Digging Deep Into the Collective Kitchens of Israel

'Chadar Ochel' Cookbook Captures the Tastes of Kibbutz Life

What’s for Dinner: A kibbutz member helps prepare a meal at Kibbutz Mefalsim in 1960.
Courtesy of 'Chadar Ochel'
What’s for Dinner: A kibbutz member helps prepare a meal at Kibbutz Mefalsim in 1960.

By Jonathan Cummings

Published April 16, 2013, issue of April 19, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

Take, for example, the steamed pudding of Kibbutz Beit Hanassi. When its British immigrant members hankered for home, they dreamed of the kind of pudding dished up in a thousand school canteens, smothered in custard. The only problem was finding a receptacle in which to cook it. For weeks they ate tinned peas until the huge cans were empty and reused as steamers.

On Kfar Masaryk, just over the road from Akko, the dining room faced competition from the local Arab hummus joints until the cooks decided to master the recipe themselves. Near Haifa, on Kibbutz Ma’agan Michael, an early Canadian volunteer’s determination to use up Friday night’s leftover challah just as he did at home still has volunteers up early on Shabbat morning, frying hundreds of slices of French toast.

A hint of larger Israeli stories are at play in the book, too. Kibbutz Kinneret’s famed teigelach, the honey-drenched cookies beloved by Litvaks, were parceled up in a Red Cross package, intended to reach one of its members who had fallen into Syrian captivity during the 1973 Yom Kippur war. What better way to guarantee that he would know the food came from home?

Sadly, now, as the kibbutz morphs in a new Israel, the huge buildings stand largely silent.

In truth, the communal dining room faced challenges from its earliest days, starting with a popular Israeli household item, the kumkum or electric kettle. Once members could make instant coffee at home, they began to do so. Surreptitiously at first, and then more openly, members’ lives moved towards their own homes, and away from the center, but some of these recipes endured.

The traditional kibbutz has mostly passed away, but it is not yet a piece of history. “Chadar Ochel” is neither a glossy celebration-of-life album, a practical how-to guide for the aspiring kibbutz cook, nor a somber sefer zikaron, a catalog of death. Weaving the contemporary with the historical, it captures both the vulnerabilities and the essential resilience of the kibbutz as idea and as reality — and places food at its heart.

Try Kibbutz Kinnert’s recipe for teigelach here

Contact Jonathan Cummings at feedback@forward.com


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.