Hummus or Hamas, They’re Not the Same Thing


 

For the record, humus and Hamas are not the same thing. That may seem obvious: one is a yummy chickpea-tahini spread, that is on or served with practically everything in Israel, and the other is an Islamic fundamentalist group that opposes peace with Israel. So you can imagine the horror when I found myself ordering “Hamas with meat,” at a restaurant in  Israel. Yep, that’s right, I ordered an Islamic fundamentalist with meat, for lunch.

The problem started with the impossible accent that is required to say things in Hebrew… it’s all the fault of the Hebrew language! That clearing of your throat kind of sound you use, to make certain “ch” and “h” sounds is tricky. My daughter prides herself on flawless pronunciation; me: not so much. So, every time I try to say Humus, which in English pretty much sounds like it looks, with a long u, she corrects me and makes this choking sound with her Hu. Ugh! All of which led me to get so tongue-tied and worried about pronouncing it right, that I found myself saying Hamas instead of Humus! Way to make friends in Israel!

Spices at the market

Spices at the market

The food in Israel completely rocked my time there. Each and every day I ate the most amazing foods, whether we were at a nicer restaurant or a “fast food” kiosk. Each day was a dining experience.  The color, the aromas, the incredible ingredients made every meal special. We would walk into a restaurant or the market place, and the smells of spice and wonderful things cooking was intoxicating, on a daily basis. Some days I was sure I smelled exotic foods everywhere we went.

One of the most surprising elements of my food experience was that every meal I had was kosher. My daughter keeps kosher, and here at home that has been a source of stress and disappointment—on both sides. Expensive meals that are rarely good, are hard to find locally. Kosher food, particularly kosher restaurants, is very challenging to find and enjoy together where we live. There are no kosher restaurants, so we need to find vegetarian places. Given that that is not an easy option either, we tend to not eat out together very often. In Israel, kosher options are everywhere. It’s wasn’t a matter of if, but which option we’d enjoy. Much to my surprise, the food was fantastic! It took the food element out of our daily list of decisions, and instead was just one more thing to enjoy together each day.

First breakfast- Shakshuka

First breakfast- Shakshuka

My first day in Israel started with the most amazing breakfast! At home, I rarely eat breakfast. I know, most important meal of the day and all, but I tend to get by on tea, sometimes a few Ritz crackers or nothing at al—since I gave up my latte three years ago (cup of milk= protein, right?). In Israel, every day started with a wonderful breakfast. The first one was at an incredible little book store cafe, which is listed in Lonely Planet as having one of the top 10 Shakshuka dishes in Israel, and is one of my girl’s favorite places.  Shakshuka is a traditional Middle Eastern dish, and an Israeli favorite, that consists of tomatoes, spice and sometimes other veggies (spinach is my favorite) “stewed” in a hot skillet, with eggs “poached” on top. It is generally served in the hot skillet, with sides of tahini (served with most meals), runny cheese, and often the common Israeli salad (served with every meal) of diced cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, and parsley. The flavors, that cook together

First latte in a long time... is that not gorgeous!

First latte in a long time… is that not gorgeous!

in the pan, make for a delicious, savory, and filling start to the day. It was the perfect way to initiate me into the fabulous, spice rich foods of Israel. My final day in Israel, on a tour of Old Jaffa, we ate at well-known Dr. Shakshuka’s restaurant. We ate outside in the exotically covered patio area and dined on Shakshuka the way it’s done in Tripoli, where the Israeli celebrity owner heralds from. It was delicious the second time as well! I broke down and had the first of what would be several lattes that week; it was heaven. (Note: the sweet yumminess of a good latte, almost drew me back to the dark side during my week in Israel, but I am back off caffeine and limping getting through my jet lag.)

 

A magic night, with Moshe Bason, at Eucalyptus

A magic night, with Moshe Bason, at Eucalyptus

From there it was a daily food journey. We ate at the famous Eucalyptus restaurant, which specializes in kosher foods from the bible. Beloved chef, Moshe Bason, generously made time to join my daughter and I and discuss his inspirations, and his interesting life as a chef and a Jew. His family history is fascinating; his food is magic! He sat with us and shared interesting stories, including the time he served a renowned group of world Rabbis, and put together a spectacular meal of biblical dishes, including giraffe, which required special slaughter techniques, to observe kosher laws. Not only did he take the time to sit and share a drink with us, he kindly made a surprise chocolate soufflé for me, and created a halvah (the nut butter variety) with hibiscus syrup, that was a work of art!  (Shown: Wonderful foods at Eucalyptus: Halvah and hibiscus syrup; Duck stuffed “egg roll;” selection of sauces with fresh bread, and traditional Lebanese rice dish made for a group of soldiers, but shared with us.)

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I ate fresh fish often, always served whole, cooked in aromatic spices, and generally grilled. Taking pity on the countless feral cats around the country, I had the heads and tails wrapped each meal and then shared them on the streets, something that earned me lots of teasing by my girl. The cats loved me. St. Peters fish is the most popular fish in Israel, I would venture to say, and I tried it several different times. As on offset to the many incredible kosher meat meals I had during the week, the fish was consistently light and delicious. Each meal was served with a variety of spectacular vegetables. The Israelis epitomize the values of the slow food movement. It’s rare to find anything on a menu, that isn’t grown locally, and isn’t prepared traditionally.

 

Here kitty, kitty. The cats loved me... and my fish heads.

Here kitty, kitty. The cats loved me… and my fish heads.

One of many excellent fish meals

One of many excellent fish meals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sabich: The best sandwich ever!

Sabich: The best sandwich ever!

One of the best meals I had during the week, was an all together surprise. We stopped at a chain restaurant, Café Hillel, in Jerusalem, to get a quick lunch. In addition to another perfect latte (which seemed to be available everywhere we went), I ordered Sabich—a popular Israeli sandwich that is a pita stuffed with fried eggplant, hard-boiled egg, hummus, tahini and some Israeli salad. This was just about my favorite lunch I had all week, and so unexpected! It seemed like a quick, easy lunch and even this quick option was a thrill a bite!

Cinnamon roll and latte at the Friday Shuk (Famed Mehane Yehuda market, the Jewish market on the morning before Shabbat begins); fish Carpaccio, and some of the most amazing Hummus possible, were daily treats— The food was “icing” on days that were filled exploring the ancient, Holy City of Jerusalem, floating in the Dead Sea, exploring the Golan Heights, day tripping at the sea caves in Rosh haNikra (at the border of Lebanon and Israel), and enjoying my girl.  (Shown: A morning at the Shuk: Fresh produce is spectacular, and a perfect latte and cinnamon roll only complete the day!)

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My trip to Israel was filled with adventure, cultural experiences, new emotions and amazing sights, sounds and tastes—daily. The food made the entire experience that much richer and exciting, but that was not everything. Spending time with my girl was absolutely the best part, but there were so many other special things to enjoy. In the next posts, see some of the sites and beautiful scenery we explored in Israel. Ride along as I share Israel with you.

Have you been to Israel? What did you think? Fan of Middle Eastern food? Is food a major component of your travel? Share your favorite travel experiences in the comment section— start a dialogue!  If you enjoyed this post, take a second and hit Like. Feel free to Share (with credit).

 

About Dawn Quyle Landau

Mother, Writer, treasure hunter, aging red head, and sushi lover. This is my view on life, "Straight up, with a twist––" because life is too short to be subtle! Featured blogger for Huffington Post, and followed on Twitter by LeBron James– for reasons beyond my comprehension.
This entry was posted in Adventure, Beautiful places, Blog, Blogging, Daily Observations, Honest observations on many things, Humor, Israel, Jewish, Judaism, Life, Musings, My world, Tales From the Motherland, travel, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Hummus or Hamas, They’re Not the Same Thing

  1. And now I am hungry. Thanks for taking us on a culinary journey!

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  2. Adam S says:

    This was an awesome post. I really enjoyed reading it – Anthony Bourdain would be proud. As I was reading I could hear his narration.

    I’ve never been to Israel, or overseas for that matter, but I’ve always wanted to venture somewhere else to get a taste* of the local cuisine. I’m so bored with American food. I love watching shows like No Reservations, The Layover, and Bizzare Foods.

    This might be a stupid question, but I saw something on TV recently about the McDonalds over there, and was curious if you stopped in at one? The menu is completely different. The food actually looked good. Edible, too!

    Like

    • We didn’t stop in McDonalds Adam, because I didn’t want to break my 8 year boycott… no real reason, just avoiding it. Though I have stollen a few fries from my kid’s meals. 😉 However, they do have Kosher McDonalds over there, which means no cheese burgers, only plane burgers, and no mayo, or dairy with the meat. Totally different! They do that in India, and I have been into a McDonalds in India.

      Anothony Bourdain is my big foodie crush. Sexy as hell! Uh, I mean the food he reviews… right, the food. Wink wink, nod nod. As a foodie and a travel junky, I am never happier than when I leap outside my box and board a plane to somewhere very different. Glad you enjoyed it.

      Like

  3. Lillian says:

    Middle Eastern food is my faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaavorite. I love it so much! I’ve been waiting for this post – I couldn’t wait to hear what you had and now I think you’ve inspired me to try a few new recipes:)

    Like

    • If you REALLY love Middle Eastern food, and this post inspired you, go check out the new cook book Jerusalem By Yotam Ottolenghi, Sami Tamimi The photos are spectacular and the recipes are amazing. By far the most beautiful cook book I’ve ever bought! I brought one for my daughter, and had to have my own… now I need to start making some of the dishes in there! As a photographer, you would love it, visually, Lillian.

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      • Lillian says:

        I’ve been salivating about that book since it came out! I think you just officially convinced me that I need to spend the money and get it:)

        Like

  4. Daryl Madill says:

    Wow….perhaps you should consider a foodie blog….

    Like

  5. veronicad1 says:

    I definitely prefer to travel to places with food I know I will enjoy. I guess I’ll have to add Israel to my list now–your descriptions sound heavenly! I think I could definitely keep kosher with all those options!

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  6. LOL! Dawn!!! Hummus and Hamas!! That’s too funny!
    I’m glad you took pictures of the food. Not only are your descriptions wonderful but the colors and seasonings are so rich and exotic.
    Great, now I’m hungry!

    Like

  7. Wow…wonderful post and awesome pictures…I want a little taste of EVERYTHING!
    Yes, Dawn, I think food has been an important part of every trip we have taken…I’ve only been to 49 states…and a little of Mexico and a bunch of Canada and several of the Caribbean islands…have NEVER been ‘overseas’. That’s why I’m so excited (well, one of the reasons) about my upcoming trip to Singapore…the list of conference speakers is up on their website and my name is there: http://afcc.com.sg/_2013/speakers
    Makes me realize this is truly real!

    Like

    • So exciting Vivian!! You will have an incredible time! I’ve only been to India (in terms of Asia), but the culture, food, etc, is all so very different! Have a wonderful time. When do you go? Glad you enjoyed this post— it was an awesome experience!

      Like

  8. I bet there are many words that get confused. That Hebrew ‘ch” is hard to get. Great post, fantastic photos-makes me want to reach in and have a nibble. The food there is amazing, esp. compared to the NE in the US where by winter the fresh produce (if we try to stay local) is pretty pathetic. So glad the trip went well and glad your daughter is so happy.

    Like

  9. sarafoley says:

    OMG I am salivating! I love, love, love middle Eastern food, and your descriptions are wonderful :).

    Like

    • Thanks Sara! I recommended in another comment: go take a look at the new cook book Jerusalem; it’s spectacular! Glad you enjoyed the post… I just bought the ingredients for sabich and plan to make it today for lunch! 🙂

      Like

  10. So beautifully described that I was right there with you. I miss the spice souk from when I was in Dubai.

    Courtesy of my childhood best friend who recently married a man from Lebanon, she introduced me to a wonderful restaurant of middle eastern food and also a small market, back east where I grew up. She also introduced me to authentic middle eastern tabouli that is basically a green salad of parsley and mint and some tomato and onion with just a tiny bit of bulgar (not lots of bulgar, as Americans typically make). When I visit back east I always have to go to this little market and buy some “real” pita bread. I have yet to find authentic pita bread here in WA.

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    • It’s so hard to replicate the amazing, fresh food found in the middle east. The produce and grains are so local and such an amazing part of the diet, that it’s hard to not love it! Good stuff for sure! Glad you enjoyed this post Mariner. 🙂

      Like

  11. mike says:

    Love the pics, and perfect timing to stumble on them just before dinner. Out of my travels I have not visited the Middle East yet, but I love the food. In Montreal we have plenty of quality Middle Eastern cuisine so we’re never too far from a falafel or shisk taouk. However, the real thing sounds incomparable they way you describe it.

    Like

    • Thanks Mike; I’m glad you enjoyed the post. The food and experiences there were truly fantastic! We, unfortunately, don’t have many options where we live, for good Middle Eastern food. Guess I’ll have to start making it. Thanks for taking the time to read my post, and for sharing your thoughts. I hope you’ll check out some of the other posts as well.

      Like

  12. Pingback: Cooking Palestinian Cuisine | We Dip It Cooking

  13. harperfaulkner says:

    I would like to read about your daughter’s total conversion to Judaism from her own lips. I am puzzled by people who can give their lives over to the demands of a demanding religion. I always think they’re trying to fill some void in their lives. So, again, if you can get your daughter to post for you some time, I would love to read her thoughts. HF

    Like

    • I will ask her Harper… my guess is that she will say no. She’s asked that I not “talk about her” anymore— something I will not agree to, but will make an effort to respect, as much as possible… within the constraints of my own story. She can speak quite eloquently about her beliefs, and YOU would probably really appreciate what she has to say. But, she is much more private, and it’s unlikely. I’lll still ask. I think she feels that she has not given her life “over,” but she finds a lot of fulfillment in exploring her faith and studying religion in general. Oops, there I go talking about her again. 😉 Thanks for weighing in… it”s always an honor, when you drop in.

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  14. Jessica Gillis says:

    Yum Dawn! Thanks for the flavor tour of Israel. We just had dinner with some friends that were echoing your sentiment after a recent trip to Israel. It’s making it’s way to the top of my list of places to visit!

    Like

    • I am lucky that my girl lives there, as I got such an off the beaten track tour— it was fantastic! The food, divine. Thanks so much for checking out the post Jessica. I hope you’ll read a few more, and let me know what you think. 😉

      Like

  15. Pingback: Jerusalem… It’s Hard. | TALES FROM THE MOTHERLAND

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