Saturday, February 27, 2010

The very Israeli butcher

This is about my encounter with the butcher. I told this story to Israelis and they wondered what I was going on about. But to me it was an example of just how different a foreign country can be.

I went to the butchers just down the street from Amit, it has a narrow entrance and you walk past rows of long freezers with not that much in them to a butchers window display at the end, with two butchers behind. I had a piece of paper with 'chicken breast' written in Hebrew on it that Amit gave me, and I'd looked up how to say it in Hebrew (חזה עוף or 'khaze off'), but the butcher spoke English of course. I said I wanted two chicken breasts. Then came the questions - how many people is it for? Four people I said. Well two pieces is not enough! You need more! What are you cooking? How do you want it cut? Is 800g ok? I still don't think it's enough! I was in shock, what was this butcher doing telling me how much meat I needed, why was he cutting the meat for me, where were the prices? 

I got out of the butchers shop with a bit more meat than I thought I needed, and it was a reasonable price for such attentive service. Having the butcher cut the meat for you with his very sharp knife is pretty handy actually! It was just so unexpected, after an Australian or English butcher who will offer advice only if you ask for it, always display the prices, and would never challenge you if you know what you want. You could describe this as very Israeli - being challenged by someone you're giving money to, and getting advice when you didn't really need it.

I used the chicken that night for my first ever dinner party in Israel, with Ido (who I'd met with Amit in Vietnam) and his girlfriend Efrat. I made stir fry with chicken, mushrooms and broccolini and a teriyaki sauce and rice. It was super quick, and turned out yummy. And it was finished up by the boys, so I guess the butcher was right about how much chicken I needed after all.

Efrat and Ido smoking the nargile (also known as the hookah, sheesha or water pipe)

I had planned on spending a few hours cooking that day, and a different menu for the dinner, but my domestic goddess practice was put on hold when Amit's mum picked me up and whisked me off to Zikhron Ya'akov for a delicious lunch. It is a beautiful town about 40mins north of Tel Aviv, on a small mountain looking over an ocean, with a paved street with cafes and cute antique shops along it. It was very picturesque, and with Israel looking so green at the moment after the winter rains it was a gorgeous drive there.

Paved street of Zikhron Ya' akov

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