I seriously doubt that Israelis even know this word.
Before I moved here I was really excited about starting a new diet (by diet I mean not eating sweet things, cutting down on unhealthy middle-of-work nibbles, excessive amounts of coffee and generally eating more fresh produce) and I thought it would work until I landed here and gave into the fascination with Israeli food. I mean, this is not the first time I have been here, but certainly the first time when I am living here, not just visiting friends. Suddenly it became apparent that my diet, initially fluctuating, became non-existent. Suddenly the need for the gym (also non-existent where I live, and the one available is beyond my current budget) became pressing just to more or less burn what I have been eating on daily basis.
Not that food here is unhealthy – far from it! That is unless you go for pizzas, shawarmas, chips and krembo (the latter is still my, recently discovered, very soft spot). I am not going to include hummus, because that would be unfair. Generally however, even though the difference in prices between fresh produce and processed food encourage the former, the variety of choices are more than encouraging to go for wild food shopping spree. Struggling, somehow I manage to refrain from doing just that and I “diet” in-between the chagim. This is the only option here because the culture is set on food. I love it with holy fear – I both love eating and I know there has to be a golden rule to it that seems to escape me so far.
I am writing this post mostly because I am frustrated with how good the food is. Sounds crazy, I know, but let me explain. I have just managed to recover from Rosh Hashana and Succot food frenzy and it is already Chanukah (whichever way you want to spell it) and, while we celebrate the miracle of G-d provision, we eat… latkas and doughnuts. I mean, the heavier, the more oily, the better (after all it was oil that kept burning in the Temple’s menorah for eight days instead of one). A colleague of mine was offered a Chanukah doughnut challenge. She was to eat as many doughnuts per day as the corresponding number of candles she was lighting. She managed not to take the challenge on, and I am very proud of her because I suspect I might have taken it on…
Back to the subject (for some reason I am constantly distracted thinking of those doughnuts), my initial plan while arriving here was to only have fruit and vegetables, preferrably cold and blended into smoothies. I forgot about hummus, and to have hummus you need pita. While youre having pita why not have a falafel? Of course more than one. While we are on the subject, why not have chips and pickles, they go so well together. How about a huge salad? With bulgari cheese, please. Yes, bread too. Cheeses are heavenly here. Especially cream cheese, cottage and bulgari cheese. On top of this, wherever you go to visit someone you are presented with food and you just have to eat not to offend anyone. Every Shabbat I tell myself that I will eat less and then I end up with my favourite food on the table and that’s about it. I think you, whoever you are reading this, are beginning to appreciate the magnitude of the problem here (faint smile).
Do I feel horrible? Only after more than one doughnut, but interestingly I have never felt better. Yes I have to exercise more (creativity without a gym or swimming pool is crucial here, oh, and I forgot about the lack of spa), yes I have to look away when I walk past bakeries and ice-cream shops, but I also enjoy living in this amazing country literally filled with olive oil, veggies, fruit and hummus (and of course doughnuts at this time). I have even attempted to experiment in the teeny-tiny kitchen of ours and I have made these so far:
First is of course the magnificent shakshuka, which does not taste the same in London by the way and the second is a pita (I know) french toast, with cottage cheese (I know…), apple bramley sauce and chillies. I thought about posting recipes, but I really can’t remember any measurements, so it would be pointless.
May this Chanukah be yet another leap into the miracle of our lives and other miracles that we hope and pray for. May it be a time of reflection and a quiet prayer for change especially in this time now when so many horrible things are happening around the world and innocent people are dying. Let us remember the miracle of life and let us do what we can on our local level to be the miracle for ourselves and others. My thoughts and prayers are with those who lost their loved ones this week.