My apologies for the long break from food blogging, but this year I got a different job as a tutor for my college’s Center for Writing and Speaking and administration wasted no time in telling me that I could no longer work in the kitchen.
After this initial disappointment (to put it mildly) it was difficult to talk about food and my food experiences when I was not only allowed to cook (no ovens) but also not allowed to be around food preparation.
Baking and cooking is such a major part of my life and one of the primary ways I feel I can experience the world in a tactile way. This is how I get my hands dirty. And if I can’t literally dirty my hands I’ll do so figuratively.
A little over a month ago I took a 10 day trip to Israel through the Birthright program and GA Hillels. Now I’m a pretty picky eater, for all that I love talking about and making food, and I was concerned that I would not find food abroad I actually enjoyed. I don’t like many sauces. If things come with toppings I prefer them plain. That’s the attitude I went to Israel with.
And then the first full day we were in Israel, we stopped for lunch at this mall-complex and I stood waiting in a line behind at least 50 people to get a falafel. Although this might make me a bad Jew, I had never had a true falafel before. Sure I had had the chickpea balls, but I had only eaten them outside of the pita and in all honesty they were poorly prepared and incredibly dry. Yet here I was waiting in line for something that I had only a vague concept of and did not know what strange toppings would be applied to my lunch.
As I got closer to the front of the line I realized that at the falafel man was crazy! He was moving rapid speed, tossing every single ingredient into the pita and I couldn’t even tell what the separate toppings were because they were all mixed together through the quickness of his movements. He kept yelling things like Yala (let’s go) and Yeehaw! just for the fun of it. When it was finally my turn to order he had already packed my falafel with everything and though I wanted to ask him to at least hold the sauce, he was already drizzling some white sauce on top of it all.
This is approximately what it looked like:
I would love to say that I learned something that day, but that would be a lie. I learned more than one something. I learned I like hummus and tahini sauce (the white drizzle I was so scared of) and that tomatoes are not just gross things to pick out of chunky pasta sauce. There was something so full in the flavor of the falafel that I wouldn’t have expected because at least three of the main ingredients (the falafel itself, the hummus, and the tahini) all come from chick peas. Yet each chickpea item added something to the overall taste where nothing felt like you were tasting the same food three times. And the best part was that although the falafel balls are fried, the dish didn’t taste, or even feel, oily! It was great.
As we traveled through Israel, falafels became my go-to food because they were cheap, easy to find, and easy to eat on the go. Even if you never get a chance to go to Israel, I highly recommend giving a falafel a try.