images of israel

I’m back home, but still dreaming.  Travel will do that. Linger relentlessly, populating your dreams, disturbing your sleep patterns. Syracuse is folding into spring rather reliably, but I am slow — crawling, not skipping, back into normal life.

Here are some of the things that stick. I know I owe you a recipe or two, but please, let me indulge for just one more post.

Pistachios rolled in light crispy nests that crumble between your teeth and have just the perfect amount of sweetness. I didn’t take the chance to ask their name, I was too busy digging in my pockets for more shekels.

In North America it seems our sweets are always trapped behind glass, meticulously arrayed on delicate plates and boasting of extravagance. In many of the places I’ve visited — Africa, India, Israel, to name three — sweets play a different role. They’re part of everyday life, not an “sinful indulgence.” Vendors display them in the open air, as if making offerings to the gods. For less than a dollar you can buy just enough to satisfy, and on you go.

Dried things and bins of mysterious staples. Everywhere food mingling with the everyday. Walking to work between buckets of olives, children playing beneath tables of butter-smooth dates, women stopping to stock up on wine and Challah bread for Shabbat.

Paradoxical strawberries: huge, but tasting of the tiny field berries of summer. Bananas sweeter and fresher than any others I’ve tasted.

Rugelach and pastries decorate the night. Laughter spills out of cafes, and piles of poppyseed, cinnamon, cheese, and chocolate-filled pastries tempt. Sesame seeds stick to your lips as you walk back to your hotel.

Nuts and fruit of all colors, dried kiwi and pineapple and salty almonds, still in their shell. Crystallized figs and all manner of tea and spices tower like make-believe mountains. My bags bounce against my hip as I swerve to avoid a motorcycle zipping down an alley in the Old City. I stop to buy a piece of fresh, soft halwa, its texture like dense cotton candy. It dissolves instantly on my tongue — sensation becomes memory.

I’m back in the land of sprawling grocery stores and incredible variety. Mexican for lunch and Chinese for dinner? Why not. Lemongrass and peanut butter and whole grain bread, all within a few feet from each other.

A walk through a distant land has once again reminded me of all that I have, and of all that I take for granted. It’s good to be home, but sometimes I wish my streets were lined with such bounty. I guess back home we just have to look a bit harder for the things that delight.

5 thoughts on “images of israel

  1. March 20, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    Beautiful photos Jen. I can’t wait to hear more about your experiences in Israel.

  2. Ed
    March 21, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    the photos are compelling and many will be waiting for the pistachio recipe.

    1. Jen
      March 21, 2009 at 7:44 pm

      Hi Ed, unfortunately those aren’t things I made myself! I don’t even know what those delicious things are called let alone possessing a recipe. I would love it if someone knew…

  3. denise
    March 24, 2009 at 3:04 am

    Hi, I just ran across your blog (checking out your soba noodle recipe) and was drawn in by your beautiful photos! I ran a search and it seems that the treats pictured here are different types of baklava. I believe the first image is of Pistachio Mabroomeh (Rolled Pistachio) also referred to as Burma, Borma, or Barma(???). The second image is Ush El Bulbul or Pistachio U’sh (Pistachio Bird’s Nest). Here are two recipes, which I cannot personally vouch for: [http://www.geocities.com/islamic_lifestyle/Mabroomeh.html] and [http://www.astray.com/recipes/?show=Farareer%20(baked%20%22bird%27s%20nest%22%20pastries)]. Also, this forum thread has additional information: [http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=94598&hl].

  4. marksteen
    April 9, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    Nice pics!