Thursday, August 26, 2004

My greatest food discovery

This post was inspired my Rachel Ann because she mentioned this food in her anniversary post. Happy Anniversary and thanks, Rachel Ann.

When I first arrived in Israel in June 1985 I noticed little food stands everywhere. When I walked over to see what they were selling, I didn't recognize the food. When I was asked if I wanted one I just shook my head and slowly walked away. I wanted to be brave and try this delicious smelling fried food but my Hebrew wasn't that good. They could tell me it was deep fried human toes and I wouldn't know what they were saying. I played it safe and walked away.

About a month later I was shopping in the next town with my friend, Mark who was from England. He pointed to the stand across the street and asked, "Did you ever have one of those?" I looked longingly over at the people standing in line for this treat and I said, "No. I'm not really sure what it is. Do you know what kind of food it might be?" He said, "I have no idea but let's go get one anyway."

We stood in front of the stand again and I noticed all the bowls of salads that were in the front of the stand. People were being handed pita bread with these round fried things in them and then something puffy. Then they began spooning a little bit of this and that inside the pita from the bowls in front of them. Mark bravely walked up to the stand and asked, "Mah zeh?" (What is this?) The man smiled and said, "Falafel." Falafel? What the heck is that? I whispered to Mark, "Ya could be cow brains for all we know." Mark held up one finger to indicate he was game for this and he was presented with the pita, deep fried balls of something and puffy discs.

He added a little salad and sauce from each bowl and then took a bite. "This is bloody brilliant!"he exclaimed. Sounds of "MMMMM......Oh.....Ugh....MMMMMM" was more than I could take. I got one too. I quickly added all the sauces and salads and took a bite. My eyes opened wide. It was beyond description. When we were finished we frowned and said, "I still don't know what the heck that was." I said, "Those puffy discs taste like french fries even though they are shaped like flying saucers. They are sooooo poofy and airy and delicious. What do you think the fried things were?" We still didn't know.

When we got back to the kibbutz we asked someone there. "Ah, so you had falafel. It is so good,right?" We agreed that it was unbelievably delicious but we didn't know what the heck it was. Then he said the one sentence that I always dreaded hearing for the 2 years that I lived in Israel, "I don't know how you say in English but...." However he explained it we didn't understand. I said to Mark, "I am going to ask Joel. He's American and he has lived here since he was a teenager. He can tell us in English!"

Joel laughed when I asked him what it was. "What do you think it could be?" he asked us. Mark said, "I am thinking it is deep fried bread of some kind." Joel shook his head. "Falafel is garbanzo beans, chickpeas. They are ground up and deep fried." (Thank G-d it wasn't cow brains! Vegetables I could deal with.)
After that I faithfully bought falafel every time I went to the city. It was too delicious to pass up.
Here is a picture and an article about falafel. Don't knock it til you've tried it!

What food were you hesitant to try but then discovered you loved it?

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