In a sense, even though the Jewish nation is thousands of years old, the Israeli nation is just about a century old (or, depending how you count, only sixty-two years old). Part of the Israeli journey towards a coherent cultural identity is culinary. The very question of “what is Israeli food?” is often the focus of public debates, especially around our Independence Day.
In fact, Israeli cuisine is effected by so many culinary traditions, it’s almost mind boggling. Jewish people immigrated to Israel from literally every continent, bringing with them their unique flavors and spices, foods and recipes. Middle Eastern Jews, as well as local Palestinians, provided the connection to the local climate and ingredients. Not to play it up on the puns, but in this case, we are talking more about a culinary salad bowl, more than a melting pot.
Historically, Israel developed under a socialistic mindset. The leadership of the pre-state Jewish settlement was kin on building a solid healthy base for the new State. National health care services have been in place long before the declaration of the State of Israel. Healthy nutrition was high on the agenda with strict recommendations for lots of fruit and vegetables. With the authority figures being of Ashkenazi, or Eastern European, cow-originated dairy products as well as eggs, were considered healthy too. As for meat, there just wasn’t plenty of it around.
So, with that background in mind, here are a few more things you may want to know about real Israeli food -
- Meat, chicken and fish are consumed, but in lesser quantities than in most Western countries. Obviously, pork is not part of your typical Israeli menu – although it is popular with new immigrants from the former USSR.
- Salads are huge part of the Israeli diet. The classical Israeli salad has tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers, some shredded lettuce, and sometimes onion and carrot shreds too. It is served with breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- The Israeli breakfast, worthy of a post in its own right, usually has a large salad (see above), at least one type of soft low-fat cheese, eggs and some bread and butter.
- Some foods are uniquely Israeli and go back to the poverty-stricken years of 1950′s. Chocolate spread that contains no chocolate, Ben Gurion rice that has no rice (a variety of it is now known as “Israeli couscous), and “chopped liver” with no liver.
- While there is a very strong Middle Eastern tendency, generally, food is slightly less spicy compared to that served in neighboring countries.
- Israelis have adopted foods from across the globe, often giving them a unique local interpretation. For example, schnitzel is made of chicken, rather than veal, and typically consumed inside a pocket of pita bread.
I plan on developing this tasty theme in future posts and perhaps in Hub Pages too, so stay tuned for more and do ask me anything you want to know about the delicacies (and roughies!) of Israeli cuisine