Tel Aviv Diary April 24-28, 2016 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel -Aviv Diary - April 24-28, 2016 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

April 24, 2016

We enter our home, check out the plants, take a shower, jump into bed and turn on the television. wow. what a difference! what a level! we have to go to sleep but how can we miss this discussion about the definition of rape by girls who have been raped and how can they complain ? how can we miss the news - which is really news? it is good to be home.

even the flight was amazing. because for the diaspora Jews Passover has to be celebrated twice with seders, whereas the Israelis have only one seder, our fellow travellers consisted only of non-religious Jews. The atmosphere of Israel, without the extreme elements of religion, but with the customs of Judaism - matzot, separation of milk and meat, etc. - was pleasant and welcoming.

April 25, 2016

What do you know - the waitress took our order for 6 people, without writing it down, and got it right. In the last few restaurants in the US every order was wrong, despite the double-check before the waiter left the table, and we were disappointed with our meals. Today the kids dragged me out to betacafe and everything was perfect. Except for the fact that they got the recipe wrong. Kichri. i have written about it often, and when i saw it on the menu I rejoiced. But it turned out to be a yuppee version of the old Iraqi recipe that I long for.

to make kichri you need to fry onion and garlic, add tomato paste, cumin, and salt, add 2 1/4 cups water and 1 1/2 rice and 3/4 red lentils and cook until a little burnt.The burnt part is my favorite.

But how, you ask, did we get rice on Passover? Are you kidding? We drank beer with it.

April 26, 2016

Heat wave today - but did we feel it? only in the crowding in the pool. I'm not going to go travelling around the country with all the people on vacation who don't know how to put out fires or where to pray.

The new custom of the 'high priests prayer' at the wall bothered me the most because it seems to me another element of creeping idolatry in this country. But prayer at Temple Mount is a close second.

then there are these barbecues vacationing families are making in all the picnic areas nationwide - barbecues that end with acres of forest land lost. As with the increased motoring accidents they are created by people who don't have enough leisure experience and education. We know they are going to happen, but we don't make sure people know how to prevent them when they go on vacation.

Even in the pool there was overcrowding and under-supervision. Balls, floating devices, splashing, kicking, etc. The two lifeguards seemed exhausted and never opened their mouths or moved from their chairs the whole 2 hours i was there.

Yeah, I know. I still had a great time. But I cannot forget the years I helped lifeguard at camp Seneca Lake where most of what was going on in the university pool would not have been allowed, and I kept expecting to hear the whistle and the "out of the pool!"

April 27-8, 2016

The lady of the house - is the usual definition. But there has long been a controversy about it. Today I was remembering the elegant food my late ex-mother-in-law used to make for Passover. Even breakfast was something special: not matzo brei, that demands breaking matzos into an egg mixture and frying it, but BURMUELOS, eggs and soaked matzoes boiled in sugar-water, or deep fried to make a kind of doughnut. The work that was put into a Sephardic kitchen was amazing, and took me years to learn and weeks to forget. Agristada, moussaka, marzipan, stuffed zucchini, cream cake. Even the coffee was boiled seven times before it was perfected to top the drink with a perfect foam.

Margalit had legs blackened with veins from standing in the kitchen.

My mother's house had simple food - you stuff the chicken (after it's been made into soup) into the oven with some potatoes and carrots, chop up the liver, add hard boiled eggs and an onion, etc . The whole meal shouldn't take more than an hour. dessert? lekach - sponge cake. My mother made gorgeous sponge cakes with 4 ingredients and could turn out 3 easily - two for gifts. Even the incredibly complex gefilte fish was done quickly. I would go to the fishmonger who would hand me the fish my mother had ordered, scales removed. she would grind the fish with egg and matzo meal, cook them in water with carrots and onions, and dispense with the stuffing of the fish back into its skin (a nafka mina - she'd say in Aramaic - it makes no difference), chill the fish and serve. Speed was a major factor in considering kitchen success. Of course everyone would love the food because it was basic and good.

the big difference is that while Margalit was cooking and baking incredibly delicate and complex dishes, washing bed linen with blueing to make them shine and ironing not only the sheets but also the underwear, and scrubbing floors on her knees, my mother Dvora was working as a book keeper, learning to be a Hebrew teacher, managing the Yiddish Culture Council, collecting money for JNF (I typed out the tree certificates she sold), Margalit, as I recall, was not allowed to do much of the shopping, since her husband handled the money, and the only escape allowed her was the weekly jour-fixe where card-playing was the only sport. She volunteered at the hospital once a week and served her children and family the other days.

So the term balbusta was right for both of them, but they had very different manifestations.

now i have to go back to cooking for tonight's holiday dinner.

To Karen Alkalay-Gut Diary

To Karen Alkalay-Gut home