Saturday, 2 January 2010

In praise of a Kebab

I saw this and soon enough I headed down to the Butchers’ market in Jerusalem’s old city. It was Boxing Day, but you wouldn’t know it walking in the Muslim quarter. Clearly.

The old city is an intricate collection of holes in the walls. One square kilometer of hidden (culinary) treasures, with food cooked, eaten, and sold on every corner, nook and cranny; colorful, loud and fragrant. This autonomous island is removed from the modern and current. It was here first and will be here last.

Walking in and through the narrow alleys and cobbled passages we found the butchers' market. Innards in all shades of pinks and reds were hanging in shop fronts, alongside internal organs that had been removed as a complete unit connected by the esophagus, that hangs on hooks resembling plump grape vines. There were bladders, intestines, calves and crates of encased organs.

Right at the end of the alley is Shaheen's kebab shop serving the best kebabs. On the right side of the alley is the seating area. On the left is the kitchen, and so it happens that the butchers' alley passes through Shaheen, slices it in half and connects it back together. Passers by, butchers and hanging cadavers are all part of the restaurant.

We were first and we were early so we were served tahini, hummus and salads with tahini and hummus. These acted as the lining for the kebabs, and prepared us for what was to come. At some point the crown jewels were ready and the meat arrived. Lightly charred olive sized kebabs lay on a plate alongside the tomatoes and onions they only just shared a skewer with. Each kebab was a perfect bite; first the erupting juiciness, then there's mint and parsley, onion and pine nuts. The meat is chopped by hand and not too finely, so it retains its structure, flavor and texture. And it was all made right here, in real time, surrounded by butchers and cadavers. Yet another Saturday in the Old City, far away from here. Happy new year.

1 comment:

  1. Drooling right now, evocative imagery that has me itching to book a flight to israel...