Who are we?
Born in 1973 in London, Michael is a publisher, author and the original founder of “Gefiltefest”, the London Jewish Food Festival. His soon-to-be-published children’s book “The Chocolate King” tells the story of this prized ingredient’s journey within Jewish food culture; a separate fund-raising book features 50 kosher chocolate recipes. The colorful books will be published by Green Bean Books, founded by Michael to create high quality Jewish children’s books.
Rachel Leventhal Marcus
Born in 1980 in London, Rachel is a lawyer by trade. As the daughter of an Egyptian family that emigrated to England, Rachel grew up eating her mother’s tasty delicacies- from Molokhiya, a stew using the denje’c’jute plants leaves and considered by some as the national dish of the Nile,
to Maamoul cookies filled with dates. Rachel learned the essence of Egyptian Jewish cuisine from her mother, who she calls ‘a glorious cook’, and she uses that knowledge every day.
Sammy, 7 years old, is in second grade at Eden Jewish Primary school in north London. Sammy is named after Sophie, Michael’s late grandmother. Sammy will always sample Grandma Sophie’s strudel, still prepared in the family’s kitchen to this day, but much prefers pizza, pasta and french fries. His favorite thing to eat is roasted pecans.
Jack, 5 years old, started Primary school last year. His parents testify that he is very picky about food and if he is served a pancake that is not the perfect shape it will find itself on the floor very quickly. That said, Jack loves fruit and is particularly fond of cucumbers.
Where was the photo taken?
The Marcus-Leventhals live in East Finchley, North London. At the moment, their house is under renovation so they have temporarily returned to their previous home in the neighborhood. “Our current kitchen may be small, but it produces huge meals” Rachel says with a smile. “Michael’s mother is always surprised that we manage to prepare so much food here.” While Michael confesses he prepares days in advance for each meal he cooks, taking the time to examine and compare recipes, buy special ingredients and prep, Rachel prepares food quickly and “it takes nine and a half minutes of great commotion in the kitchen for everything to be ready and be finger licking good” her husband says proudly.
Our family kitchen
The kitchen is the Leventhal family’s playground. “I love chocolate, and I once tried to use a balloon to make a dome” Michael recalls. “But something went wrong, and the balloon exploded with a great bang. The kitchen, and I, were both completely covered in chocolate.” It would seem that the apples did not fall far from the tree: “the kids have a hobby of inventing new kinds of cookies” says Rachel. “They call them Mind cakes because they create them with careful thought, and through trial and error.” Recently Sammy and Jack created a batter that included, among other things, baking soda, vinegar, cinnamon, cocoa and flour. The experiment ended with an explosion but no casualties were reported.
Rachel and Michael experiment with new recipes but also make sure to preserve their culinary traditions. “To us food carries memories and heritage and it is important for us to pass this on to our children. If we do not, it may all be lost. That is why we prepare the foods we grew up with over and over again, so that they also become an integral part of Sammy and Jack’s childhood food memories.”
The House Special
“It is always emotional for me to bake Grandma Sophie’s strudel” says Michael. “Grandma made this strudel every week for Shabbat eve, even when she was well over 90 years old. When I make it, as challenging as it is, it brings back fond memories. I will never forget how every Friday she would hand me a plastic box with a few slices of the strudel for the rest of the week. Come Sunday, I would return the empty box.” Before she passed, Michael baked this beloved strudel with his grandmother and she even made sure to leave the recipe in her handwriting for the grandchildren. “But the recipe is inaccurate and the type of pastry is different from the one she used herself” Rachel adds. Michael believes that the difference is due to the fact that late Grandma Sophie never baked her strudel from a written recipe. However, the strudel they have recreated comes very close to Michael’s precious memories.