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Jerusalem Surprises

Anytime you travel its natural to anticipate the food you will enjoy. Whether it’s seafood by the coast, Creole in the South, a slice of gas station pizza (Casey’s is pretty good if you haven’t tried it) or the unfamiliar tastes of a foreign land, there are always some expectations no matter how open-minded you set out to be.

fresh cucumber saladb

Before leaving for the Holy Land, I talked with friends who had been there and felt like I had a good sense of what we would encounter. But as you know, one can’t be what he’ll be eating on a road trip in the states…let alone another country.

Just having completed our third full day in Israel, I’m happy to say that I’m loving the food! However, it’s not the dilemma some speak of where they can’t find anything to eat when traveling abroad. Being an adventurous eater, I always expect to find something I will enjoy no matter where I go and all to often I expect it to be fantastic. That usually means some disappointment along the way.

With the opportunity of tasting so many new and wonderful combinations my hopes were pretty high, and luckily they’re being met for the most part. There have been a few unexpected twists along the way, both good and bad, that I wanted to share.

  1. Where’s the HUMMUS!?!? — We’ve only had hummus once. In talking with a few friends who had visited themselves, they all said even picky eaters can find dishes they like to eat. Most pointed to the abundance of hummus. But we’ve only seen it once. That was at lunch in the Armenian Quarter of Old Jerusalem, and they don’t serve it here in the same portions as we’re used to. Just a small bread plate full of the creamy mixture was all that was provided for a table of seven. Even looking for it on the menu of the cafes in the open air shopping mall, hummus was not listed (of course that’s what happens when The Hubs says he doesn’t care where we eat as long as they have hummus…haha).
  2. Meat or cheese: pick ONE — In dining choices, you have to decide whether you want meat or cheese to be the focus of your meal. Locals first describe an eatery by saying “It’s a meat restaurant” or “It’s a dairy place”. That’s because mixture of milk and meat is prohibited by Kosher dietary laws. And to a Mid-Western girl, not having access to some serious protein three times a day takes some getting used to. While I tried to study up before the trip, I suppose I didn’t realize meat and dairy weren’t even served in the same restaurant. Both our lunch and dinner yesterday were meatless. That meant lots of pasta, bread and cheese – hazard for my waistline! I did opt for grilled fish with veggies and salad for dinner, but that was after the fried stuffed mushrooms and pizza for appetizers on top of the lasagna and Gruyère potatoes at lunch (uh-oh!).
  3. Salads, salads everywhere! — One of my favorite culinary experiences of the trip so far is the abundance and selection of fresh salads! Even at breakfast, the buffet is filled with salads of all varieties and colors: lentil, tabouli, fruit, caprese, potato, cucumber tomato onion, fruit mixed with greens. The choices go on and on.  Plates of several different salads will sometimes be waiting on the table when we arrive for a meal: diced carrots in olive oil with herbs, pickled beats, cous cous and fresh veggies, three different kinds of coleslaw! It’s fantastic! My favorite so far has been a combination of cucumber, red onion and dill with slivers of smoked salmon. The most unexpectedly delicious is a concoction of fruit like oranges and strawberries with cucumber, chopped celery and celery leaves….so fresh and bright!
Carrot salad with cous cous and hummus in background

And this is just the beginning. We have several more days of dining in the Holy Land. One of 0ur guides told us we were hitting all the good lunch spots early in the trip. So I might soon be sizing up Israeli boxed lunches to our American deli sandwiches. But no matter how they stack up, the experience is incomparable.

Grilled chicken and beef meatballs at an Armenian Tavern

When I get home, I look forward to finding the best KC spots that serve some of my new favorites!

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