The Circassian community in Israel is very small and not well known. Originally from a mountainous region in the Caucuses near the Black Sea, they were brutally driven out of their land by the Russians in the 19th century, then embraced by the Ottoman Turks, who settled them throughout their empire. The men were famed as fierce, horse-back riding warriors, and the women, for their exceptional beauty. Today there are two Circassian villages, both in the Galilee, where the residents enthusiastically preserve their language and culture.
I have long wanted to include a Circassian village in one of my culinary tours, but they are a notoriously reserved people and I was never able to find a family that was interested in hosting visitors. But this weekend there was a Circassian festival and home hospitality was featured in the program – so today my husband Ron and I made our way to Kfar Kama for lunch.
Our hostess, a lovely young woman named Tina, served us a meal of salads, with the centerpiece being their famous Circassian cheese – both plain and smoked. They also make two types of cheese-stuffed dough – one that is boiled, like pierogi – called “Mataz”, and the other which is fried, called “Khawajh”.
We enjoyed our meal sitting outside on the porch of Tina’s modest home, while her two young daughters – both exceptional beauties – played nearby, murmuring to each other in their shushy-sounding language. I can’t wait to bring my first group to Kfar Kama.