Toothpicks - an Israeli obsession. When I was growing up I noticed my parents always wanting toothpicks at the end of meals. I grew up never feeling the need to stick those little pieces of wood in my mouth after I ate. Maybe I don't have gappy teeth, but then no one my age that I ate dinner with in Australia demanded toothpicks, so perhaps it just wasn't a cultural norm.
Then I came to Israel, and the very second you finish your main dish at a restaurant a pot of toothpicks magically appears on your table. Without fail those toothpicks appear, and everyone at the table will proceed to stick them between their teeth to remove all the food - steak, salad, whatever. Of course they do it very modestly with one hand covering the other while it digs out those sneaky pieces of food.
I've been learning this toothpick etiquette over the last few months, and must say I've become almost used to digging into my teeth after every meal, remembering not to speak while I do so, avoiding opening my mouth too wide like at the dentist, and covering my mouth with my other hand so the whole table doesn't look down my throat.
I don't know why Israelis have such an obsession with toothpicks. Do they have gappy teeth? Or do they have particularly good dental hygiene? Is my parent's obsession with toothpicks a sign that they are secretly of Israeli origin?
Well if you really want to know more about toothpicks, I just found out that there is a book all about the history of toothpicks, would you believe it, called The Toothpick: Technology and Culture. It is not written by and Israeli.