There is so much to choose from in Israel and the level of generosity makes the choices almost impossible. To make maters worse both Oren and I love our food so keeping to a strict calories intake is also almost impossible.
Yesterday we walked into a cheese shop because we were struck by the huge wheels of mouth-watering cheeses in the window and besides, we wanted a little Parmesan. The shop looked like an exclusive little boutique with elegant glasses filled with different honeys and bowls filled with herbs, while delicate plates piled with salads were spread a low table below the counter.
Little did we know that we were about to experience 25 minutes of cheese tasting heaven. “Lactose intolerant? No problem here is our goats cheese and try this one and you can’t leave without trying this one too.” We left with the parmesan and a few more. Well what could I do? They were just so delicious.
The shook in Tel Aviv works on the same premise. Taste everything and if you want, buy. We wanted to buy some halva. Unbearably sweet sesame goodness that is so delicious it just melts in the mouth. There are so many kinds of halva it would take months to sample them all. Or so I thought. Standing in the market place in the Centre of Tel Aviv surrounded by shop-keepers yelling out the names of their produce and turning the names into rhyming poems to entice more buyers we were presented with slice after slice of different halvas. Chocolate, pistachio, coffee, vanilla, orange, plain, crumbly, flaky, firm and the list goes on. We tasted everyone, bought a small slice of pistachio halva and waddled to the car. It had been a huge day of tasting and well, a little gorging too.
And I had promised myself I wouldn’t eat too much because the day before we had gone down to the Namal.
The Namal is the port of Tel Aviv, and we sauntered down for a late lunch. “Benny the Fisherman” is a restaurant that should have a sign outside saying come in only if you have been fasting for a week. Within two minutes our table was laden with 14 salads none of which we had ordered. ‘Oh they are part of the meal. What do you want to order?” We ordered Seabass.
It arrived with an accompaniment of a huge pile of exquisitely baked vegetables and thankfully, two plates.
The quality and variety of fruit and vegetables here is overwhelming. Where ever I go there is an amazing abundance of food. Tel Aviv has more cafes per square metre than any other city in the world and I believe it also has more bakeries, patisseries, konditorei , cakes shops, call them what you will, than any city in the world too. In the shook we could hardly see over the mountains of breads, bagels, baguettes and brioche.
As I said there is so much to choose from and food is not the only thing.
Oren needed some serious dental work. A bone graft. It is the only way to secure a few implants and the cost of this procedure is formidable in Australia so having been told how excellent the dentists are in Israel, and how reasonably priced they are, we decided to check them out. Recommendation is everything in this tiny country. Surprisingly, or maybe not, a few friends recommended the same Professor M. He seemed to have a very good reputation albeit when Oren turned up for a consultation he was clothed in old jeans, a pair of crocs and a t-shirt. Not the kind of garb we are used to in Sydney but the casual look is typical in Israel. He did an examination, said he could do the whole procedure in one fell swoop and quoted more than our dentist in Sydney.
Here in Israel everyone has an opinion and knows someone who knows someone who has done it better and cheaper than anyone else. So on discussing this visit with a friend we were told there is another dentist, an Arab who studied in Germany who does the same work. Highly recommended. OK why not? So off we go to visit this dentist only to discover his surgery is not only in the same town, or the same street or even the same building. His surgery is on the same floor, right next door to Professor M.
His surgery was the whitest place I have ever seen. I felt like I was walking inside a newly bleached tooth. Electric blue down lights gave an even whiter appearance to the waiting room. Ushered in we met a well-dressed, serious, obviously highly trained and knowledgeable dentist. After doing an examination of Oren’s x-rays he gave him his opinion. He would do the bone graft first. Wait 6 months and then complete the whole procedure. “How much will all this cost?” Less than half the price of Professor M. Oren decided he was the one.
I have no idea why that should be. He has equally as many degrees plastered all over his whiter than white walls. We thought about it for a few seconds and booked the appointment. The first procedure took place yesterday. As I sat in the waiting room, I was informed exactly how everything was progressing and offered cups of tea while Oren had his hand stroked by the dental assistant.
A few hours later, we were casually shopping when we were phoned by the dentist to check how the patient was fairing. Fine, I said but the patient wants to know when can he eat something more substantial that mashed potatoes and ice cream.
I hung up the phone and smiled.
“What ,what did she say?”
She said you can eat normally in about two weeks. After the shock past we both agreed it might be a blessing in disguise. Our jeans were feeling a bit tight anyway.
There is a universal sense of care and casualness here. I find that truly heart warming.