Friday, September 18, 2009

Travel Log: Israel: Food

I know you were all waiting for this one. WHEN is Liz going to talk about the food in Israel? I don't know why you would think that though- it's not like I post about food ALL THE TIME. Nope, this girl is not at all culinarily minded (Yes I checked, culinarily is actually a word, rare as that is on my blog). But perhaps you'll indulge for a bit as I recall some of the great tasty treats of Israel.

One thing that for sure stuck out was the frozen drinks available everywhere, particularly iced coffee. I suppose when you live in a country where it's blazingly hot all the time, this would be a hot commodity (ohhhhh pun!). But we saw a huge variety of frozen slushy-like substances all around the country. I took this picture to show that and because seeing Hebrew everywhere was so novel. Slash disconcerting It could be garbanzo bean flavored and I would have NO CLUE.
For our first real meal in Israel we went straight for the staples- humus, pita, pickles, olives, beer. Oh my word. I really don't think I had humus before that moment. While I don't have a picture of it, one day I ate humus that was warm and had refried beans, parsley, hard-boiled egg, and whole chickpeas in it. They served a big huge bowl of it, and as I looked around I just saw people eating it with a spoon. Oh my word I could have melted into a pool of happy-girl goo.
Since our visit coincided with Ramadan we learned a lot about the sweets they eat during Ramadan. One in particular we saw a lot of was kataif, a small pancake-like phylo-dough that is filled with either sweet cheese or walnuts, folded in half and covered in a clear sugary syrup. While in Nazareth we happened upon a quiet street and saw an older man making them right in front of his shop. I stopped to ask him about them and it turned into an hour-long conversation with this lovely man who told us about his family, the history of his shop, showed us his kitchen, etc. It was lovely. And the pastries were magnifique!
Oh and shawerma. As it goes, there are many shawerma shops in Iasi, probably because there are so many Middle Easterners, particularly Israelis, who go to school here. So I've had my fair share of shawerma (say that 10 times fast!). And my Israeli friends would always tell me that it's SO SO SO SO SOOOO much better in Israel. I never quite knew if it was just nostalgia for home/the familiar/they way they like it or what, but oh my word THEY WEREN'T KIDDING. I ate the shawerma there and I was like WOW. Wow wow wow. With the Israeli humus and with the Israeli pickles. Doesn't get much better than that I imagine.
Last but certainly not least- produce markets. We saw loads of them of course, and plenty of desert-y fruits that we had never seen. But I just love going to markets in countries I visit to get a feel for what they eat, what the prices are, and how people bargain. Never a dull moment in markets in Israel, that's for sure. This picture is from the Ben Yehuda market taken on Friday afternoon, coincidentally the time that EVERY JEW IN JERUSALEM shops before the Sabbath. Slightly (exceedingly) overwhelming, but at least we got the "real" experience, right?
My enjoyment of Israeli food has extended well past my time in Israel, as a friend brought back olive oil, olives, and wine that have been shared amongst our team. Uh-may-zing.

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