Sunday, October 01, 2006

Nahalat Binyamin

They say that yesterday was the hottest day this summer.

I was part of the fools and Englishmen brigade,
strolling out in the noon-day sun.

I don't know what the actual temperature was, but unlike this cat, I couldn't huddle in the shade of a car. When we finally succumbed and decided to stop for a bite and a sip at a little bistro/cafe in Nahalat Binjamin, all of the tables were clustered around what little puddles of shade the umbrellas made.

There is a bright side to this though {if you will excuse the pun} and that is that the coffee stayed hot and the bagel toasts stayed gooey.

This is a bagel toast. It is another in the vast array of inexpensive snack foods that the Israeli people hold near and dear. Being at a sit down place with wait staff, we were served an oval, holeless, flat, bagel-y flavoured bun, with lots and lots of sesame seeds firmly embedded in the crust. Inside was yellow and cream cheeses and sundried tomatoes, and served on the side was a chopped salad, grated carrots, good olives and a garlic mayonaisse dressing {for the salad or the sandwich, I wasn't sure}. Personally, I am a bit of a purist when it comes to bagel toasts, plain old yellow cheese, tomatoes, green olives - no sauce, no bulgarian feta, no cream cheese. I think the best ones can be found at the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station, on the 6th floor, but that might come of always getting one after the four hour journey from Eilat at 23h00.

Digression: I rarely go to the station, not if I can possibly help it, not because of the possibility of suicide bombers, but because I prefer to travel by rail when at all possible {bombers can blow up trains just as easily...},

Anyway, we sat in the sun, and I drank my coffee, contemplating that the barista movement has yet to reach Israel. I have to admit, however, that in all honesty, the coffee has improved dramatically since I first arrived here 10 years ago.

Imagine my shock and dismay, when ordering a cappucino when I first arrived in country, and being presented with a cup of Elite instant coffee topped by parve whipped cream.

So I sat drinking my perfectly acceptable coffee on a sunny afternoon and watched the spectacle that is Nahalat Binyamin, a pedestrian street with all kinds of crafts {and the very occassional piece of real art} for sale. There are also street musicians, and buskers, and we were fortunate enough to be sitting right beside a very respectable example, who entertained us by:

playing an accordian {well}, singing {also well considering he is about 90} and accompanying himself with old car horns, tin cans, plastic trays and a variety of whoops, whistles, barks and howls.

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