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Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Shavuot (last syllable rhymes with bloat)

Well, here it is …a few hours after the end (at least here in Israel) of the holiday of Shavuot (no…I’m not going to explain it…that’s why you have Google!), and I’m bloated from too much food. OK, this could be the aftermath of ANY Jewish holiday…the difference being that Shavuot menus traditionally feature dairy products.

If there is one thing that The Jewish State does well, it is dairy products! In the U.S. the dairy section of the grocery store has several distinct product categories such as yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese, cream cheese and hard cheese.

Here in Israel, the dairy counter is one long continuum starting from most liquid (milk) and ending with most solid (hard cheese). In between are all the same options available in the states, but with many gradations in between. For instance, if you want yogurt, but a little thinner, go with eshel or leben. Want something between sour cream and cream cheese? Try one of the many white cheese configurations in the 7% – 15% fat range. If you’re in the mood for cream cheese, there are about ten different gradations of richness, fat content and added content (olives, garlic, etc.). Towards the cheese end of the spectrum you’ll find a dizzying array of soft cheeses (brie, camembert, and berry (a nice mold coated goat cheese). The medium cheeses emulate (and in my humble opinion, surpasse) their Danish and Dutch equivalents for creaminess and flavor…and the hard cheeses are enough to make you swear off Swiss Ementel.

After Zahava put out her usual spread of motherly love (consisting of soufflés, casseroles and salads), I served my famous (at least among my friends and family) Kahlua® chocolate cheesecake with chocolate butter crumble crust for dessert. Diet? What diet??? I’m still buzzing from all the carbs.

We are all a little bleary-eyed from another traditional Shavuot activity: Staying up late (or all night) studying Jewish texts and/or listening to scholarly lectures. Zahava and Ariella faded sometime after midnight and went off to bed. Gilad and a few of his 8-year-old friends impressed me by attending lectures and studying ‘til dawn. I also stayed up all night listening to lectures and met Gilad for morning services. The neat thing is how it seemed everybody in town was up and involved in this all-night learning marathon. After services Gilad and I stumbled off, hand in hand, to a quick breakfast and passed out in our beds until lunchtime.

One of the really neat features of this year’s holiday was the traditional reading of the book of Ruth during the morning service. I have read this many times before, but knowing that much of the story played out in our part of the country (Efrat) makes it so much more ‘real’ for us.

It is now 10:00PM and my internal clock is hopelessly out of whack. Apparently so is Gilad’s since as I was typing the last sentence he wandered into our office to tell us he was having trouble falling asleep. I prescribed a small glass of chocolate milk and sent him on his way. Zahava shot me a horrified look, but to her credit remained silent on the evils of giving kids sweets at bedtime. Hey, c’mon…I know as well as you do that it probably won’t help him fall asleep…but it couldn’t hurt!

Posted by David Bogner on May 26, 2004 | Permalink

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I am swooning over your description of the plethora of dairy products! By the way, don't worry about the calories. Don't you know that holiday calories don't count?
Alrighty, off to Google Shavuot....

Posted by: Lisa | May 27, 2004 3:06:13 AM

hehe-I had the same thoughts on the dairy aisle of the supermarket. The funny thing is, most of these products have only shown up in the past 10 -12 years. The variety of dairy products here has always been greater than where we lived in the US (with the exception of yellow cheese), but when we came back from our self-proclaimed exile in the Diaspora in 1991, we were astounded at how many new dairy products there were and how many products from smaller dairies were available at the supermarket. Believe it or not, Israeli mozzarella didn't come about until Pizza Hut and Domino's were a part of the Israeli diet. (My word! How can one even say Pizza Hut, Domino's and diet in the same sentence!? LOL )

Posted by: jennifer | May 28, 2004 12:40:46 AM

Re: Dominos and Pizza Hut

Did n't they go the way of Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, KFC, Carvel, and all those other failed American food joints?

It's ironic the way everyone hates the Americans around the world, but embrace their food culture...yet here where there is a genuine love for things American, the cultural food icons don't 'click' with Israeli tastes.

Posted by: David | May 28, 2004 9:26:55 AM

Pizza Hut, Dominos and KFC are alive and well in our area and not only are they adding to my calorie/cholesterol nightmare, but they also deplete our bank account on a regular basis. ;) That also goes for breakfast cereal, which has been the only real "leftover" from our 6 years in the US.

Posted by: jennifer | May 28, 2004 11:38:31 AM

Most or all of those places closed in the Jeruslaem area...I guess you Gush Dan folks are more worldly. :-)

Breakfast ceral is the one thing (besides my Peets coffee fix) that we carried over from our 'old life'. Shabbat morning the kids get the sugar cereal treat du juor (Cap'n Crunch, Cocoa pebbles, et al). Then its fun to watch them hover a few inches off the floor for the rest of the morning.

Posted by: David | May 28, 2004 11:45:41 AM

Believe it or not, we've tried desperately to hang on to our habit of unsweetened cereal once we moved home. It's been a real challenge, but regular Cheerios, Kellogg's Corn Flakes (NOT Telma!) and Quaker Oat Squares are our usual staples, with a dose of Cap'n Crunch (NOT peanut butter, as son #2 is deathly allergic to peanuts) or Nestle's Crunch thrown in. I put my foot down when they started asking for Sugi or Ugi. (yeeeeech!)

Now, I've shared my cheesecake recipe. How about yours? ;)

Posted by: jennifer | May 28, 2004 10:38:16 PM

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