I am a food freak. I’ll eat anything. Well, mostly anything. Not you balut, I’ll never ever never try you (look it up and freak out). But essentially everything else is game on. For me, ‘game on’ is a personal manifesto typically ending with me lying on the floor of a hotel room promising I’ll never eat so much again. It’s like something you’d expect from Homer Simpson, but sadder and even more cartoony. Also, lying to myself is another hobby.
Not everyone likes exploring the panoply of edible options awaiting us out there, but in my foodie family, trying new things is the law. If you don’t like something, spit it out. But you must try. And no, balut, don’t even think it.
Here are some fun foods I recently ate in Israel that will add much joy to your life too.
Kibbeh/Kubbah: The spelling changes depending on what country you are in, but this awesome appetizer tastes great no matter where you are. It’s made from bulgur (cracked wheat), minced onions, yummy spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, allspice and ground meat. Of course, the beef and lamb are most approachable, but you can also find kubbah made with goat or even camel meat. I suggest eating the camel variety on a Wednesday, of course.
Za’atar: Bringing zing to your bread since ancient Egypt, this blend of herbs and spices is used as tasty accoutrement. Either baked along with the bread (think everything bagel) or as a dip, it’s a great addition to every meal. Yes, Colonel Sanders; others had secret blends of herbs and spices before you.
Meat Head: Found on buffets throughout Israel, this dish is a slow-cooked hodgepodge of flavors like a tagine. In this case, the featured meat is head meat or beef or lamb neck. I know, sounds scrumptious. But it’s actually pretty good. Also included are garlic, onion and chick peas, which I think are required to be in every dish by law. My advice to Meat Head: Get a better PR team to create a new name for you.
Falafel: This staple food commonly found domestically in Greek restaurants is a must-eat Middle Eastern favorite. It’s found essentially everywhere: fancy pants restaurants, fast food joints, street side kiosks and even funeral homes. OK, maybe not funeral homes, but it’s possible -it’s just that popular. Formed with crushed chickpeas (what else?!) and spices, then deep fried, it’s typically served as an appetizer, or, of course in a sandwich. In the city of Tiberius, I was challenged to eat a falafel sandwich wrapped in laffa bread, which is a like a pita, but bigger and more aggressive.
Salads with every meal: At many restaurants, be prepared to receive a massive onslaught of various cold and hot appetizers and salads. From tahini and babaganoush to beets and eggplant, and lots more, you never know what’s going to hit the table. But chances are it’s delicious, especially when eaten with fresh baked breads.
My advice? Try something new. And if you don’t like it, just be like my kids. Make a face, spit it out, and try again another day.