Yom revi'i, 9 Iyar 5768/14 May 2008, Wednesday.
America is brimming with so much, that it is sometimes hard to realize that we are a bit cloistered. We can get any fruit or vegetable anywhere in the country, at any time. Okay -- it may not be ripe, since it had to be harvested too early, in order for it to travel thousands of miles without risk of spoilage. So we get slightly tasteless star fruit and mangoes in Baltimore. We get cherries just before they are ripe in California, when they would taste great, just off the tree. My kids never tasted a truly flavorful ripe apricot. (I grew up near an apricot tree. How I wish they could taste that amazing flavor! But it never arrived in the Baltimore stores.)
Today I purchased some fresh cherries, that fairly burst with sunny, rosy sweetness. They shared time on my palate with a delicacy of which I had never heard: green almonds. Take a sharp knife, a little caution, and split the fuzzy green teardrop along its seam. Extract the pale, creamy infant nut. Dip it into a bit of olive oil and sea salt. Accompany with sweet red cherries and Cabernet Hevron 2005. Lovely Middle Eastern nosh!
There is a lot about Europe that is wrong.
But I remember enjoying about it all that was quaintly different from America. In those days, there were many villages that had never heard of MacDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken. There were little bistros and pubs, where old men in hounds' tooth jackets (and young people in rock tee shirts) played chess and gossiped. There were open-air markets with old ladies in scarves, carrying baskets with fresh herbs and flowers, paper cones filled with steaming chestnuts in the winter. There were gates which opened onto yards filled with straw and chickens. People sat in upstairs windows, with window boxes filled with glorious red Begonias, gazing at the passersby as a break from television, conversing with neighbors similarly entertained. It just wasn't suburbia. And that filled a hungry space created by all the novels and poetry I had read as a girl.
But Europe is not a place to raise Jewish children. Neither is affluent America, even with all of its Torah learning. It still belongs to Esav; and we are there on his sufferance.
There are so many attributes Israel offers me personally, that may not have any particular magic for someone else. That is one of Hashem's miracles: many individual facets to the same diamond. Sometimes it seems as if He writes the play and sets the scene for each of us, individually. Besides all the kedusha, Israel has restaurants with old-world European charm, where old men in hounds' tooth jackets (and young people, in bright Breslover cottons) play shesh-besh, and discuss the day's events. There are open-air markets, with women of all ages, some in scarves, pulling plaid cloth-covered agalot filled with fresh herbs and fruit and vegetables. There are villages with chickens and turkeys and cows and goats, not far from the houses; and there are herds of sheep being driven by on the highways alternating with donkeys laden with twigs or plastic jugs. And neighbors sit on mirpesets or in windows, over boxes of bright geraniums, watching the passersby as a break from the internet, sharing a friendly chat.
And then there are these green almonds. I think a small chunk of Parmesan would make this snack just about perfect.
The sun is setting on the Mediterranean just now. Time to fix food boys can eat: Deluxe Macaroni and Cheese, baked in the oven; corn in butter; garlic bread. A fresh green salad, with lots and lots of kedushat shvi'it lettuces, to round out the vitamins.
I am closer to myself here. Thank you, Hashem, for that. Hamon toda!