Having spent a total of 6 years living in Israel, I was exposed to what can be best called, ‘Mediterranean Cuisine’…Israel, like it’s Med neighbors, shares a love of
all things ‘chick pea’. This legume turns up marinated with onions and garlic in a salad, or chopped and fried as Felafel, or basically creamed into Humus…It’s also one of the ingredients in that Friday night Jewish staple, ‘cholent’. This is basically a stew which includes anything that’s on hand, but usually some meat, sweet potatoes, hard boiled eggs, etc. The beauty of this dish is that it can cook all night, which is good for ‘Orthodox’ Jews who are forbidden from starting a fire on the Sabbath.
Other staples of the Israeli diet are Olives, (and olive Oil), and Yogurt, which can be turned into yogurt cheese, called ‘Labaneh’…When you live on a ‘Kibbutz’, (commune), everyone eats together in the communal Dining Room…Breakfast and Dinner are very similar: Yogurts, cheeses, olives, salads…The main meal daily is lunch, to give you strength to go back to work in the fields, while the other two are lighter. Lunch is a Buffet with one or two meat choices, plus different starches like ‘Cous cous’ or ‘Orzo’…The nicest part of working in a Kibbutz kitchen is that you have people from all over the world contributing their favorites from their youth. Every region has their own hot sauce, called ‘sfug’…They vary in color and texture, but all add layers of heat…
Once a week or so, Felafel would be served, to the delight of many…Though some countries of the region spice their felafel with extra cumin, making it yellow, or extra parsley, turning it a deep shape of green, Israeli Felafel is a dark brown, crispy and flavorful…The art of eating said felefal is filling up the pita bread with as many items as you can, without it it bursting at the seems, and covering you with a mix of pickled veggies and ‘tahina’ sauce.
It’s served at stands throughout Israel’s cities, and no self respecting stand would feature less that 15 toppings for your Felafel enjoyments. They even fry up the sliced off ends of the pita bread, and put that in…You also have your choice of pickled vegetables-eggplants, green tomatoes, saurkraut, fried veggies like zucchini, etc. You could make a meal from just the ‘toppings’, but why miss out on he best part, the fried to perfection balls of oily goodness…
Yes, while I lived there I missed the occasional cheeseburger, or a slice of ‘real’ pizza, but if you have an open mind, the varied foods of Israel can’t be beat…
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