Hon­ey & Co: Chas­ing Smoke: Cook­ing Over Fire Around the Levant

  • Review
By – May 25, 2021

Lon­don based chefs and part­ners Ita­mar Srulovich and Sar­it Pack­er guide read­ers through the cities and grilling cus­toms of the Lev­ant in their newest cook­book, Chas­ing Smoke. The book begins in the wind­ing streets of Cairo; Pack­er and Srulovich cling­ing to one anoth­er for dear life, while their cab­bie, Mustafa, offers an expe­dit­ed tour of Cairo’s many his­toric sites. They turn onto a street bathed in gold­en sun­light, lined with smok­ing grills. This is Hawaw­shi Street, where Lebanese arayes are made; mas­sive rounds of flat­bread stuffed with meat, pep­pers, cheese and crisped to gold­en per­fec­tion in clar­i­fied but­ter against the sear­ing grates of the grill. Bit­ing into these wedges of meat, bread, and cheese is where Chas­ing Smoke begins. It’s a heady jour­ney through five Lev­an­tine cities — Adana, Acre, Thes­sa­loni­ki, Amman, and Alexan­dria – and the food that nour­ish­es them.

Chas­ing Smoke is bro­ken down into five chap­ters: Fruit & Veg­eta­bles, Fish & Seafood, Birds, Lamb & Oth­er Meats, and Bread & Unmiss­ables. This book is not only a deli­cious dive into five cities but also a high­ly acces­si­ble and use­ful guide for read­ers with dietary restric­tions. The chap­ter on fruits and veg­eta­bles was an espe­cial delight, chalked full of both famil­iar favorites — like smokey egg­plants, blis­tered toma­toes, and hon­ey and urfa chili but­ter-slathered corn cobs — and less­er known grilling options like grilled cab­bage and charred kohlra­bi with radish­es and sesame. Each recipe guides the read­er through the prepa­ra­tion of both the food and the grill with a refresh­ing lack of pre­ten­sion or machismo.

In addi­tion to the recipes are Srulovich and Pack­ers sto­ries of mean­der­ing through each city’s mar­ket. With piquant descrip­tions and gor­geous pho­tographs, these sec­tions ground the book in its the­sis: grilling is about so much more than smoke, coals, wood, or fire. It is about sea­son­al­i­ty, com­mu­ni­ty, and respect: respect of the land, of ani­mals, of host cities, and, per­haps most impor­tant­ly, of those who are respon­si­ble for pro­vid­ing your food.

Han­nah Kres­sel is a cur­rent fel­low at the Pardes Insti­tute of Jew­ish Stud­ies in Jerusalem. She holds a Mas­ters in Art His­to­ry from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Oxford and a Bach­e­lors in Art His­to­ry and Stu­dio Art from Bran­deis Uni­ver­si­ty. Her research exam­ines the inter­sec­tion of con­tem­po­rary art, food, and reli­gion. She is an avid bak­er and cook.

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