Behind the Headlines

WATCH: ‘Sababa’ author Adeena Sussman on how COVID started a challah revolution

Speaking with the ToI Community via Zoom, the NY Times top pick talks about her collaboration with Chrissy Teigen, Palestinian influence on Israeli food, and pandemic-era cooking

Cookbook author Adeena Sussman has got her hands full these days. Her newest release, “Sababa,” was named a Best Fall 2019 cookbook by the New York Times, Bon Appétit, and Food & Wine, and is currently enjoying a second wind as the world sees an unexpected byproduct of the pandemic era — more home cooks with time on their hands to try interesting new recipes.

Before moving to Israel several years ago, Sussman spent 20 years honing her culinary skills in New York, where she moved from northern California. She attended the Institute of Culinary Education, and for the next decade and a half, wrote articles, tested recipes, and co-authored 11 books, including the New York Times bestseller “Cravings” and its follow-up “Cravings: Hungry for More” with model and talk-show star Chrissy Teigen.

Sussman recently headed back out to California, temporarily moving in with Teigen and her husband, musician John Legend, where they were to “spend our days and night dreaming up ways to excite people at home with new recipes.”

Sadly, in the last week of September Teigen lost her pregnancy at a late stage, and made headlines for the openness and candor with which she and Legend documented their tragedy on social media.

The cover of the ‘Sababa’ cookbook, authored by Adeena Sussman, who moved to Israel for love and ended up making the Carmel Market part of her everyday life (Courtesy Avery)

While the new project has been put on hold for the time being, Sussman has remained in California for the remainder of the Jewish holidays. On October 7, she appeared on The Times of Israel’s Behind the Headlines series, where she spoke with ToI Culture & Lifestyle Editor Jessica Steinberg from her father’s home in Palo Alto.

In our Behind the Headlines series, ToI reporters and editors video interview influential individuals from a wide range of fields. All sessions are aired exclusively to the Times of Israel Community before being shared with our broader readership.

Sussman discussed a wide range of topics, and, as in “Sababa” itself, didn’t shy from controversy.

People from all religions and walks of life are enjoying her newest cookbook, Sussman said, adding that it was “really interesting” to hear people “buy into the proposition that I make in ‘Sababa’ that Israeli food can find a place in everyone’s kitchen.”

She also noted that the acceptance wasn’t one-sided.

“Also, quite honestly, mentioning somewhat controversial topics like Palestinian food and its influence on Israeli food, and feeling like I did not get punished for my views and my inclusive vision of what Israeli food should be, and giving credit to its origins and roots, was very satisfying for me,” Sussman said.

Cookbook author Adeena Sussman shows off ‘Sababa’ to one of her many buddies in Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market. (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)

And regardless of who came up with the recipes first, one thing is certain: Being stuck at home during the health crisis has allowed people to invest a little extra in some slightly more time-intensive recipes.

“Everyone was just making preserved lemons and making zhug,” Sussman laughed.

Equally rewarding was seeing something of a challah-baking renaissance blossom across the United States over the course of the year.

“Challah is sort of a multi-hour process, and in Israel, Friday is a day you can do that because it’s like the American Saturday or Sunday,” Sussman said. “But to see so many people in the US making challah for the first time and asking questions and building a virtual community around loaves of bread was just very fun and sort of an analog for what was happening with ‘Sababa’ in general.”

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