Monday, April 12, 2010

Swirling Thoughts #129 – Some days we spend in Israel. Others in Jerusalem.

When Bob left me watching our pushcart of shuk produce to go change money I started contemplating things I thought I knew and things I have come to know.

For example, I used to think everyone knew where Jerusalem was.
We are truly at the center of the universe here. At least that’s what I like to think when I look at Rachel Merav’s US Certificate of Birth Abroad and her US Passport – both of which list her place of birth as Jerusalem. Not Jerusalem, Israel. Jerusalem.

Apples from Austria, garlic from Italy and China, where are all these strawberries from?
As we had passed by vender after vendor calling out “Tutim! Tutim!” I realized strawberry season is not nearly as short-lived as I anticipated. A delightful surprise! (Though, in nine months I have yet to see a single cherry OR blueberry).

Shouldn’t shuk ka’ak outrank Kings Highway ka’ak?
I thought the ka’ak would be better here. It’s good – don’t get me wrong – but we’re pretty close to the original place of ka’ak making.

I think I want to start taking pictures of people taking pictures of food
I have seen more tourists photographing food in the shuk than photographing the Western Wall.

There’s still plenty of local produce
On a day when no shiitake mushrooms were to be found in the shuk, we were the beneficiaries of a bumper crop of shiitake mushrooms from Tekoa.

I thought my fish eating days were over
That is, when I asked the midnight delivery butcher what type of fish they had fresh and the woman told me all the fish comes frozen but if you soak it over-night in lemon juice, it won’t stink so bad. Hmmm… But alas, we found a reputable fish guy in the shuk. And so began my quest for something akin to Chilean Sea Bass. Through trial and error (what’s a fish error, you ask? Remember to ask them to take the skin off your tilapia if you do not want to fry the fish with the skin on!) I figured out that Princess of the Nile (which might be the same thing as Nile Perch) has at least the same look as Chilean Sea Bass. And so I set about ordering it.
Yesh Princess of the Nile?
Except that they had no clue what I was talking about. Until a kind woman passing by spoke up on my behalf.
Nesika ha Neelus!
Chilean Sea Bass it isn’t but it was fresh and yummy. And no lemon soak required.

My kids aren’t always craving sweets
They beg me for (plain) Cheerios in the morning and will also eat Kornflakim and Branflakim. And ka’ak. They speak wistfully about Fruity Pebbles but, for the most part, are no longer holding out for them.

Even if they brought 7-11 to Israel, some wise guy who knows better would replace the coffee station with something more Israeli…
As much as Bob loves his Turkish coffee everyone else here loves café afook (half coffee, half hot milk in a small cup). When I order a large café Americano, because that’s the closest I have gotten to the coffee I really want – the largest possible coffee in Seven Eleven – the waitress confirms for me that I want ‘coffee with water’. When she puts it that way, I no longer want it.

I looked up and I’m quite sure I saw Bob shouting at the money change guy before he walked out. You know the kind of shouting – animated, dramatic hand movements, a shocked, ‘MAPITON?’ As if the money changer just informed him that Jerusalem has its own currency. But more likely the money changer told him his rate of something close to 3.7 shekels per dollar.

Bob stood on the step outside for several minutes. And then he went back in. This wasn’t the black market money changing guy in the back of the Kent Store on Ben Yehuda. This was an official store-front money changing place. As far as I ever knew, you walk in, ask the rate, give your dollars, get your shekels and leave. I thought it was like a bank but with slightly better rates. Well as it turns out, it’s like the shuk. Just like you can negotiate prices on tutim, ka’ak, and fish, you can negotiate exchange rates.


  1. first food stop in new york - cherries on kings highway! (followed by sushi on avenue k, pizza on avenue j.......)

  2. is that you bob? i'm so jealous. bring me back cherries!!!