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Meat, Greet and Good Friends — Israel’s Independence Day 2012

Illuminated Israeli flag at Azrieli Center on Independence day, Tel Aviv, Israel
© Hanan Isachar / SuperStock

Tonight is the beginning of Israel’s 64th birthday celebrations.  All over the country people gather together in public parks to listen to music, dance a little, watch the fireworks and basically party.  And tomorrow?  Tomorrow the whole country heads outdoors for the national sport of Israel, barbecuing, or in other words, the art of mangal.

We get together with our friends in Ra’anana every year, and it can become a bit rowdy…

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Standing Together — Yom Hazikaron 2012

Hila Betzaleli poses at the Mount Herzl parade grounds, two hours before the tragedy in which she lost her life (photo credit: Channel 2 News)

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Blame It On The Volcano

Repeat after me — Eyjafjallajoekull.  I dare you to spell it, let alone pronounce it.  I grew up in a family where Swedish was the secret language, so Scandianvian is not exactly gobbledygook to my ears.  But Eyjafjallajoekull?  Really?  I think I mentioned a word remotely similar the last time I came out of a general anesthetic haze.

Until last week, how many of us even knew this place existed?  I want to see a show of hands!  I’ve even been to Iceland, and still could have gone on and happily lived my alloted 120 years without ever mentioning this volcano.  But my life’s motto has once again come to bite me in the tushy — man plans, God laughs.

Ju-boy, my husband, left last Sunday, Sunday OVER A WEEK AGO, for a one week business trip to Manchester, England.  “See you next Sunday, ” he said, “when you pick me up at the airport.”  Hah!  If you listened intently, in between the sound of planes taking off and landing, you could hear the Fates cackling in the distance.  Next Sunday has come and gone, and Ju-boy is still in England, thanks to that unpronounceable volcano and its ash plume.  The man is trapped on an island.  I am married to Gilligan. 

He’s one of the lucky ones.  I have a friend who lives in New York who wrote me that Kennedy Airport is starting to resemble a refugee camp with all the travelers trying to get back to Europe.  No place to stay, no change of underwear, these people are really at the mercy of the volcano.  At least Ju-boy has friends and family in London, where he’s now staying.  At least Ju-boy is there on business, and is now firmly ensconced in the London office of his company clicking away on his computer.  At least Ju-boy has a credit card and knows where to buy the presents we all hinted at (if he wants to come home without the locks having been changed, that is).

Last Thursday he called me with laughter in his voice, “I may not be able to come home.”  Ha ha.  On Friday I could still hear him smiling over the phone.  On Saturday night he was looking at driving to Madrid and taking a plane home from there (until we heard they closed Madrid, and Barcelona, and then Athens…).  On Sunday, well, it just wasn’t funny anymore.  Now it’s Monday, tonight and tomorrow is Israel’s Independence Day, and we are on separate continents.  Ha ha?  Not! 

So here I am, keeping the home fires burning, or at least the air conditioning working.  I’ve been invited to join friends in their Independence Day celebrations, but am in the year of mourning for my mother so am avoiding any celebrations in any case.  Ju-boy and I were just going to have a quiet day at home.  Now, I will.  Ju-boy will spend the holiday tomorrow in the London office.  At least the tea will be decent.

So I’m a bit down, and when I’m down (or up, or anything), I like to cook.  My daughter Didi is home tonight from her National Service, and it just took her to say three words to get me into the kitchen:  mac ‘n’ cheese!  Or is that two words and a contraction?  In any case, word count aside, I whipped up my usual go-to recipe, it emerged piping hot from the oven just as Didi emerged piping hot from the bus from Afula.

It’s amazingly simple to make, so simple, that I actually have to think about it to write it all down, since it’s so automatic.

Simple Mac ‘n’ Cheese

500 grams (one pound) shell-shaped pasta

250 grams (1/2 pound) shredded mozzarella cheese

250 grams (1/2 pound) shredded mild Cheddar cheese

1 cup light cream (I used 10% fat)

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste (I use a lot)

Flaked sweet paprika, mostly for color

  • Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until al dente.  Drain and rinse.
  • Preheat the oven to 180 degree C (that’s 350 to those of you who think in F).
  • Pour the pasta into a large bowl, add the cheeses, cream, black pepper and paprika.  Mix.  Don’t be afraid to use your hands.
  • Pour into a greased 11 X 13 inch baking pan.
  • Bake for about 25-30 minutes.  You want the top to be nice and crunchy while the underside is creamy and gooey.
  • For more crunch, bake this in a wide and shallow dish.  For more gooey, use a smaller and higher dish.
  • Serves 6, depending on the emotional state of the eaters.

Excuse the pictures, I was always better at English lit than at art…

Notice the chip in the bowl.  I love that chip.  My daughter Tinky made that bowl in one of those pay-lots-of-money-to-paint-some-crockery places and the thing got chipped right away.  Instant character.

For a closer look at the lovely flakes of paprika…

No quite the food one serves in Israel on Independence Day, but then, blame it on the volcano.  Chag same’ach everyone!  !חג שמח

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