The Israeli Salad
Every immigrant to Israel has to deal with culture shock, I'm told. So far, I haven't seen much to distinguish Israel from California except for cobbled sidewalks ( a plus ), loads of available kosher food, markets and restaurants (a major plus) a plethora of synagogues (another major plus) smokers (a minus) and incessant horn-honking, a practice that could get you killed in California, so it startled me at first.
The thing that has struck me most strongly is that Israel is a small country. I don't mean just geographically: the cars are small, the streets are small, the people are on the average shorter than the average American. But where 'small' is most noticeable is in the markets. There is no such thing as 'super-size' anything. Shampoo, sandwich bags, deoderant, even the cucumbers, pineapples, watermelons and bananas are much smaller than those found in the States (they also taste better here, by the way).
The major exception to this rule is salads. In Israel, the salad is not necessarily something served on the side of the main course. The salad is a meal in itself. The salads are HUGE. I've been known to order salads and not be able to finish them. I've frequently ordered a 'salad and two forks' since a single salad can feed me and another member of the family.
Not only are the salads HUGE, they're also creative. Salads here are more inventive, more fun and use more combinations of ingredients than I've seen used anywhere, including the vaunted California Cuisine of the West Coast.
You can get a salad as a side dish. We got an 'appetizer' last night at a new restaurant on Emek Refaim called La Boca. The 'appetizer' was a wonderful meat empanade with a simple salad--this appetizer plate was a meal in itself. I've ordered a 'salad' under the appetizer list at Joy and happily eaten the salad alone, as the salad was a meal in itself.
Salads come in every conceivable combination. Salads with a variety of greens; salads with no greens; salads with cheeses I've never heard of but are wonderful; salads loaded with Feta; "Arab" salads with the usual tomatoes and cucumbers, but each one different--some with capers, some with green onions, some with fennel, all with a variety of different herbs and spices. Salads with pastas, salads with sweet potatoes and nuts, salads with oriental themes, salads of fruits and yoghurts....salads here are ubiquitous and you can't ever get tired of salad in Israel. There are just too many of them and they ARE the one exception to the 'small' rule I've found.
Trust Israel, tiny as it is, to feed its people BIG portions of the fruits, nuts and vegetables from its bounty.
And if you're going to enjoy the delicious bounty of this time of year, with it's turn to a New Year and new hopes, amid the joy and celebration of your families, please take a moment to think of those who would also like to enjoy the bounty of the New Year, and donate to Meir Panim, an organization which has valiantly stepped in to feed Israel's hungry.
On Yom Kippur, Isaiah instructs us:
Surely you should divide your bread with the hungry
and bring the moaning poor to your home.
When you see the naked, cover him,
and do not ignore your kin.
Then your light will burst forth like the dawn
and your healing will speedily sprout.
Then your righteous deed will precede you
and the glory of God will gather you in.
Then you will call
and God will respond.
May you be inscribed for a good year, and may the tzedakah you perform merit HaShem's blessing on all of us.