Monday, December 24, 2007



No - no - it's not Rosh Hashana again. It's that other New Year. That's just one of the nice things about being Jewish - Jewish as I practice my religion - not Orthodox or Orthodox-Lite or Flexi-Dox - just culturally very Jewish - Conservative if you want a label - with some leftover religious observances left in from my childhood. That way you can actually celebrate two new years - Rosh Hashana and the other New Year. That's the one coming up on December 31st.

And as I've done for - well, I can't really remember how many years - I'll make the same two resolutions. The first is to stop smoking and the second is to go on a diet. The "stop smoking" one is easy - I've done it hundreds of times! I've done acupuncture, hypnosis, self-help books, peer pressure - you name it and I've done it. Maybe this year I'll succeed. Or - maybe not. What's making it easier - or a least making me smoke less - is the fact that smoking has been outlawed in so many places -- no smoking in restaurants, bars, cafes, the malls - and I never ever smoke in my car. So the more I drive the less I smoke. Nevermind that petrol is up to more than 6 shekels per litre - that's about $1.50 per litre or $6.00 per gallon - think of all the money I'm saving on cigarettes.

As for the dieting resolution - that's the toughie. After all - eating is socially acceptable - wherever you are. And Israelis eat all the time and in any place. It's not even as if I nosh all the time - because I don't. I'm not a nosher. I don't particularly like sweets - so no cakes and candies and ice cream. But - oh those parties and dinners out and dinners for friends at home.

Take last week for example. Joey decided to do a barbecue - yes, in the middle of the winter. Actually - we all ate in the dining room and someone did the barbecueing on the meerpesset (balcony). Steaks and mashed potatoes and roasted potatoes (he also lives in Ireland where you never serve less than two kinds of potatoes at a meal) and salads (a particularly delicious one courtesy of Mali), and home-made bread (courtesy of Miri) and gravy and parve ice-cream cake (courtesy of me) and wine. Dieting not possible.

And then there was Ros's surprise birthday party - lots of people and lots of good food. Her daughters Atanya and Yael went all out - what a spread. Quiches and rouladen and a pashteeda (like a quiche without the crust) and salads and cheeses and wine and cakes. Rude not to eat - no? And what did Marallyn and I give her for a present - you might well ask. A gift certificate to be our guest for dinner at one of my favorite steak places - more food.

And on Friday night Myra out-did herself with a sit-down dinner for twenty-one people. Starters consisted of avocado salad and kohlrabi & coconut salad (which we had in India at our friend Sheherazad's house and for which she emailed the recipe to us) and pate and onion jam (courtesy of me) and pickles and home-made wine-cured olives (courtesy of Aharon and Rivka) and seafood salad and an absolutely enormous challah (courtesy of Danny). And that was only the starters.

For the main course we had roast beef and stuffed turkey breast and a rice pilaf, and a casserole of white & sweet potatoes and green beans with almonds and two different green salads. Then she served homemade apple pie and poppy-seed cake and ice-cream cake and some kind of rich, dense chocolate truffle thing and cheese cake (courtesy of Orly) and assorted cookies (courtesy of Annette). And, as Arnon owns Yekev Anatot (Anatot Winery) - lots of good wine. Again - not a night for dieting.

And so my dear readers - I wish you all another good and healthy and happy New Year. Maybe not a slim one - but one filled with the joy of being with all your good friends and eating all that wonderful food - together.

Yalla, Bye.

Sunday, December 23, 2007



I'm going off to London for a few days at the end of January to my friend Stewart's 80th Birthday Party. I remembered that I had nikudot (points) on my El Al Europe account. So I asked my trusty Travel Agent, Ilana, to see how many points I had - enough for a free ticket? Yes. I needed 900 points - I had 944 - no problem. And - to make matters even better El Al is having a "special" until the end of the year - 650 points instead of 900 for a ticket to London. So that I have points left over toward another flight to Europe. Couldn't be better - no?

This morning Ilana called me. I have exactly the flights I want, seats on the aisle, the hotel I wanted - perfect. I have to pay "only" an additional $245 for the ticket. An additional $245 for the ticket? Yes. Why? For the fuel and airport taxes. Isn't that like going to a restaurant, ordering a meal and then being charged "additional" for the plates and cutlery? I don't understand.

Speaking of restaurants - I fail to understand why, when you order one quarter of a chicken you pay more for white meat than for dark meat. I mean one quarter is one quarter - is it not? Isn't one quarter 25% of a whole? Therefore, one quarter of a whole - whichever quarter it is - should be the same price as any other quarter - shouldn't it? I don't understand.

Still speaking of restaurants - I'll never understand Israelis. Nevermind that I've lived here just over 32 years and consider myself very Israeli - in some respects I guess. Most restaurants have what they call an eeskeet (a business lunch). It's a known fact that you can get the same food as in the evening - a whole meal in fact - for, very often, less than the normal price of the main course. And in most of the finest restaurants, too.

A week or so ago two friends and I decided to go out for lunch to "Buffalo Steak" - one of my favorite restaurants. When we got there at a little after 1:00 PM the place was empty. Absolutely empty. We sat down, the waitress gave us the menus - but there was no eeskeet menu. "May we have the eeskeet menu?" we asked. "Oh no - there is no eeskeet menu during the haggim (holidays)", she answered. True - it was Hanukkah - it was a hag - but the place was absolutely empty remember.

So - we very politely thanked her, said we would be back when they had the eeskeet menu for lunch and walked down the street to another of my favorite restaurants, "La Boca" - which was busy and jumping and was serving the business lunch. We had tacos, and fajitas, and kebabim, and entrecote, and potatoes and salad and tea with mint - for 69 shekels per person - about 17 American dollars. So - "La Boca" was doing a rip-roaring business serving their eeskeet and "Buffalo Steak" was empty. I still don't understand.

Yalla, Bye.

Saturday, December 15, 2007



As if my life weren't complicated enough already - we're now having a big kerfuffle in my family over what Hebrew name to use for my new grand-niece. Emails are flying fast and furiously across the Atlantic and we're all involved.

My brother - my two nieces - my nephew - my ex-sister-in-law - me - and it goes on. And just why is her Hebrew name so important? In our family it's the Hebrew name that's important. Babies are always named in memory of someone close who has died in order to carry the name on.

My niece and her husband, on the other hand, simply chose an English name they liked and we're now all busy sticking our noses into their business trying to come up with a Hebrew name.

When the baby was born they sent me an email telling me her name was Aidan/Aiden/Aidyn - they hadn't yet decided how to spell it! I voted for Aidan as I liked the way it looked. Aiden was my second choice and - as far as I was concerned - Aidyn looked like the name of a generic drug.

So her name is Aidan Rebecca. OK - Rebecca equals Rivka - which is in memory of my Mom - whose English name was Ruth and whose Hebrew name was Rivka - who would have been Aidan's great-grandmother. Also in memory of her other great-grandmother whose name was Regina - also beginning with an "R". Rivka covers two great-grandmothers - two "R's" with only one name one is left out.

But - although I don't know Regina's Hebrew name - I would bet it was Malka - Hebrew for Queen. Regina also means Queen. So that throws a spanner into the works - nowhere does an "M" fit into the equation. However, we'll go with the "R" for the sake of simplicity.

Be that as it may - Rivka takes care of her middle name. How about the first name? This morning I received an email from my niece asking for a Hebrew name for Aidan - which means "little fire" - in I don't know what language - Irish? Maybe. Little Fire in Hebrew translates into esh katan - I don't think so.

Here's my solution - which I sent on to my niece. Eden - which is pronounced just like Aidan - is a Hebrew word - as in Gan Eden - Garden of Eden. Just use Eden - sounds like Aidan - a Hebrew name by all means - and call her Eden Rivka in Hebrew. How's that for a solution? A name in memory of her two grandmothers plus a name my niece and her husband both like - done!!

And you thought life was simple?


Sunday, December 09, 2007



I'll tell you the truth. There are really times when I wish I didn't keep kosher at home. What brings that up? It's this way.

This evening I was watching IRON CHEF AMERICA on the Israeli Food Channel. Now - just because it's called the Israeli food channel it doesn't mean that all the programs are Israeli or in Hebrew or kosher - we also get programs from abroad and also Israeli programs that aren't kosher.

So anyway - there was I watching the food battle between Susur Lee of Toronto and Bobby Flay of New York. And what was the secret ingredient? Bacon. Four kinds. Irish bacon. American slab bacon. Italian pancetta - non-smoked bacon. And salt pork. With a little bit of caul fat thrown in for good measure. So what could be bad?

Just then the phone rang - and Marallyn was on the other end....she was watching the same show. (Did I tell you that we are addicted to the Food Channel?) "I'm drooling" she said. "I'm starving and I was just going to make myself a tuna sandwich". A tuna sandwich? How does that satisfy when the chefs are making ten different dishes with bacon? I could almost smell the bacon through the television.

And to make matters worse - one of the dishes was scallops and bacon - a simply divine combination and one that I always order in London at Manzi's. Wait - maybe the bacon and scallops were kosher. A good friend of Fred's was Harry Kemmelman - do you remember him? He wrote the Rabbi Books - "Friday the Rabbi Slept Late" was the most famous. Anyway - he once said to Fred that eating a ham and cheese sandwich was kosher - why? - because eating ham was a no-no and eating meat and cheese together was a no-no - soooooo - two negatives make a positive....thereby making a ham and cheese sandwich kosher. I wish.

So what did poor Marallyn have for dinner? I made a fabulous vegetable-turkey soup from one of the carcasses of my Thanksgiving turkeys and gave a care package to her - so she took it out of the freezer and that's what she had for dinner. Did it take the place of a BLT down with mayo or a grilled cheese and bacon? NO! But it sure beat a tuna sandwich.

And who won the Iron Chef competition? It was a tie. And I'll go to bed and dream of bacon. My house may be kosher - but my heart and my stomach sure aren't.

Yalla. Bye.

Sunday, December 02, 2007



Doesn't matter how you spell it - it's almost here again. And early again - although sometimes it's late.

Wasn't it just a few months ago that I was railing about Rosh Hashana being very early this year? It stands to reason that if Rosh Hashana was early this year then Chanukkah will also be early - but it's still too early for me.

Have barely finished with Thanksgiving - well, I still have a turkey carcass in the freezer to make another soup but to all intents and purposes Thanksgiving is over and done with for this year. I'm simply not ready for Hanukah to arrive - and this week yet. I haven't polished my chanukia - although I did break down and buy the candles last week.

Truth to tell - there have been soufganiot (jelly donuts) in the shops for weeks now. For those of you who don't know - soufganiot are the symbolic food for Hanukkah here in Israel - unlike latkes - also known as levivot here (pancakes - particularly potato pancakes) in the States. Yes - people do eat latkes here - but soufganiot are the preferred food. Doesn't matter how many years I'll live here - jelly donuts are what we used to buy on the way to the office (in New York) to eat with our morning coffee - not something symbolizing Hannuka. I'm a latka girl....and I'll always be one.

On Wednesday Marallyn is doing her annual Channukka bash - and while she'll serve soufganiot - l know she's also serving latkes - now that's Channukkah - however you want to spell it.

Have a Happy One.

Yalla. Bye

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