Friday, September 29, 2006

Friday Again

and the Carmel Market called my name...

It's mango season and everywhere I turn there are orange and red and green and every possible permutation thereof of mangos. Everybody here seems to adore the Mai'a mango. They are small, almost hair free and impossibly sweet {Israeli's have very sweet teeth}. The problem in my view is that they don't taste particularly "mango"y. The wild, exotic flavour has been bred out of them in favour of the sugar gene. There are big green mangoes here, shaped like the Alphonse, which look completely unripe, but when you cut into them, they have the brightest orange flesh, firm, juicy and oozing with flavour.

Have you ever noticed that they have a vaguely "piney" taste? Could that be because they are an evergreen, and just like pine trees, don't lose their leaves in winter.

What I always find surprising is that, in spite of the fact that so much of the fruit here is picked unripe, another odd preference of the Israeli's, you can't find green, unripe mangoes to make Thai Green Mango Salad. Maybe that is why they breed for sweetness, to make up for the fact that everything is picked before it's time. When you eat an Israeli made salad they use Mai'a's and then, instead of cutting back or cutting out the sugar, they add huge quantities of white stuff. Ugh.

The last of the white peaches were also out in force, but they are already mealy and good for cooking, not eating out of hand.

Being the Friday before Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and a day of fasting {if you do that sort of thing}, the market was even more jam-packed than usual. Everybody was stocking up for a four-day-weekend. This meant seemingly buying enough for a 3 week seige. There is a definite starvation mentality here - possibly the influence of the grand- and great-grandparents and the traumas they went through. Possibly just because every single holiday here is focused on food and traditions surrounding what to eat when, the lack thereof {there are a lot of fast days for the truly devout} and the meals that are eaten to break the fasts.

My father, when he was young and oblivious, took advantage of that fact when he decided that one extra day off wasn't enough for Rosh haShana. He looked in the book of holy days and found that there was one immediately following - the Fast of Gedalia. So with his parents consent, he went to synagogue for an hour or so, and then took the rest of the day off.

The next day at school he was called down to the Headmaster's office...

"Boy, where were you yesterday?"

"Oh sir, please, I was at synagogue sir."

"Synagogue boy?" rumbled the Headmaster ominously.

"Yes sir, sir," said my father earnestly, "it was the Fast of Gedalia, sir."

"The Fast of Gedalia boy?" echoed the Headmaster, and turned to his book of Jewish holy days.

"Yes sir." answered my father in a quavering voice.

"Boy, your parents must be most extremely religious," said the Headmaster looking up as my father just nodded, not wanting to lie out loud. "You were the only Jewish student who was out of school yesterday".

My father just nodded again and sighed with relief when the Headmaster said "Dismissed", and he was allowed to go with no reprimand, or worse yet, a caning.

Unfortunately, at least in this one way, my father brought us up without any formal religiousity, so I couldn't play hookey using the excuses he did.

Bananas are back in the market with a vengeance,

appearing in huge green bunches. Hands and hands and hands of them. When you travel up north towards Haifa, you pass banana fields with thousands of trees with their stalks of bananas in varying stages of growth.

When they get to a certain size the bunches are protected with giant blue condoms. As you drive by, the trees appear to have pendulous blue flowers growing on them instead of fruit.

Another thing at the market this week was the number and variety of amulets, charms, pendants and necklaces against the evil eye. Little metal hamsah's {so named after the five fingers on the hand} waved from most of the stalls, and everybody was wishing everybody else a good fast, Happy Holiday and a good signing in the Book of Life.

Everybody was trying to stock up on good luck before the holiday.

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