I didn't grow up eating shakshuka. In fact, I didn't know what shakshuka was until a friend took me to breakfast at Cafe Eilat in Valley Village after the egalitarian morning minyan at Adat Ari El Synagogue.
The friend, a survivor who calls me "doll," was in the Kaddish year for his wife. I was long past the Kaddish month for our son, but I still took strength in the ebbs and flows of the weekday liturgy.
All of which rendered me vulnerable to the wonders of shakshuka. The Cafe Eilat had just opened, with wall murals, giant fish tanks and a big screen TV tuned to Israeli stations. They had parve. They had dairy. They had feta. They had fish.
That first visit, I didn't order the shakshuka. I had the hummus plate. Over in the corner, there was a man in a kippah digging into the contents of a sizzling iron skillet that looked like this photo.
I was intrigued. The next time we went to breakfast, I ordered the shakshuka. It was an incredible mix of tomatoes, peppers, Mysterious Other Stuff and two poached eggs, all to be sopped up with incredible fresh baked bread. The coffee was good, too.
I was hooked. Some people think I'm religious, but there were days when I got up early for the promise of the post-minyan shakshuka.
Which is why I was heartbroken last week to see Cafe Eilat boarded up.
What happened? I asked the guy at the falafel place across the street. He shrugged and said, "Only Hashem knows."
What happened? I asked at the market. No one knew.
So I googled the news and discovered there had been a fire in the fish tank and that
"The bulk of the business is untouched by fire, but (per protocol) Cafe Eilat will require clearance from the Health Department before it can again open for business," explained LAFD Spokesman Brian Humphrey. He said an estimated dollar loss is still being tabulated. An overheated aquarium motor near the seating area started the fire. Humphrey said the aquarium is believed to be a decorative item for ambiance rather than storage for kosher fish.So now, I content myself with YouTube shakshuka videos (see below), shakshuka recipes from the Is that a kugel in your pocket, or...? blog and the shakshuka fan group on Facebook.
Hope they re-open soon.
Anita Susan Brenner is a Pasadena attorney with a bad attitude and a good record.