The Ethiopian cooks had two antelopes brought in from the zoo. They gutted, skinned, and roasted them in spices and butter. Twenty turkeys — stuffed with herbs and bread — were thrust into the antelopes and the empty crevasses filled with hundreds of hardboiled eggs. A bleating camel, feeling something sinister in the room, was soon slaughtered as well, his innards replaced with the antelopes, whose innards had been replaced with the turkeys and eggs, whose innards had been replaced with breads, spices, herbs, and fish. And the Emperor of Ethiopia ate only just a little.

Bawdy, exorbitant, unethical. In the most mythic banquets, everything is permitted, nothing impossible. Mile-high desserts carved to resemble palaces, grapes served upon platters of young boys, vomit buckets. But aside from the slaves, drunkenness, and orgies, it is perhaps the dining upon outrageously prepared animals — much like the stuffed camel Bohumil Hrabel describes… More…

Janna Gur’s The Book of New Israeli Food is confused about what kind of book it would like to be. It is a beautiful coffee table book with its lickable photography, silky paper, and hefty price tag. But it is also a cookbook with its imaginative food and usable recipes. Contrary to what the publisher might think, these two books are not completely compatible.

Gur obviously spent a long time researching New Israeli Food. The chapter on fish isn’t just full of recipes like Trout Casserole and North African Hot Fish Stew — it also explains the devastating effect overfishing has had on the region’s economy. The recipes are organized in a way that makes sense to her research, but less so to a reader looking for something to make for dinner. Recipes for specific holidays are broken out, which makes sense, but breaking up the salad recipes and scattering… More…