Brightening a Bleak Culinary Landscape: Interview with Robin

Reader RobinPlease welcome Robin for today’s reader interview.

Name, location, family, website

Robin, Central Israel, work-at-home mom of 2

Personal blog:  Around the Island

What do you remember about family meals when you were growing up? What was your mother’s cooking style?

We always ate dinner as a family. Meals were very “American” – a meat, a vegetable or two, usually half a grapefruit or a slice of melon as an appetizer. The style for weekday meals was casual, with an emphasis on quick and easy. More elaborate meals were saved for weekends or company (but only tried and true – my mother never tried a new dish when company was coming. Still doesn’t for that matter.)

How is your cooking style different from your mother’s? We tend to favor much more ethnic cooking – Thai food is my “what to cook when there’s nothing to cook” staple, but I’m just as likely to throw together enchiladas or a vegetarian curry or a sauce for my husband’s homemade pasta. I tend to favor a lot of “Moosewood” style dishes and one-bowl with everything in it meals while my husband is all about dough – he bakes all our bread, keeps us well stocked with homemade pasta, anything as long as it involves dough. It’s a hobby and a stress reliever for him.

How old were you when you started cooking? How did you learn?

I’ve been cooking as long as I can remember. Some of my favorite childhood memories involve cooking with my mother. The first meal I ever cooked was meat loaf and mashed potato pie – where the pie made a “face” on the meat loaf- that I’d learned to make in a kids’ after-school cooking class. A year or two later all the children in my class had to bring in a dish that represented their heritage – one girl brought Ritz crackers and cheddar cheese for her country, I got on the phone to my grandmother and had her walk me through her homemade palacsinta recipe (Hungarian crepes, in this case with apricot sauce – I was a bit of an overachiever in school)

Do you entertain, and in what circumstances? What is the biggest party or meal you have hosted to date?

We love to have friends over for a meal. Sometimes I do the cooking, sometimes Jay does, often we share. In the winter we might serve his fresh pasta with my sauce and his salad, then my dessert, or my pot roast (I’ve got a fabulous recipe for pot roast with pomegranate sauce) with his bread and cookies, but in summer it’s all barbecues. Most of our entertaining is casual, and guests often bring along a dish or two. The only exception are holidays when things go formal with a full-scale soup to nuts holiday menu.

Can you share a typical daily menu? Weekly menu?

Not easily, we’re pretty fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants cooks. Jay’s favorite way of cooking is to start frying onions. While that’s on the stove he figures out what to do next!

How has your cooking style evolved over the years?

When we first arrived in Israel in 1991 we found that many of the international cuisines we’d known and loved in the US (Mexican, Indian, Japanese, Chinese, and so many others) were unavailable here. We either had to learn to make them ourselves or do without. We chose to learn. It’s hard to imagine today, when even my small city has a choice of sushi restaurants and noodle shops. Heck, we even had a Mexican place for a while (it was awful and didn’t last) but twenty years ago the Israeli culinary landscape was a dark and dreary place full of overcooked vegetables and horrible thick layers of “yellow cheese” covering everything from spaghetti to blintzes. Ick.

What is your biggest cooking challenge now?

Finding the time and the energy to keep things interesting, not falling back on those old standbys we’ve made a hundred times.

Can you recommend any cookbooks, TV shows or websites that have inspired you?

For cookbooks a staple for me is Molly Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook. I’ve been using it for years (and it shows) and yet still find new discoveries. For everything flour-based the King Arthur Baker’s Companion is terrific.

Internet-wise I read a lot of food blogs and look to the internet when I need inspiration but I can’t really point to one that inspires me above all else. I tend to favorite individual recipes more than overall websites.

What posts on CM have you enjoyed? Do you have suggestions for future posts?

We love your crustless quiche. I’d love to see more one-pot meals and good hearty soups as well.

What do you have in your refrigerator that needs to be used up right away? A cauliflower.

Please share a favorite recipe or cooking tip.

My sate chicken skewers are always a big hit at barbecues, and since it’s nearly Purim how about a hamentaschen recipe?

Thank you, Robin, for sharing!


  1. I have enjoyed reading this; thank you Robin and Hannah.

  2. yeah, i heard the coffee here 20 years ago was terrible too! thank goodness times have changed!