Saturday, June 21, 2008



The other day I went to the butcher to buy a chicken. Now why is this so important? Because I discovered something about being an American - albeit an American / Israeli.

There are many butchers in Jerusalem but I only shop at a few of them - the creme-de-la-creme - you should excuse a dairy expression in a blog about meat. I sometimes shop at Yankele - who is married to an American and understands how Americans like their meat cut. So that when I ask for a first-cut brisket he knows exactly what I want. Then there is "Vered HaTzela" - which is a beautiful clean shop with beautiful clean meat - but the butchers aren't particularly friendly - although Ros does buy the most delicious entrecote roasts there - at a price that doesn't leave you with sticker shock.

Then there is Shuk Machane Yehuda (the outdoor market) where I usually buy my chickens and chicken parts - including feeselach (chicken feet) which you can't find anywhere else.

And finally - but most important - there are the Shoshani Brothers located in the Moshava (the German Colony) - across the road from my favorite cafe - "Caffit". Chaim and Rami - the Shoshanis - are the antithesis of any butchers you have ever seen. Both are tall and good-looking and are always immaculately dressed and coiffed and manicured. They don't wear aprons - they don't even wear white butcher's coats. And there is never a spot of blood or meat or fat on them - they might as well be hairdressers - so beautifully turned out are they. And that is where I do most of my meat shopping as well as ordering my turkeys for Thanksgiving.

So the other day I happened to be at the Post Office around the corner and decided to buy a whole chicken and was too lazy to drive all the way to the shuk - so I went into "Shoshani" for the bird.

Now - I have to digress for a minute and tell you about chickens in Israel. You can buy whole chickens - chicken parts - chicken innards - skinless, boneless chicken breasts and thighs, chicken schnitzels - but, interestingly, not bone-in-skin-on chicken breasts unless it's a special order - but you can buy thighs and drumsticks with the skin and bones. However - chicken wings and whole chickens with wings atttached are another are tussikim (tushies) - which are commonly referred to as the Parson's Nose - or as my Mother used to say when she was being particularly refined - "the part that goes over the fence last". The butchers throw that part away.

As for the shpitzim (that's the little third joint at the tip of the wing) - they throw those away, too. Why you might very well ask? Because Israelis don't like those parts! In fact - they even cut the chicken wings in half. Heresy! You need the little shpitzim when you want to fold in the wings when you are roasting so the wings don't flop around - and besides - they taste so good - as do the tussikim.

So - when Chaim brought out my chicken I checked for the shpitzim - which only occasionally remain attached by mistake. "What are you looking for?" asked Rami, as I rooted around in the bag. "The shpitzim and the tussik", I replied. At which point the brothers burst out laughing. They told me that only the Americans ask for those parts - and as they have a large American clientele they always leave those parts attached.

Little did I know. I have bought my last chicken in the shuk. From now on all my chickens will come from the Shoshanis - with the shpitzim and the tussikim attached.

No matter that I came here thirty-three years ago - and despite the fact that in many ways I am very Israeli - and despite the fact that Rami and Chaim and I always speak in Hebrew - deep down where it really counts - I will always be an American. There's no getting away from that.

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