Today is my anniversary. Not my wedding anniversary (that’s in July, silly). It’s my Israel anniversary. Exactly one year ago today I boarded a plane with two suitcases and moved to a country I had never before visited. It was on the plane that I realized how little I knew about Israel, how little Hebrew I knew. I had taught myself the alef bet (alphabet) and how to count to ten, but I didn’t even know how to say thank you. I was in the middle seat and the sweet old man next to me helped me put a bag overhead, moved when I needed to get out. And I couldn’t thank him. I felt suddenly helpless.
I remember getting off the plane and seeing my husband for the first time in two months. Pure joy. But mostly I remember how disoriented and lost I was. The train to Be’er Sheva was foreign and confusing. How do you know which platform is correct? When we finally arrived in Be’er Sheva an hour and a half later the cab dropped off someone else first and so went on a circuitous route. That distorted my mental map of the city for months to come.
It was Sukkot and my husband’s classmates were all on vacation. It seemed like the whole city was on vacation. “Do we live in a ghost town?” I asked. He swore it had been livelier the previous week.
Looking back now it seems silly that this small city would seem so foreign. My Hebrew is still far from fluent (when I say far I mean far) but I feel confident in my daily interactions: taking the bus, going to the shuk, ordering food in a restaurant (and even reading a menu in Hebrew), traveling to Tel Aviv. In many ways, it feels like I’ve been here forever.
In the last year I’ve also learned a ton about Israeli cuisine. I interviewed Janna Gur (my Israeli food hero and mentor on the subject), have met some wonderful chefs and eaten a lot of amazing food. The food blogging community in Israel is a strong one and I’ve found many blogs – and the bloggers behind them – to be incredible resources for a newbie like me trying to navigate an entirely new culinary culture. Cafe Liz, Food Bridge, and Israeli Kitchen are three that immediately come to mind. Of course my close friend Beth over at Beth Michelle is my partner in culinary crime and has made every exploration more fun. And I’ve been on food and wine tours around the country with Cook in Israel, Israel Food Tours, HaAtelie Talie Friedman, and My Israel Wine Tours.
In this year I have shared a number of Israeli recipes on this blog (mind you, my blog anniversary is Friday – and I have something special planned!). Since Israel is a young country made up of immigrants from around the world, Israeli cuisine is comprised of international dishes interpreted and incorporated in various ways. Here’s a round-up of four of my favorites (some traditional, some my own interpretations) from the past year: