A Little Help From My Friends
I made aliya (immigrated to Israel) in 1983 at the age of 20. I was a total fabrenteh Zionist. I intended to leave behind the life of instant America, the life of Taster’s Choice coffee, boxed macaroni and cheese and microwave knishes from the freezer section. I was going to cook only local, fresh food. I would be true to Israeli cuisine. Ju-Boy often uses a triple positive which I will borrow now: yeah, yeah, yeah…
Watch Anglo-Israelis come home for the first time…
It didn’t take me long to start missing the edible amenities of Americana. Israeli instant coffee just made the water dirty. Remember that Elite powder? There were three types of cheese, soft white, salty, and something called “yellow” which made a substandard mac and cheese with no discernible color. And knishes? There were no knishes! I didn’t think I would survive!
In the mid-80s and early 90s the Supersol chain of supermarkets instituted American Month every two years. American-Israelis would wait for it with bated breath. On my yishuv we didn’t have a Supersol, and we would have to travel in packs and venture out together into Jerusalem to empty out the inventory of a neighboring branch. It didn’t matter that the items on offer were overpriced and total crap to begin with. I bought my fair share of Drake’s Devil Dogs, Ronzoni Giant Shell pasta and six packs of Dr Pepper, all of which would cost ten times more than in your local Shop Rite in New York.
During the two year hiatus in between American Month sales we would occasionally come upon a store that was selling Lender’s frozen bagels, trays of Gabila’s frozen knishes or cases of Diet Dr Pepper or A&W root beer. The word would go out and the pilgrimage would ensue. I know people who would drive for hours to get some freeze dried coffee back then.
The situation gradually improved over the years, but minimally. In the summer of 2003 there arose a visionary by the name of David Curwin who thought that he could pool together the food knowledge of Anglo-Israelis all over the country, and the israelfood discussion list was born. Desperate in Dimona for Newman’s Own salad dressing? Varda in Efrat knows where to find some. Israeli butchers don’t have a clue as to American cuts of meat and you can’t figure out the system? List diva Ruth has the answer for you (still waiting for your cookbook to get published, Ruth!). We even had a field trip one year, a wonderful tour of the Machane Yehuda outdoor market, organized by the ever resourceful Fredi. Anglos need never be culinarily lost in Israel again, just as long as you subscribe to the list.
David is busy these days with his own linguistic blog, Balashon. I wish my father were still alive (and computer literate) to read his posts, he adored that stuff (and passed on his etymological love on to me). Yet, David still takes the time as list moderator, policing with patience and unruly group of hungry Anglos.
Japanese Pickled Radishes
David posted this recipe on the list last month. I grew up in a Hungarian household where a plate of fresh baby radishes graced the table every Friday night, so this intrigued me. It’s a simple recipe and if you like interesting pickles, this is for you. In David’s own words:
- 2 to 3 pounds small red radishes, washed, with tops and roots trimmed
- 2 tablespoons salt
- Fresh ginger slices, to taste
- » Vinegar sauce:
- 1-1/2 cups sugar
- 1 cup rice vinegar
- Pinch MSG, optional (I opted out here)
- Cut 1-inch X’s at the root end of radishes. Place in bowl and sprinkle with salt; let stand about 30 minutes or until radishes are slightly wilted. Drain, saving the salted liquid.
- Sprinkle ginger over radishes.
- To prepare sauce: Combine ingredients in pot with salted liquid. Cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves and sauce is clear.
- Pour hot sauce over radishes and ginger. Cool. Pack in jars; refrigerate at least 24 hours before eating. Serves 8 to 10.
You thought you were going to get a recipe for knishes, didn’t you!?!? Watch this space…