One of the first inspirations for toastlovecoffee was an article I read about the origins of the artisanal toast craze hitting America and I believe parts of the UK too. The journalist ended up in San Francisco, at Trouble Coffee & Coconut Club, owned by unlikely heroine Giulietta (I have posted the link before, but incase you missed it first time round, it’s here ). Just as the Torah (Old Testament) is to Jews a never ending source of inspiration, so too it seems is this article for me and toastlovecoffee, with a little extra commentary from Ottolenghi and my good friend Becky. Let me explain:
One of the things Giulietta is committed to is that everything on her menu has a specific meaning. So it’s a scarce menu but resonant with her story; coconuts (served with a straw and spoon to scoop out the flesh) because of the years she had spent relying on them for easy sustenance, and because they truly did help her strike up conversations with strangers, and toast because it represents comfort. Coffee, she says, represents speed and communication, and her go-for-broke option called “Build Your Own Damn House,” consists of a coffee, a coconut, and a piece of cinnamon toast.
I loved this idea the minute I read it, and one of the constant questions in my head has been, “what will be on the toastlovecoffee menu that represents my journey, and the values of the cafe?”
Yesterday, I managed to squeeze in a coffee&cake&catch-up with my good friend Becky – a very rare treat in the busy schedule of family life on a weekend! – and we were talking about the cafe and how to overcome the challenge of it being a place for everyone to feel welcome, safe and connected. We started talking about lunch options and the need for them to be healthy and relatively cheap. She suggested having a daily humous special on the menu – healthy, easy to make, good with toast, and ‘cheap as chips’. I like it! But I couldn’t work out how it fitted into the way Giulietta approached her menu choices.
It had obviously been playing on my mind in my sleep because I woke up this morning with a desperation to make a batch of humous. I soaked the chickpeas, boiled them up this afternoon, and tonight whizzed them together with the olive oil, garlic, lemon, tahina, pinch of salt…. and then I remembered a tip I read in Ottolenghi’s fabulous recipe book, ‘Jerusalem’: add some ice cold water until it is the right consistency. Dash more lemon juice, quick taste… mmmm…. delicious.
Four pots of humous potted up. Three for the freezer, one for the fridge, I’m a happy lady. But it still doesn’t quite add up as to why it’s going to go on the menu.
As I have mentioned in previous posts, until this rather radical career change, I was a Jewish educator and community development worker within the local and national Jewish community. As such, Israel has always had a very important role in my life. The relationship is complex, frustrating and coming from a place of deep love and commitment. It is not the place here to delve into this topic deeper – though I am more than happy to talk about it at length with anyone out there who is interested – hey why don’t you come down to the cafe when it opens and catch me at a quiet time to talk about it over a coffee? And tonight I remembered some inspiring words I read in Ottolenghi’s introduction to ‘Jerusalem’ (pp12-13):
“Alas, although Jerusalemites have so much in common, food, at the moment, seems to be the only unifying force in this highly fractured place. The dialogue between Jews and Arabs, and often between Jews themselves, is almost non-existent. It is sad to note how little daily interaction there is between communities, with people sticking together in closed, homogeneous groups. Food, however, seems to break down those barriers on occasion. You can see people shop together in food markets, or eat in each other’s restaurants. On rare occasions, they work together in partnership in food establishments. It takes a giant leap of faith, but we are happy to take it – what have we got to lose? – to imagine that hummus will eventually bring Jerusalemites together, if nothing else will.”
Suffice it to say that I have found a staple dish for the lunch menu at toastlovecoffee…