Interview with Adeena Sussman, Author of Sababa Cookbook

Welcome to our first guest, Adeena Sussman!

As an almost full-time resident of Tel Aviv, Adeena’ Sussman’s Israeli cookbook, Sababa: Fresh, Sunny Flavors from My Israeli Kitchen, was released by Penguin/Avery books on September 3, 2019. Also the solo author of Short Stack Editions’ Tahini, Adeena has co-authored twelve cookbooks. Three of her recent collaborations, Cravings and Cravings 2 with Chrissy Teigen and The Sprinkles Baking Book with Candace Nelson, were New York Times best sellers. Adeena has written about Jewish and Israeli cooking and food culture or been featured in Food And Wine, The Wall Street Journal, Epicurious, Gourmet (rest in peace) and many others.

You can find her on Instagram and Twitter @adeenasussman.

Were you an avid reader as a child? What kinds of things did you read?

My late mom, Stephanie Sussman, didn’t let us watch a lot of television, but no book on our family shelves was off limits to me. I was transfixed by Steinbeck’s East of Eden at age ten, and I made my way through my parents’ collection of Saul Bellow and Isaac Bashevis Singer. Singer has a story, “Blood,” about the evil inclinations of a kosher butcher and his consort in the shtetls of Eastern Europe, that gives me chills to this day. It influenced a short story I wrote to get into an advanced fiction writing class as a freshman at Boston University. I also read my mom’s copy of the Craig Claiborne New York Times cookbook, plotting the next dish I’d try out on my family, I still have the book, and the pages containing the chocolate layer cake are plastered with centuries-old bits of batter and frosting; I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Which talent do you wish you had?

Being a better typist.

What time of day do you love best?

I am an early riser. I get most of my writing done between 5:30 – 9:30 AM. I read the New York Times online, make my French press coffee pot, and enjoy thinking without speaking for several hours.  My cookbook actually begins with a vignette from Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market where I find myself there before most of the vendors. It’s funny because it’s true. And it happens all the time.

Tell us what you’re looking forward to reading.

I am about to head out on book tour and have been stockpiling novels for my kindle: Taffy Akner’sFleishman Is In Trouble: I know I am late to this party but can’t wait to dig on a long plane ride. Lauren Mechling’s novel, How Could She. Lauren edited a few of my early pieces for The Wall Street Journal and I always loved her insights. Can’t wait to read this well-received debut. Also, The Destiny Thief, a collection of essays about writing by Richard Russo, my favorite American novelist. I know New York Times Melissa Clark is writing a French cookbook; I am a longtime fan and her career was an inspiration to me. She is a double threat: amazing cook, amazing writer.

Tell us about a book that made you cry.

Laurie Colwin’s Home Cooking. Like many baby food writers of my generation I discovered her after she died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 1992. While working at Gourmetmagazine as a copywriter I discovered the book in Gourmet’s legendary library, and I was hooked. It’s a collection of essays about cooking that reframed how to write a recipe and invite a reader or a cook into your process. The writing was warm, familiar, exciting, and instructional. I had never heard the term smile, a French cooking term for a tiny simmer used in poaching, I felt so sophisticated committing the term, and even more special feeling like Colwin was a close girlfriend had let me in on a valuable secret. I just reread an obituary for Colwin, and realized that she died at 48, my current age. If I could touch even a fraction of the people she continues to every day my work would feel meaningful.

Tell us about your next big project.

I am working on a book for Artisan Books with Benny Briga, the proprietor of a cult beverage shop in Tel Aviv that makes fanciful, delicious sparkling sodas filled with his own macerated, fermented fruits and spices and mixed with splashed of fermented beverages like kombucha, joon, and kefir. Each glass is topped with fresh edible flowers, fragrant herbs, other plants. The book touches upon the timeless nature of Benny’s neighborhood, Levinsky Market, and the very timely subject of fermentation and low- or no-alcohol beverages.

Sababa: Fresh, Sunny Flavors From My Israeli Kitchen introduces readers and cooks to the bustling Tel Aviv Shuk Hacarmel market, where I start each day finding fresh ingredients and inspiration.

Sababa is a celebration of Israeli cooking and its intoxicating, bold flavors, showcasing my personal take on the Israeli kitchen and its diverse, delicious, and vibrant culture.

Derived from the Arabic word tzababa, Sababa has come to mean “everything is awesome.” And when it comes to Israeli food, everything truly is.

Buy Sababa here.

Author: Amy Klein

Amy Klein is the author of "The Trying Game: Get Through Fertility Treatment and Get Pregnant Without Losing Your Mind," (Ballantine, 2020) based on her New York Times "Fertility Diary" column. Her writing on health, science, reproduction and essays has also appeared in Slate, Salon, The Washington Post, Aeon and more.