Cherry Hill sisters provide a taste of home to upcoming festival of arts, books and culture

New book offering recipes from Mediterranean to be presented on Nov. 18

Throughout the centuries, the Jewish diaspora has provided civilization with some of the finest works of art, contributions to culture, innovations in music and homeland-inspired cooking.

To bring a bit of their intercontinental upbringing to Cherry Hill, Vicky Cohen and Ruth Fox, sisters who founded and still run the vegetarian-and-vegan-focused web site “May I Have That Recipe?” have teamed up to pen “Tahini and Turmeric: 101 Middle Eastern Classics made Irresistibly Vegan.”

Focusing on time-honored and time-tested culinary traditions of the Middle East and Spain, the Cohens’ new work hopes to offer sumptuous vegetable-based dishes across a wide range recipes to anyone looking for unique flavors to complement their meals.

From Nov. 11–18, the Katz JCC will hold its 29th annual Festival of Arts, Books and Culture featuring best-selling authors, entertainers and public figures. Vicky Cohen will be appearing solo to present the book on the festival’s final day, Sunday, Nov. 18, at 11:30 a.m. in Lahn Social Hall, as part of the “Ready, Set, Cook!” portion of the program.

The Cohen sisters spoke with The Sun about a number of topics relating to their background and how the book came to be.

Describe your background and how you came to live in the area.

Vicky: “I was actually born in Beirut, Lebanon, and then moved with my parents to Barcelona at 18 months old. I lived there until I was 35 years old and moved to the U.S. with my Cherry Hill-native husband.”

Ruth: “I was born in Barcelona with Vicky and my parents already established there. I then moved to the USA when I was 19 for college. It was a whole different experience from growing up in Europe.

Can you name anyone from your family or your childhood who influenced your love of cooking and could have influenced you to write about it?

Ruth: “For cooking, it was definitely our mother and grandmother. We learned everything from them.”

Vicky: “Our grandmother lived in Israel, but she visited every summer in Barcelona, and then visited us in the USA. She taught us the things to do around the kitchen, taught us to love cooking and how to do it all.”

Was it an easy decision to team up to write the book? During the process, did you encounter any sibling rivalries or arguments over form, content, or the choice of the recipes themselves?

Vicky: “Ruth and I had been working together on the ‘May I Have That Recipe?’ blog for the last five years, we kind of came up with the concept of book together, and we were happy to do it together. Ruth and I are different people with different personalities, but we managed to work together. Actually, writing the book, negotiating with an agent, writing the proposals, coming up with the recipes, all of that was the hardest part.”

The book focuses on dishes from a specific area at or near the Mediterranean Sea: Turkey, Israel, Lebanon and Spain. Is this a family connection or something else that led to that area of interest?

Ruth: “Our family are Lebanese Jews, so it was an easy thing given our background, since it’s what we grew up eating. Combine both styles of eating (vegetarian and vegan), and we came up with a lot of good recipes. From that Middle Eastern background, we found a lot of good stuff.”

What else can readers take away from the book and its recipes?

Vicky: “One of our goals in making a cookbook, is to show that you don’t have to search and suffer and sweat all day long to make good vegan food. We also wanted to provide some background to these recipes in the hopes that people who buy and read the book can try them and add their own unique touches to the food for their own families.”

Ruth: “There might be some ingredients in the cookbook that aren’t readily available in local grocery stores. They can be easily found online and in some Middle Eastern restaurants in the area.”

For more information on the Festival of Arts, Books and Culture, visit katzjcc.org/abcfest/. Cost is $10 for JCC members and $12 for the general public.

To find out more about the sisters or their recipes which may have not made it into their book, visit mayihavethatrecipe.com. The book itself can be found in local bookstores as well as online at Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. Retail price is $15.99.