Saturday, September 16, 2006


The bar-b-que is an integral part of Israeli culture.

It is taken very seriously.

There are various types of grill-meisters here. There are the "al ha esh"istes - those who do it "over the fire". They are the high class grillers who abide by the rules and go to recognized bbq areas, bringing wine, fancy meats and home made salads, real cutlery and crockery. They are also the ones who pick up their garbage after the fact.

There are the "hafla"istes. They go out into the desert and build a bonfire, watch the full moon and are shanti, bringing things like ratatouille in pans to cook on the side of the fire, hunks of lamb to grill on sticks and finjian to make Arab style coffee in afterwards. They burn their garbage, and bury what can't be burned.

Then there are the "mangal"istes. These are the ones who come in their about to be reposessed off-road vehicles, wear lots of gold chains, have wives with hennaed of bleached blonde hair and sparkles on their talons. They arrive with 17 children in tow, have bellydancing music coming full blast from their oversized overextended speakers, and don't know how to talk in anything lower than a bellow. They are not picky as to place, in fact their chosen locations are where they can best interfere with the enjoyment of others.

Their bbq consists of frozen supermarket kebabs, burgers and sausages, salads with best before dates for sometime next year, and wine that vinegar would be ashamed to be associated with. At the end of their visit they leave their plastic plates, cups and cutlery on the picnic tables, their styrofoam meat trays beside the empty garbage bins and their wine bottles shattered and broken for all to step on.

I am an advocate of the first two schools of bar-b-que.

The latter school I avoid at all costs.

SistR and family sent me an invitation for a Saturday al ha esh, "convening for drinks at 17h30, aiming to eat at around 18:00", with an addendum, for those who don't know the location, that it was " The ONE WITH THE INTERCOM DOOR, not the junkie joint". This is a necessary notation as there are 3 entrances with the same number, 2 of which are really, really scary. They aren't ours...

Being a little limited in terms of motion tolerance right now, my contribution was made with whatever was available in the house. I made an Asian tabbouleh thing, even though I had planned on making a potato salad (specially requested by one of the guests).

One makes do with what one has.

I steamed some quinoa instead of bulgur - I prefer the taste and texture, it stands up better to the addition of any liquids that leak from the veggies. Medium diced pumpkin, sweet & white potato, red peppers & onions were tossed in oil and thrown into the oven to roast slowly until they were browned and crispy (well, the potatoes anyways). Lots of green onions, all of my Chubeza green onions and parsley, a bunch of coriander, Thai basil and a birdseye chili pepper, fish sauce, light soy sauce, sweet apple vinegar (not cider - apple - its Japanese and really yummy), garlic, ginger, black pepper and white onion and a touch of sesame oil. While the quinoa & veg were cooling I fell asleep - it is a great escape from pain. 15 minutes after I was supposed to arrive I woke up, threw on some clothes, mixed all of my separate bowls together, threw a basil sprig into the middle and limped upstairs (thank goodness I live in a building with an elevator, otherwise I would be wearing out the seat of my trousers!).

The group that SistR had invited are journalists at Ha'aretz newspaper, and a very nice crowd they are too. I do have to keep my mouth shut about work, but to be politic I do ask them to send my regards to the journalists I know who work the hi-tech beat.

I sat and held court, being waited on leg and foot (my hands were occupied with a Heineken). The men occupied themselves with starting the fire (dinner at 18:00 was a bit of wishful thinking), and then, once it was well and truly lit, added more coals just in case. As a consequence, once the first ash had appeared the heat was so intense that they had to wait another 30 minutes before they could put the first of the meat on the barbie. But the wait was worth it. Chicken breasts, kebabs, shishlik and kabanos from Hinnawi, green salad, humous, tehine, beer and wine, all in quantities that could sink a ship.

Desserts were refrigerator cheese cake and a ricotta lemon pie
They both disappeared too quickly to take pictures.

Like any good get together there was good conversation,
good food, and a good time had by all.

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