Monday, November 01, 2010


Why do I still have a fantasy about the kind of vacation where you do nothing but sit on the beach and watch the waves? I can't sit still more than a few hours at best and would it be practical to bring knitting to the beach?

Needless to say, my time in Israel is neither relaxing or productive. I haven't "toured" (seen sights or a museum) though we have driven by many interesting things. Sunday, we did nothing in the morning: breakfast, reading, writing, walking. Then, late in the afternoon, Dad and I got in the car and became the family taxi service. He drove, I navigated. Then, I was called on to provide babysitting support to my niece who just had her third baby. I admit: I'm gratified that they assume that I will do this and that I am competent to do it. Dad dropped me at my brother's place then drove off to pick up my brother—etc.

Going back in time, the rest of Saturday, I spent at my brother's place, sitting around, playing with babies and taking a few short walks. Someone was taking the baby for a walk? I jumped up, grabbed my coat, and walked with them. The walks were short because they live on the side of a steep hill and at one end of their street, the only way to continue is to take a staircase. On the other end, you can walk on a sidewalk, but it's a steep hill in both directions.

Dad and Susan arrived in time for lunch and…let me talk about the food and Susan's reactions to it. Susan has never made a secret of her disapproval of the diet of the Israeli family. Maybe she thinks it's a secret? But when they bring out dessert she ALWAYS says, "more sugar!" That can only be interpreted as a complaint. First of all, it's not "more sugar" since the meals go like this:

  • First course: salads, hummos, eggplant spread, tahini, possibly fish
  • Second course (evening meals only): soup
  • Third course: chicken (baked or as schnitzel), Cholentz (only on Shabbat)
  • Last course: dessert

I'm pretty sure my family doesn't eat like this normally. It is only for Shabbat and possibly only because they have special guests. For example, on Friday and Saturday we got lettuce-based salads, instead of the usual chopped cucumber- tomato-carrot-pepper variety. Lettuce is something of a delicacy, especially for them, because in order to make it Kosher, you have to grow it in a special way. I don't think they usually have lettuce. (Susan also disapproves when they give the kids soda and chips and other snack foods, but so what? When I was growing up, my family was the only one I knew that didn't keep soda and chips at home. Somehow, my whole generation survived.)

Last night, we also ate over, and it was a two course meal. All the salads (no lettuce this time) and the main dishes (three kinds of chicken and spaghetti) were set on the table at the same time and we just passed things around and helped ourselves. After we finished, a small fake ice cream dessert was served. Nothing fancy, but I ate it.

What I think is going on is that the Israelis are being good hosts and having multi-course meals is their way of doing that. It's proper. We live in different worlds so it isn't always obvious why they do all this when we don't necessarily want it. I can appreciate the trouble and I do like a lot of the food. And I always like it when someone serves me dessert, so I eat it!

I guess I wish Susan would stop airing her food complaints. It's a kind of food policing that doesn't help even if something actually bad were happening, which it isn't. The niece who is getting married has some issues with food and her weight—she is obsessed with being skinny. She is, in fact, thin, because she exercises a lot and, at least for a while, didn't eat very much. She seems to be eating "normally" now, which is a relief, but we worry about her. I guess we can worry about the other kids (all grown now!) being on the heavy side, but since I'm in the same boat, and I know you can be healthy and fat, I've stopped. Do they eat the most nutritious diet in the world? Perhaps not (neither do I), but they have plenty of veggies and plenty of food, which is more to the point. No one is going hungry here, no one is even eating fast food—so, some chips and dessert is the problem? I don't think so. I worry more about people who monitor everything they eat. Eating isn't an optional activity and we should allow ourselves to enjoy our meals without someone policing them with cries of "more sugar!" Oy. I wonder if I can find a way to ask Susan to stop doing it? Double oy.

Grateful for: growing up with parents who never monitored my eating habits and always let me have dessert.



  1. When she says "more sugar" does that mean the dessert isn't sweet enough, or that there's already been too much sugar? I think of Medit desserts as not being very sweet -- lots of nuts, fruits, honey, etc. But sounds like she means there's too much. I think your rxn is right. I have a similar issue, husband's family in Italy serves meat at the big meal and I'm a long-time veg. But it's done for our benefit, a gesture of hospitality and an effort to show wealth, etc. Big cultural thing. I'm with you, would be rude to criticize or be unappreciative, so I go with it (I also rationalize that it's a chicken or rabbit that I saw alive yesterday, that had a good life, that was killed humanely, etc., but given the choice I'd avoid it). I try to eat a bit and shovel onto husband's plate, but we're the guests, even if we're family. I'd say ignore Susan, you'll only step on her toes if you try to make her realize how rude and judgmental and unappreciative she sounds. Or maybe make subtle comments about how nice it is that they do so many special things when you're visiting, etc.

    BTW, I also fantasize about the beach vacay, but whenever I do one, I am always bored with it by day 2 when I've caught up on my sleep and watched the waves long enough to finish a magazine or something.

  2. She means it's too much sugar. The desserts they serve aren't traditionally Mediterranean but more "Western-ized." Yes, I won't say anything to her but it's so annoying to hear her complain about the "greasy potatoes" they serve or the other meal deficiencies. Not helpful

  3. Ahh.. I would love to have a vacation one of these days. Just relax and try to think back. I wouldn't mind just lazing all day.

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