We did our trip ourselves—eschewing tour groups—and we traveled the country by means of a rented car. We had many adventures and, now that I am recalling the trip anew, I may share some with you later, but right now what is on my mind is breakfast. Breakfast on that trip sort of symbolizes for me a little breaking free from the “box” of my own acculturalization…at least temporarily, as you will see and as only now occurs to me.
During our initial days there, we stayed in a very nice kibbutz-run hotel called Ramat Rachel. That is an aerial view at the top of this post. It is situated on a hill between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Its grounds are gorgeous, as you can see better in this picture.
Our first day we arrived early evening exhausted from the overseas flight and the masses checking through customs at the airport. We grabbed a snack for dinner and crashed.
The next morning, we were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready for adventure. We went downstairs to breakfast before heading out to see the sights.
The dining hall was huge. Here is a picture of a portion of it. It served both the hotel guests and the workers of the kibbutz. We found a table situated in the midst of visitors from the world over, interspersed with Israelis in uniform (mostly very young, both men and women). The breakfast scene was surreal to me from the start, but then I viewed the foods.
There was one station that was full of American-style breakfast food: Eggs, cereals, a toasting station with bagels, rolls, breads and butter. There was no bacon or ham, of course, in deference to Jewish dietary laws. An American could find a fine breakfast here. But I noticed that this offering was the least- visited by the folks in the hall…
There were vast tables of salad greens, big bowls of sliced red onions, cucumbers, beets, tomatoes, peppers, all sorts of raw vegetables. Some were in sauce or vinegar; some were just left unadorned. There were jugs of olive oil, vinegar and other dressings.
There was a long table full of marvelous melons and fruits. One table held a display of fish in various forms of room-temperature preparation: smoked or pickled. There was rice and grains I did not know…
I stood there amazed. The majority of the folks there were filling their breakfast plates from these tables, building gorgeous salads, some topping them with smoked or pickled fish. They were walking way from the buffet tables with plates that look like this. For breakfast????? I could not help but gawk.
It was then that it occurred to me that not everyone the world over has separate, identifiable breakfast foods like we Americans do. Many eat the same things, regardless of the time of day.
Oh, I was (am) so very provincial.
And then it happened. The sides of my cultural “box” flew apart when my eyes lit on the olive table. Olives are one of my very, very favorite foods. I have yet to meet an olive I did not like except when something unnatural has been done to it, like stuffing it with something inappropriate. And Israel is the place to go for olives, apparently. There were varieties I had never seen—bowls and bowls of them. I gravitated.
When I met Son and Husband back at our table, I plopped down a plate full of an assortment of olives, a couple kinds of kibbutz-made soft cheeses, a hunk of fresh bread. I chuckled at the popping of their eyes as I wandered off to grab my coffee and orange juice. I was quite proud of my breakfast plate beside their mundane cereal, eggs and toast.
This is the breakfast I enjoyed each and every morning of my trip, to the thinly-disguised disgust of my fellow travelers. They both like olives—just not for breakfast!
I smile as I think how seeing others partake of what were in my mind “unusual” breakfast foods gave me sort of a permission to explore and enjoy my olives each morning—and I did, indeed, enjoy these breakfasts.
I wonder sometimes how restricted my life is by my failure to think and move outside my cultural box, as I did in the matter of the olives. It takes some exposure, I suppose, which most of us really can’t afford.
Kind of sad. --C