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Cookery books

Two small cookery books were published by Shimon in the early 1960s in Israel, in Hebrew. The first is Yemenite and Oriental Food, co-written with Naomi Tzabar in 1962, and the second, French Dishes, with Rene Mokadi. Both books are illustrated by him. According to contemporary reviews, he planned to write a series of books about cooking from around the world.

Both books are well researched. The Yemenite recipes were provided by Naomi’s family, and, among simple and familiar oriental recipes there were also recipes entirely new to the Israeli public.

The book on French cooking is a selection of classical recipes from the French cuisine. The bibliography of the authors’ sources (books dated from 1370 to the 1961edition of Larousse Gastronomique) is listed at the end of the book. Presumably, Rene Mokadi provided the French-language expertise, but the book also required much linguistic research to find the Hebrew equivalents for the ingredients required in French cooking. Some of the words were provided by the Academy of Hebrew Language, but others had to be newly invented. Shimon prided himself on introducing the Hebrew for lobster (akravtan) and langouste (tzavtan) into the Hebrew dictionary. The book contains a list of the Hebrew equivalents of unfamiliar terms, and the names of specific meat cuts, printed on a picture of the body of a cow. The most striking feature of the book, at the time was that the recipes did not follow the rules of kosher cooking. This was revolutionary in Israel at the time. Even today mainstream cookery books published in Israel remain firmly kosher.

Both books have some very unusual recipes, along with simple and easy ones, such as roasted locust in the Yemenite book, and Jambon d’ours marine (marinated leg of bear) in the French one. Reviews at the time pointed out that the French cookery book was for men who cook for leisure and pleasure, not for the busy housewife for whom cookery is a chore.

These cookery books are very different in size, presentation and content from those published today. Each recipe consists of a very simple list of ingredients and the shortest possible description of the cooking procedure. There are no glossy and seductive photographs of the dishes, no chit-chat and no elaborate adjectives in the list of ingredients.