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 stuck. 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 a “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 a 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 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.