Identifying Israel as a gastronomic paradise has become extremely trendy. Saveur magazine recently highlighted Tel Aviv as a World Class Culinary Destination; Drinks International magazine says the Middle East’s best bar is in Tel Aviv; Israeli food chains continue to expand across borders; and even new media goddess EmmyMade In Japan has dedicated two shows to Israeli snack foods.
So when Inbal Baum’s brother in the United States asked her to send him a bottle of tehina paste, the culinary tour company owner had a flash of delicious inspiration: Why not send everyone delectable tehina from Israel?
And so was born Koofsa — Hebrew for “box” — a fresh initiative to send a shoebox-size package laden with top-quality Israeli spices, sauces, oils, snacks and preserves from Tel Aviv to America four times a year.
“My ultimate dream is to get people to understand that Israeli food is amazing,” Baum tells ISRAEL21c. “The different flavor combinations here are amazing. Pomegranate teriyaki or spicy date sauce, for us, in Israel, are natural but these flavors are not common in the US. People read about interesting Israeli food and are open to trying what is now a big trend.”
Baum has created four themes for the Koofsa boxes – Hanukkah, Passover, Summer and Rosh Hashana – and will pack chosen artisanal products related to each theme together with stories about the makers, recipes and pictures and send them to hungry US subscribers.
Baum says her initiative is a win-win situation for those wanting quality Israeli products as well as for the small producers here.
“It’s really hard to get good Israeli products abroad,” she says. “The costs for smaller producers are prohibitive [when it comes to exporting] and because of air-travel regulations, people visiting Israel can’t take foodstuffs back with them.”
Operation Protective Edge last summer also instigated the idea for Koofsa. Baum relates that when she went to buy tehina for her brother at her favorite small producer, she saw that they “were suffering financially as a result of the war.”
Baum says the boxes will include products from around the country including traditional recipes handed down through Druze, Bedouin, Jewish and Arab families.
The former attorney/yoga instructor founded the highly lauded Delicious Israel walking, travel and cooking tour company in 2011. Her tours are ranked 10 out of 98 best activities to do in Tel Aviv on TripAdvisor.
Baum would prefer that foodies come and visit Israel and taste all the mouthwatering morsels of goodness here. But she hopes to wow them with samples via long-distance packages.
“Koofsa’s customers are mostly foodies, people who like to experiment and try new things and people who want to support Israel and support these small producers,” she says. “Once they get Koofsa, they can buy more of whatever they liked.”