A new stunning Israeli book aims to bridge the space between the ocean and the table. Half cookbook, half artful seafood encyclopedia, the book is a project of famed Tel Aviv port restaurant Mul-Yam (or, Across the Sea).
“Mul-Yam is known for bringing unusual fish to Israel,” the book’s designer Dan Alexander said about the 17-year-old restaurant. “We wanted to show [the owner] Shalom Maharovsky’s obsession in bringing the best raw material. He was the first to bring lobsters, oysters and rare seafood to Israel.” In 2003, Mul-Yam was the first Mediterranean-region restaurant to be added to the elite Les Grandes Tables du Monde group.
The first section of the book, which is also called “Mul-Yam,” contains stunningly artful photographs of a wide selection of domestic and imported fish and edible sea creatures — with their names given in seven languages. Culinary information along with scientific and even mythological anecdotes accompany the photographs. The book’s second part consists of recipes from the restaurant, along with beautiful photographs of the prepared dishes.
“The challenge was to create something people wanted to look at,” Alexander explained. “Creating a catalogue of fish was risky. It could have ended up just a book of dead fish.”
This summer, while interning at Hazon, I have been working on a supplement to the Hazon Food Guide on kosher, sustainable fish. Prior to this project, my experience with fish had largely been enjoying the delicious lox and bagels at Kiddush without considering where that fish came from. Sure, I knew to look for cans of tuna that said “dolphin friendly” but I certainly did not invest nearly as much time thinking about the origin of my fish as I did thinking about whether my kosher chicken or beef was organic and locally raised. After all, our sages deemed fish parve, right?
Oh how my view of creatures with fins and scales has forever changed with the help of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the World Wildlife Fund. Fish are the last group of wild animals that are hunted for mass consumption. As the worldwide demand for fish has increased, overfishing has made it impossible for wild fish populations to keep up with the demand.