Sunday, March 24, 2013

Golda: Canny Politician and Fresh Chicken Soup

A few months ago we posted Golda Meir's chicken soup recipe. Our point at the time was actually a bit political, not culinary, in that we told how Golda held some of the most important meetings of her premiership in her kitchen (really), and in doing so she also added a term to modern Hebrew's political vocabulary: Mitbachon, kitchenette, means the innermost circle of confidantes to a political leader.

Some of the media stories which picked up our blogpost were a bit skeptical, sniffing that they'd seen this particular recipe before and we weren't showing anything new.

We're an archives, so essentially nothing we publish is exactly new, but often we publish brand-newly declassified stuff, which no-one of the general public has previously seen. In the case of Golda's chicken soup, however, the back-office story is interesting. So, on this eve of the Passover Seder and the opportunity to eat chicken soup, here goes: the story of how Golda used chicken soup to promote her popularity.

When Golda Meir became Israel's prime minister in 1969, women serving as heads of government were still quite rare. Lots of people, it turns out, assumed she had spent much of her time in the kitchen, and unilke male leaders, she must have interesting recipies. Soon there was a stream of requests from authors of cookbooks, community rabbis and fundraisers to have a recipe from her with which to adorn their cookbook, or fund-raising cookbook. If she might please send them a recipe it would enhance their ability to raise funds for Jewish scholarshps, or awareness for Soviet Jewry, or simply emphasize the fact that Israel was a progressive state with a head of government who contributes recipies to general cookbooks.

Did Golda have any time for any of this? Of course not. But her staff had a standard response, which included a sentence of appreciation for being asked, and, it just so happens, "Mrs Meir has authorized us to send you her chicken soup recipe". (As well as to everyone else, of course.)

Since these letters were all in English, you can read some of them for yourself. (File ×’-6479.28)

And in case you missed it, here's the recipe itself once again.

We don't know to say if she had lots of other recipes. Canny politician that she was, the one recipe she declassified was for a stereotypical dish. Did she also make matbucha? Kubeh? Hamburgers?

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