In July 2011, we opened the Meorav.
Until we opened, we didn’t really know what the restaurant would be. We felt that it was about time to establish a home for the dish that Maoz and Itai brought to the Basta Restaurant. It was a time when walking through the Muslim Quarter of the Jerusalem market was a little less surreal, and pricing a quality meat dish in a pita bread could end up at 20 shekels (that’s not a lot). Our Jerusalem Mix (Ha’ Meorav) - that includes beef offals (kidney, spleen and heart) slow cooked in lambs fat and spices - was based on the dish of a man found at the junction of the perfume and fabric markets. From his stall you can see the butchers market where heads, tongues and bundles of offals are proudly presented for sale.
We decided to give birth to the Meorav and by it’s side a selection of other street food dishes that we where eager to revive in Tel Aviv. The Arayes from a small stand in Nazareth, is a pita filled with raw meat then cooked on the grill ensuring that all the meaty juices stay inside. The Panela, inspired by a Sicilian chef visiting the Basta, is a kind of chickpea dumpling cooked on the grill that’s arrival fortunately coincided with the rise of veganism. And last but not least, the Swiss toast, brought from Maoz’s childhood in Zurich, that fostered many fantasies about mayonnaise.
We established a small street food restaurant between Allenby and Rothchild, exactly in the days when people started to count the tents when the Israeli social justice protest has just began. Each day they grew closer and closer to us and like a bursting river, they flooded the whole country. We went out in the burning hot night carrying dishes pilled with food to feed the new temporary residents of Rothchild Boulevard. We brought the Khat juice from Jerusalem believing it may be a hit in Tel Aviv and for sure it became the elixir keeping protesters alive through day and night. Alongside curator Ruth Patir we revived Old Stephan Brown’s (a famous leather coat maker) display window, turning it into an exhibition space for protest, street and food. There was a feeling that something was going to change.
The Israeli social justice protest, Rothcild boulevard, Tel-aviv, 2011
There is educational value in street food. It manages to mark the political landscape of the soil and to follow the path of history. Unlike other cheap food products, street food tells the low socio-economic class the story of the dish: From the raw materials influenced by other cultures (the corn to Italy, the Tahini to Israel, and the spices taken from around the world) to the local cooking traditions that will often use cheap and local produce. It teaches the history of the place in which it geographically exists and on the other hand, because of it’s cost and availability, it will continue to comunicate with a changing nation. It exists in the present but creates controversies about who it belongs too (is the Farinata really from Liguria or is it the Socca from Nice? The Falafel - Israeli or Egyptian?). It has been argued that the Meorav was invented in the 60s by the steak restaurants of Jewish West Jerusalem. But something tells me that the grandmother of the man in the Muslim quarter also had an idea of what may happen if you mix offals with fat and spices. She just didn’t patent it.
East Jerusalem market, Muslim quarter
In September 2012 we closed the Meorav.
There was a general feeling of defeat in the air, when the last revival of the protests failed. I don’t think today we could have afforded to sell street food at that quality but in those prices. Unfortunately it’s not so simple to walk around the Muslim quarter of the Jerusalem market either.
A street food that fulfils its title, is a food that respects its geographical place and the intergenerational space in which it exists. The food that we served back then gave respect to it’s traditions while incessantly talking with the present.