. The goal for food cost is around 25 percent. That leaves a slim 35 percent of the gross income to pay for rent, china, equipment, tables, chairs, electricity, flowers, anything and everything.

And profit? 1 percent is considered successful.

The thing about labor cost, is that it’s flexible. Veil’s kitchen staff of 4 can put out 30 dinners, or 80. It costs the restaurant the same to have those 4 cooks/chefs in the kitchen, but clearly having 80 customers brings the restaurant much much more money. Thus, labor cost goes down the busier the restaurant is.

Equally, the slower the dining room is, the higher labor cost is. To create high end, fine dining it takes the same 4 cooks to run a moderate evening as it does a busy evening. To include a pastry chefs salary into labor cost, a restaurant needs to be busy, or big, or part of a large restaurant group, or a hotel.

So we watch numbers like a hawk. We count how many desserts were sold each night, how many covers we had, what percent of diners chose to have dessert. We keep our own food cost in check. We worry over slow days, weeks, months. We see the ice getting thinner, and the potential of our job slipping through the cracks.

I am fairly lucky, I was trained as a line cook long before I entered into the pastry world. I have versatile skills, which help to validate my salary. To keep my self firmly planted in the kitchen I could prep out the veg station, work the pantry, butcher, or cook on the line.

I could take a hourly wage and work part time. Or take a small salary and work 60 hours a week.

I could work for far less money than I know I could get elsewhere.

And I do, believe me.

I do all these things to work at Veil. I make all these sacrifices to stay out of a restaurant group, out of a hotel, out of a private club, out of large busy restaurants. I thrive in a small intimate kitchen, where quality can be absolutely controlled. I prefer to labor intensely for an owner who I know and like, who’s benefit I can see my work directly effecting. I like the security of personal relationships with all levels of management, who are the people see day in day out, inside and outside the restaurant.

I want to feel connected to the growth and success of the restaurant I work for. I want to feel connected to the customers I cook for.

I could care less about bringing in profit for a corporation. There is absolutely no motivation for me to break my body, work 60 plus hours for people who don’t know me. People who see me as a labor cost, not a person.

So I make sacrifices. I don’t want to be a line cook, but if it lets me stay in the kitchen and create the desserts I do at Veil, then I’ll do it. I don’t want to be broke, but if that’s what it takes to stay in a kitchen of integrity, intimacy, I will.

I do this, because above all, I don’t want to lose my job.

Lebanese Food Restaurant, Abu Gosh, Israel

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

I guess it’s easy to write about conflict in the middle east. After all, there’s so much of it. Without getting too political, it’s my belief that if we could send all the extremists on ANY side to Elba, then the folks remaining would live together in relative peace. And the amazing thing is, though you may not hear about it on the news, there are plenty of examples of normal folks living together in peace and just wanting to experience life uninterrupted. The Arab village of Abu Gosh outside Jerusalem is a place where commerce and hospitality trump politics. On weekends, Jews from the city and nearby settlement crowd the Arab restaurants in Abu Gosh, and with good reason — the food rocks.

One of the restaurants is the straightforwardly named Lebanese Food Restaurant. The food is fresh, strongly flavored, and served family style at a large scale. The restaurant is a machine in terms of serving large quantities of great food to many many hungry diners. It’s hard sometime to even conceive of ordering a ton of food or big dishes when the standard starters fill you up so well.

Soon after we arrived we were joined by a basket piled high with hot fresh pitas, bunches of Middle Eastern style pickles, a bowl of crispy falafel balls with little sparks of flavor, thick and hearty chummus, and the tomato based slightly spicy matbucha salad. Positively enjoyable. You really don’t need much more than this (other than possibly the pitcher of lemonade we got) to stuff yourself silly. But we weren’t done.

I like eating at Arab restaurants because a) they offer delicious food, and b) the food is a great point of comparison for the Israeli food that has been so influenced by the culinary culture of its neighbors. Falafel is a great case in point as the Lebanese falafel, while extra tasty, it was different than the standard Jewish falafel. Likely it was made with a mix of chickpeas and fava beans instead of chickpeas alone.

Even more interesting was the Chicken in Tahina. Normally tahina, a sesame seed-based sauce, is a condiment. (And a damn fine one.) Even though there is an almost undertone of the paste, when done right it’s creamy with a unique tangy spike of flavor. But this dish was made up of wonderfully grilled chicken swimming in tahina. I couldn’t even fathom it, but once I took my first bite it all made sense. A little tahina is good. A lot? Great! The kebabs that came were also juicy and savory. I admit to dipping them in the tahina as well. The flavor of the grill inundated the meat and it was better for it.

Dessert was no slouch either. Chocolate Mousse came accompanied by Sachlab, a regional specialty is a thickened milk custard-like dessert. We didn’t really know what it was but next to the item on the English version of the menu it said “orchards”. Eventually we realized that we were victims of poor translation services… what they meant was orchids. Sachlab is thickened and flavored with the crushed bulb of an orchid — orchis mascula to be specific. Very subtle and sweet. The super fresh slabs of watermelon weren’t bad either. Especially complementary after all that meat and spice.

If you’re in Jerusalem on a Saturday you’ll find that the city is closed down for the sabbath. If you don’t mind hopping in your car I highly recommend a trip to Abu Gosh and one of it’s many good restaurants. Go to the Lebanese Food Restaurant and you won’t be disappointed.

bye bye love…..

Friday, February 15th, 2008

Bye bye valentines day.  Or as it is known in the kitchen, VD.

Valentines day is notorious in the restaurant industry.  Now don’t take this the wrong way, but we call it “amateur night.”

I know you are out there too, you foodies who love us for what we do.  I know that romance to you is charcuterie, good wines, and haute chocolates.

I know you too, are out there, those that take the plunge and eat at restaurants way out of their price range and comfort level, using valentines day as a good reason to live a little.

But I also know how many of you avoid eating in restaurants on valentines day.  I know you go out on a different night, if at all.  And I don’t blame you.

This is the one night above all, when amongst a certain portion of the population, fulfilling a specific obligation to their partner, people who could care less about the food absolutely HAVE to have a fancy table at an expensive restaurant.

They book months in advance.  They always ask for the “most romantic” or “best” table in the restaurant.

They call and try to con us into tables.  True story here.

Dude- “Um, yeah.  I made a reservation for 7 and would like to change it to 7:30.

Us- “Can I have your name?”
Dude- “Dude”

Us- “We don’t have a reservation in that name, could it be under a different name,?

Dude- “WHAT!!! you lost my reservation!!!! I made it a month ago, what kind of people do you hire!?!?!  You had better make it up to me!!!!!  I expect a table and free champagne!!!!”

Us, (knowing that the time slots at 7 and 7:30 were blocked permanently before a single reservation could have been made, a common practice amongst smaller restaurants on high volume nights in order to fill the dining room twice in an evening.  A table booked between 7 and 7:30 can have no one sit before or after, so it sits empty most of the evening, not good for anyone.)   “Do you have your confirmation number?”

Dude-  dial-tone…….

We get a lot of manipulated orders, removing one, two, or three integral items in a dish turning it from carefully crafted cuisine into food on a plate.  We sell a lot of chicken and salmon.  We see people who would never in their life choose our restaurant if it weren’t helping them live the cliche of this holiday; flowers, chocolates, champagne, fancy restaurant.

It’s hard to feel the romance in an evening, when you are putting 14 hours into making it happen, cooking for customers who don’t want you to do what it is you do best.  I wonder if wedding planners all elope.

One table encouraged us to make everything spicy.  Everything.  This day, admitting defeat and submitting before the customers walk in, we obliged.  We added chile flake, tabasco, harissa, heat, places they were never meant to be, like a salad made with whipped goat cheese, pickled grapes, and hazelnuts. (Luckily they didn’t order dessert.)  But I was told, they were extremely happy with the hot versions of our food, and that must count for something.

We had one proposal last night.  We all saw the box come out, and paused while the girl’s face scrunched and her eyes flooded with tears.  It didn’t look good.  We held our breath, glanced at each other in anticipation of the botched proposal that we might be part of.  This girl knows drama, because she had our entire kitchen and wait staff on the edge of our proverbial seats.  But her hand went out, the ring went on, and the man smiled and mumbled something like, “it can be re-sized” while tucking the box back in his pocket and being smothered with affectionate kisses.

Last year this time, I was beginning my short stay at The Rainier Club, and was sent to help in the pastry department.  They didn’t really need it, they are always over-prepared and everything had been ready for days.  I was free to photograph the evening, a special menu complete with a live band and dancing for the members.  I recoiled at the pink sugar, red tapioca beads, magenta hued sauces being put on the plate.  But I knew, as I have known for years now, valentines day is not about me or what I like.

It’s a day of submission for us, a day or romance for you.

Work hard, play hard

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

Work hard, play hard, is one of the mantras kitchen folk live by, and it certainly seemed to take effect here in the cycling house today.  At the halfway mark, today brought with it a feeling of jubilee.  Perhaps it was the crystal clear sunrise, the 75 degree weather, the 80 miles the cyclists rode, or the birthday of Jill, one of the riders.  What ever it was, tonight felt celebratory.

As the riders settled in after a ravenous lunch and afternoon showers, guitar music echoed through the cavernous marble tiled house as mojitos were muddled.  Punctuated by laughter, the music lifted the mood as the rum widened smiles.

While I didn’t ride 80 miles, I did go the extra mile, driving for an hour to buy tortillas.  What appeared to be “just across town” on a map of Tucson became an hours drive across the sprawling city, one continuous strip mall.  After just one wrong turn, I ambled down a side street ridged with speed bumps, past chain linked yards holding cacti and pitbulls, to the Anita Street Market.  Behind a chain link fence of its own, the caged windows and small sign gave little indication of the magic inside.  Upon entering the smell of fresh corn tortillas overwhelmed me and I knew I was in the right place.  I was in the kind of place worth driving an hour to just for tortillas.

As I was selecting my tortillas, I placed my hand on a bag and was taken aback.  They were steaming hot!  Not only were these tortillas made in this unassuming storefront, far off the beaten path, but they had just been made.

I bought 7 dozen, which didn’t total more than 10 dollars, and made it home with closer to 6.  Once in the car, trapped inside with the tortillas, the aroma tortured me until I gave in and ate one, two, five.

Back at the cycling house I knew I needed to do everything I could to fill these tortillas well.  I enlisted my sous chefs, the wonderful kids who run this place while training themselves, and we created a feast fit for the flatbread.  We simmered chicken in spices, pickled carrots and jalapenos in bay and oregano, mashed avocados, roasted tomatillos, chopped this and that.  But the favorite of the evening was the filling made for the vegetarians, one of yams, caramelized onions, and queso fresco.  It was best inside the amazing 4 inch corn tortillas with pickled carrots and jalapenos, and an extra helping of the fresh cheese.

Yam Tacos

2 large yams, roughly 1 pound a piece, cut in 1/2 inch cubes

2 cloves garlic, minced

2/3 cup oil, approximately

1 yellow onion diced

1/4 cup queso fresco

1.  Toss the cubed yams with the minced garlic, salt, and 2 to 3 tbsp of oil.  Roast in a 400 degree oven for half an hour, until cooked through.

2.  When the yams are cooked through, remove them from the oven and set aside.  Over medium high heat, warm 1/4 cup oil in a large skillet and cook the onion until caramelized.  Add the yams and mash lightly into the onions, tossing to mix well.  Taste and check seasoning, correcting with salt as needed.

3.  Fold in the queso fresco, and serve.

Pickled Carrots and Jalapenos

1 1/2 cup vinegar

1 1/2 cup water

2 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp Mexican oregano

6 bay leaves

1 tsp salt

2 cloves garlic

4 large carrots, sliced into thin coins

2 jalapenos, sliced into thin coins

1.  Bring the water, vinegar, and sugar to a simmer.  Add the bay leaves, oregano, garlic, carrots, and jalapenos.  Remove from heat and allow to stand for at least 3 hours, cooling at room temperature.

Scratch pancakes

Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

I grew up on Bisquick, as I am sure many of us did. Much of the baking my mom did came from a box. Cakes came from no where else, and as April 23rd neared each year my tiny mouth salivated in anticipation of my birthday cake, always cherry chip with pink cherry frosting from the can.

Pancakes came from the same place, a box. So it was quite a revelation when, in high school someone told me her mom made real pancakes, from scratch. I suppose somewhere, I knew pancakes could be made with more than the magic powder in the yellow Bisquick box. Well, logically I could have made the connection, but I never had.

These days, I can hardly fathom not making pancakes from scratch. Bisquick has long since been a part of my pantry, along with other boxes like cake mix and pudding. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the box or those who choose to balance their lives and make their weekend pancakes and birthday cakes from such a source.

However, as my cooking career grew, and I learned to make pancakes from scratch, I learned also that it’s really easy. It’s not that mixing pancakes from scratch is difficult, the box is just really convenient. It can sit in your cupboard for an extended period of time, until the urge for pancakes (or waffles or biscuits or scones or……) strikes. It lies in wait for a simple addition of water and presto! Pancakes.

Pancakes from scratch will require that you have some staple ingredients on hand, flour, sugar, and leavening, and also require your fridge has been stocked with eggs, butter, and milk or buttermilk. Either that or a special trip to collect the list of ingredients.

You also have to measure a handful of ingredients, and sometimes, just after waking and before coffee has fully taken hold, this can be a big effort. But take my word for it, a bonafide coffee addict and someone who is definitely not a morning person, this effort is well worth it.

The flavor of “real” pancakes far surpasses anything made from Bisquick, or any other pancake mix out there. Particularly as you increase the quality of those ingredients mixed in the batter. Organic whole milk, good vanilla, Plugra butter, king arthur flour, rich farm eggs, raw sugar, these all help to make your pancakes, well all your baked goods for that matter, truly stand out.

Currently I am completely taken with a pancake recipe from Veil. When we opened for brunch a couple of months ago (duck confit hash! My buttermilk biscuits in a light sour cream sausage gravy! Killer Bloody Marys and Mimosas!), I was introduced to Ricotta Flapjacks. Moist and rich with ricotta, these flapjacks are lightened with whipped egg whites and seasoned with fresh grated nutmeg. One bite, and I was swooning, dunking the warm spiced disks in the blueberry and star anise compote that is served along side. Fortunately for me, it took making a few pancakes to adjust the griddle properly the first day, and I was a little tipsy, so taken with these flapjacks I was.

These flapjacks welcomed my cyclists today, warm and steaming in tall stacks as they came to breakfast from their early morning core stability class, and I believe more than a few are as taken with these pancakes as I am.

The recipe follows, and makes about 40- 5 inch pancakes, plenty to feed a group. But if you wake up like I do, groggy and not in the mood to measure, melt, separate eggs, whip whites, come over to Veil on Saturday or Sunday and let us make them for you.

Veil’s Ricotta Flapjacks

4 cups flour

1 c sugar

5 tsp bk. pow

1 1/2 tsp bk. soda

1 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated

1/2 tsp salt

3 c milk

3 c ricotta

4 oz melted butter (one stick)

2 tb. vanilla extract

5 eggs, separated

1. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg together and set aside.

2. In a large bowl mix the milk, ricotta, melted butter, vanilla, and egg yolks until smooth and even.

3. Fold the dry mixture into the wet mixture.

4. Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks and fold into the batter. If you are using an electeric mixer be careful not to overwhip the whites.

5. Drop about 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake in a skillet or griddle preheated at a medium low heat and lightly greased.

Easy Peasy Chocolate Chip

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

Like Forrest said about those chocolates, you never know what you are going to get. This one size fits all bit of wisdom can stretch to fit anything, really. The sale rack at Urban Outfitters, that guy you started dating, the produce from your local grocery store. But when I feel this the most, when the bit of Gump philosophy rings so true that I find myself mumbling it audibly, is upon entering unfamiliar kitchens to cook.

You NEVER know what you are going to find, or not find.

I have been told by a well seasoned chef, that the kitchen I was to enter was, “totally hooked up.” only to walk in, a day early thank god, to a double hotplate and a plug in convection oven in what can only be described as a hallway. I have also walked into residential kitchens to find professional grade dishwashers, with 45 second wash cycles and an automatic soap feed. The rest are somewhere in-between, but take nothing for granted. A whisk seems like a kitchen essential, but my mother in law has never owned one. I have about 10 rubbers spatulas in my drawers, but have walked into kitchens that maybe have one. And small appliances are hit or miss, and I keep my fingers crossed for a food processor at the least.

Needless to say, you learn to be very flexible. One also begins to collect recipes that are fail safe, and those that can be made successfully with a minimal amount of equipment. I have a chocolate chip cookie recipe that I feel confident making just about anywhere with a couple of bowls and a spoon, a baking sheet, and an oven that works reasonably well. Don’t have a baking sheet? This recipe can be adjusted with a simple doubling of the eggs and baked like a blondie (in a pan like a brownie).

Today our group of cyclists, ravenous from a 3 hour ride up a mountain, were welcomed home to the smell of these cookies, baked blondie style, fresh from the oven.

Anywhere Cookies

6 oz. melted butter

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1 egg, 1 yolk

1 tsp salt

zest of one orange

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp baking powder (not soda)

2 cups chocolate chunks

1. Mix the melted. butter, sugars, orange zest, and vanilla until even. Whisk in the egg and yolk until even.

2. Toss the flour, baking powder, and salt with your hands until you are confident the tiny amounts of baking powder and salt are evenly distributed.

3. Mix the flour mixture into the wet mix and fold with a large spoon. Heck, if that wasn’t around I’d probably use my hand.

4. Fold in chocolate chips.

5. Shape into 2 inch balls and press slightly flat on a cookie sheet, spaced apart for a bit of growth. I usually put 6 on a pan. Bake at 325 for 10 to 12 minutes. These cookies do well to cool on the pan, as they are a bit chewy and soft.

If baking as a blondie, use two eggs and two yolks, and spread the batter in a 9 by 12 inch casserole dish. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes at 325. To should be golden and papery, and feel set to the touch.

Feeding People

Monday, February 4th, 2008

At present I am on a brief one week hiatus from Veil.  I am in Arizona, feeding people.

You may be confused.  Technically I feed people all week, month, year at the restaurants I work in.  Technically.

But don’t we all know, really, that no one goes to a fancy restaurant to be fed?  We go to have experiences.    We go to dress up and feel more than ourselves, to taste, see, smell, observe, absorb things far outside our everyday life, drink more wine than we should, eat enough calories to put a bear into hibernation and part with days worth of a paycheck.  We go to excite ourselves, to break from the daily routine of feeding ourselves.

So I spend my time making these out of the ordinary expernience exceptional, but make no mistake, I am not feeding people.

But this week I have been brought to Arizona by my wonderful husband to cook for the group he has brought to Tucson for a cycling camp.  You see, my husband is not in my industry.  (He trains endurance athletes, specializing in cyclists.)  So here I am, feeding people breakfast lunch and dinner.  Not blowing them away, not exciting their senses, not teasing their notions of food.  Just feeding them.

It’s a real delight to cook like this.  To nourish.

Tonights dinner began as a Moroccan chicken tagine.  What came out of the pan was bastardized enough that I will for ever call it chicken with apricot sauce, or something like that.   The chicken was simmered in covered pans in a chicken stock spiced with cinnamon, garlic, cumin, and ginger.  When the meat began to fall from the bone, the chicken was removed from the simmering sauce.  Dried apricots, poached in honey and water were pureed with the simmer sauce and poured over the chicken.

The guests went back for thirds.

It was as satisfying to make as it was to eat, and this recipe, made to feed a hungry crowd has earned a place in my home files.  For those rare occasions I cook simply to feed someone.

Chicken with Apricot Sauce

Serve with couscous

Two chickens, cut into quarters

One yellow onion, minced

6 cloves garlic, minced

3 inches of ginger, grated on a microplane or minced

2 tsp paprika

1 tbsp cinnamon

1 tsp coriander

1 tsp cumin

3 cinnamon sticks

4 bay leaves

1/4 cup orange marmelade

2 cups chicken stock

1/2 pound dried aprciots, cut in pieces

1/2 cup honey

2 cups water

toasted pine nuts

1.  Salt the chicken pieces and brown them well on both sides.  Set aside.

2.  Drain all but 1/4 cup of the oil from the pan and add the onions.  Cook 3 minutes over medium low heat until translucent.  Add the ginger and garlic and cook for one minute more.

3.  Add the cinnamon, paprika, cumin, and corriander, stir and cook one minute.  Add the marmelade and stir until melted.

4.  Arrange the chicken over the stuff in the pan, and add the chicken stock.  Toss in the cinnamon sticks and bay leaves.  Cover and simmer over low heat for 1 hour.

5.  Remove the lid, turn the pieces of chicken, and continue simmering with the lid on for 30 more minutes.

6.  Meanwhile, cook the apricots with the honey and water.  Bring to a boil and cook for 20 minutes.

7.  Remove the chicken from the simmering liquid and set on a serving platter with sides to hold a sauce.  Discard the cinnamon sticks and bay leaf

8.  In a blender, puree the simmer sauce with the cooked apricots and their liquid.  This will need to be done in 3 batches.

9.  Salt the sauce to taste and pour over the chicken.

Mahane Yehuda, Jerusalem, Israel

Monday, February 4th, 2008

I don’t know how it is in other countries that have a more religious population, but even in Israel, with a highly secular population, Friday night is something special. It’s the beginning of the Sabbath, but even among the folks who don’t celebrate the Sabbath per se, Friday night is more than just the beginning of the weekend.

And as such, the hours leading up to Friday evening, are a flurry of preparations. Chief among them is heading to the market for groceries for the weekend, and ingredients for the Friday night meal. The most famous market in the country is the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem. Jerusalem’s large religious population adds an extra bit of heightened focus and pressure to the preparations as when sundown hits all preparations must cease according to Jewish law.

The vegetables, fruit, fish, and meat are certainly big attractions. But so are the spices, nuts, flowers, glistening pastries, steaming fresh breads, amazing freshly made salads, tiny restaurants/street stalls, and household goods shops. All in all, there’s basically everything you need (all carried in ubiquitous plastic bags) for a warm and wonderful home cooked weekend. All those people preparing for a weekend with their families, and the iconic status of the market itself also makes it a target for suicide bombers. And Friday day is prime time for that type of activity. We went anyway. The border police at the entrances to the markets help make you feel safer, but mostly it’s a sense that you can’t stop living your life.