Thursday, May 31, 2007
At this minute - as I am falling off my feet with exhaustion from having spent the last two days in my kitchen preparing a Shabbat dinner in honor of my friends Pearl and Stewart who are visiting from London - even as I am writing I am watching coming attractions on the television.
Coming attractions? Am I crazy you might well ask? No! I am not! I just received a phone call from Marallyn - who tells me that on YES cable channel 27 - which I now get having switched from HOT - there will appear on our screens - from June 11th - an Israeli version of the American FOODTV Network.
While this will mean nothing to my foreign readers - to my fellow Israeli food-freaks this is really something big.
Were you to ask me what I miss most about not living in New York I would answer immediately - The New York Times - Chinatown - the ability to buy almost anything in the world without having to make expeditions to far-flung places - my New York friends - my brother living an hour away by plane - and the FOODTV Network....in no particular order.
Incidentally - this whole preparation thing for tomorrow is not only for Pearl and Stewart. Our friend Joe is arriving in Jerusalem tomorrow - how could I be happy knowing someone is here on his own and has no place to spend Shabbat - and I've also invited Stewart's cousins Samuel and Judith and two of their (grown-up) kids and Ouri and Devora - who also know Pearl and Stewart. Besides my philosophy is - if you're going to cook for three you might as well cook for ten. So I'm really knocking myself out to do something special for them.
Right now, however, I've got to get some sleep. But I just had to give a heads-up to all of my Israeli friends - if you have YES - great. If you have HOT - switch!!
By the way - there is really something to be said for "bashert" (something which is meant to be). I swtiched from HOT to YES a few months ago because HOT threatened to remove BBC Prime from it's line-up. But with this new channel I would have had to switch anyway. Maybe this is an omen - where is my bashert? I'm waiting.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Although we were very "Jewish" we weren't very religious and although we knew all about all the Jewish Holidays we really only celebrated the "biggies" - Pesach, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Chanukkah. Which we also pronounced differently, by the way. Sha-voo-OHT was Sha-VOO-iss, Rosh-Ha-Shann-AH was Rosh-Ha-SHONA, Yom-Kee-PUHR was Yom-KIPPER but Channukah and Pesach remained the same.
So it wasn't until I came to live here that I began to celebrate everything - especially the holidays that have wonderful food (!) - because the whole country celebrates and it's the way of life.
Which brings us to this past week when we celebrated Shavuout. Although Marallyn's daughter-in-law invited me to her dinner (which I heard was a real winner) I had already accepted an invitation to celebrate the holiday with my cousins Dizza and Ufaz in Beit Yitzhak. And what a celebration it was. Their two daughters Daria and Dafna were there with their boyfriends, Dizza's brother and sister-in-law Amihud and Aya were there (it's a bit complicated but Dizza's brother is not my cousin although in the way of Israelis we consider ourselves family), Dizza's best friend's daughter, and two old friends of their's Nahum and Tzippi.
Dizza is a wonderful cook and the most relaxed hostess I have ever met. And besides - I love being with them all - so I really enjoyed the holiday - and although it is quite a long ride there was hardly any traffic so even the drive was fun.
I am sure you are wondering by now - what did we eat? Shavuout is the holiday when we don't eat meat - only fish and dairy - and lots of cheeses. We started with spinach soup - for which I am going to get the recipe it was that good. Then - God forbid anybody should feel hungry without meat or chicken - she made three quiches - a broccoli, an onion and a zucchini - a cheese ball with Roquefort, butter and cream cheese and rolled in walnuts which we ate with very good bread, a pasta dish of shells mixed with a Mornay sauce and bits of ham (she doesn't keep kosher) and baked in the oven (so she cheated a bit with the ham - who cares it was so good), a lettuce and tomato salad, a cabbage salad with tiny green peas and a beet salad with horseradish. And of course some good wine - which was fine with me as I was staying over and could drink without worrying about the alcohol content in my blood.
And for dessert I made two cheesecakes - one regular New York-style cheesecake and one with melted white chocolate and raspberry jam.
We talked and laughed and ate - and ate - and ate - in the way of all the Jews in Israel. And when everyone left Dizza and I sat on the patio and talked - and talked - and talked until 1:30 in the morning. And also drank some more - delicious iced plum wine which Daria brought from her Japanese cooking class.
Hope your holiday was a much fun as mine was. And as I always say - back to the diet.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
CAN I "SCHVITZ"?
It's a long story - but "b'kitzur" (in short) - several weeks ago I was asked to write a guest column for the Thursday "Weekend" Magazine of the Jerusalem Post. What about? Need you ask? Food, of course.
I was asked to choose a theme - e.g. Quick Meals - Children's Menu - Party Time - but I chose my own theme - "Too Hot To Cook" - which was renamed "Cold Comfort". No problem with that - because my three recipes were published just as I wrote them - commentary and all. What a "kef" (fun) to see my name in print. My article had a whole page - how do you like that? In fact, I was so impressed with the menu I came up with that I'm using it as a basis for a Shabbat dinner I'm having in two weeks for friends from London and Ramat HaSharon.
Now - if the magazine will only hire me to write the restaurant reviews - that means I can dine out every day and not pay!!
Talking about eating out (nice segue wasn't it?) - I just realized that I ate in restaurants in five out of the last six days - not counting the various cafes where I drank coffee with friends. (It sounds as if all I do is eat - definitely not true - I also cook - shop - talk about food - write about food - sit on various Boards - do my charity work - well, O.K. - my life is mostly about food.)
Last night Roz (with a "Z"), her daughter Maya, friends of hers from New Zealand and I ate at "Tzachko" in the shuk. Again - a marvelous meal. And again - we ordered loads of dishes which we shared - the food is just too good to be restricted to only one or two dishes a person. Eli Mizrachi owns the restaurant which he named after his father - who father passed away just over a week ago. Roz, Maya and I were to meet her friends at the restaurant. She told them approximately where the restaurant is - told them how to get to the shuk - and also told them to ask for explicit directions when they got there.
Only in Israel. When they got to the shuk and asked for explicit directions - the answer was always preceeded by - "Do you know Eli's father died? Are you sure the restaurant is open?" Everyone knows everyone else's business - I actually like that. In fact, as were walking through the shuk to the restaurant , we passed the stall of "David HaDayag" (David the Fisherman) where I buy my fish. We greeted each other and he said to me "Go over to Yossi's (another son) stall and give them your condolences." Everyone is a Jewish mother here.
May the Mizrachi family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
Friday, May 11, 2007
- Why - when you have no place special to go or no one special to see - does your hair look great?
- Why - when you have lots of time to do something - you just can't seem to get it done?
- Why - when you are looking your absolute worst - do you run into someone you want to impress?
- Why does your doorbell ring at just the moment you can't possibly answer it?
- Why - when your phone hasn't rung for hours - does it ring just as you are dashing out?
- Why is there no traffic when you have plenty of time to drive somewhere?
- Why do you break a nail just after you've had a manicure - and put on red red polish?
- Why does it rain the first time you wear those ridiculously expensive shoes?
- Why does your computer stop working for no reason?
- Why - when you are driving to someplace new - and you have a choice of turning right or left - do you always make the wrong choice?
Does this sound as if I've had a bad week? Well.... yes. Although some things went just fine. Had guests for dinner Monday night - the hottest night of the year so far - and the air conditioner worked perfectly. This year I had the good sense to call the air conditioner guy to check the system out and make sure there was enough gas before the summer began with full force and everyone else wanted him at the same time.
My dinner went well - after a lot of tweaking and changing of recipes - one guest doesn't eat tarragon so I changed the chicken recipe I planned to do - what I actually did was to make two chickens - one with tarragon and one without. I was going to make a fruit crumble - but another guest doesn't eat fruits beginning with the letter "p" - pears - peaches - plums and papricots!! So I made Myra's delicious and creamy and not-at-all-parve-tasting parve chocolate ice cream cake. Easy enough. And we all ate and drank and talked and laughed until midnight.
And here's the best part of the week - did you read last week's blog? The one where I wrote about that smug, self-satisfied little man who has made driving in this city such a nightmare? I was so angry that I wrote a letter to the Jerusalem Post - where the article appeared. This morning I got a call from Bubbie Chana - Marallyn's mother - to say that she was reading her paper and saw that my letter had been published. So there Mr. Bartov.
By the way - we really have to keep Bubbie Chana well and hopping. She's our lifeline to the world. Nevermind that I read two newspapers every day and listen to the news - American and Israeli. But most of the time I'm out and running around and can't keep up with all the events. Bubbie Chana keeps up with everything - all day - every day. She knows exactly what's happening - and calls us with a heads-up. She neither reads nor speaks Hebrew - but watches the news programs with great interest. When there is (G-d forbid) a "pigua" (bombing) - she knows it from the map on the TV and the little star showing where it occurred - and she calls us. She's our own private Associated Press.
Myra just came to visit - she was at the shuk (market) and bought me Belgian endive - perfectly white and beautiful - for 40 shekel a kilo - instead of the 60 shekel per kilo I have to pay at my local - and very fancy - greengrocer. So - I'll say Yalla, Bye - and have a nice visit with her.
Thursday, May 03, 2007
MY COUNTRY, MY CITY...MY GOODNESS
As I do each morning - I picked up my newspapers from my mailbox, made my first cup of tea of the day, lit my cigarette (yes, I smoke) - and began to read. You must all know by now of the political problems we are having here. To add to our woes - Hassan Nasrallah opined that our Winograd Commission Report now says conclusively that we lost the 2nd Lebanon War. We really needed to hear that from him. Avigdor Yitzchaki resigned....only to be replaced by Tzachi Hanegbi who is under indictment. Ehud Olmert refuses to resign. Tzippi Livni wants to be Prime Minister. Shimon Peres wants to be....anything - just elect him. Moshe Katzav wants the rape charges against him to be dropped and Azmi Bishara - an Arab Member of Knesset - is being charged with treason for helping the enemy during the 2nd Lebanon War.
Tzippi Livni wants Olmert to resign - she, however, will not resign. Amir Peretz says he doesn't have to resign because the Winograd Report didn't blame him as much as it blamed the others - Olmert and Dan Halutz - he says - "true - I have no Defense experience but I'm learning". Did you ever hear such "mishugass" (craziness)?
In the meantime, Sallai Meridor, Israeli Ambassador to the United States says that the Syrian military is undergoing its largest buildup since 1973 - remember the Yom Kippur War? Vos noch? (Yiddish - what else?) And that was only on the front page!!
Closer to home - closer to my home, that is - the traffic in Jerusalem has become more and more impossible to deal with. Some little smug, self-satisfied functionary (Kobi Bartov if you want to curse him personally) says that he can't forbid people from driving into downtown Jerusalem but he can - and will - make life miserable for us drivers. And he is doing that - with a vengeance. By the way - he also says that he doesn't care what people say about him - "write what you will" he said to the journalist who wrote the article telling us about his plans for the traffic.
To add to our traffic woes - Jerusalem is erecting a Calatrava Bridge at the entrance to the city. Work goes on day and night - both at the entrance to the city and along the highway. When we drove home from a party in the North at 11:00 last night we were stuck in the kind of traffic jam you expect to see only during rush hour. The bridge will help move the traffic along that Mr. Bartov doesn't want here.
And to add the cherry to the icing on the cupcake - the weatherman said yesterday that the rain would finally stop. After two weeks of not having my car washed - yesterday dawned bright and sunny. Shachar - my car wash guy - said all was well - go ahead and wash the car - finally. The car wash was jammed - full of people like me who want to drive in clean, shiny cars. I waited - I had the car washed - I was happy. And then this morning - when it wasn't supposed to rain, mind you - it RAINED - for only two minutes - those big, fat raindrops with a grain of sand in each drop - and my lovely white car is - once again - yellow.
And you want to know why I still live here? Because it's MY country.