From International Journey to Cultural Connection
The falafel stand was a key stop on the “tour” of Israel. Organized within my son’s active imagination, the imaginary tour was inspired by a Happy Birthday Israel program at our synagogue. This trip was special because it included a participatory component beyond a float in the Dead Sea, a dip in the Mediterranean, a stop at the Western Wall, or, for that matter, visiting a falafel stand. The extra component was helping to “prepare” a special (birthday) meal for Israel–on a kibbutz no less. The menu, as arranged by our youthful tour guide (age 4), included falafel, pita bread, hummus and Israeli salad along with tahini. We had a wonderful time “preparing” the meal and enjoying it. Our son beamed as his satiated parents expressed their appreciation for his culinary creativity. It added a different dimension to the trip.
When we “flew” home, we decided to recreate the special meal we had pretended to eat on the imaginary Israeli trip. It was an easy way to create a lasting connection to Eretz Yisrael–especially for my son. Pita stuffed with Israeli salad, falafel and/or tahini is a common Israeli meal. Fortunately, considering the age of our son, the meal was also easy to prepare. He was very willing to help.
The ingredients–cucumbers, tahini, tomatoes, pita bread, chick peas and falafel were readily available. Lemons to accompany the yet to be made hummus were kept on standby. Everything was ready for my son (guided by my wife) to transform a set of fresh ingredients into a birthday feast (Israel’s, not his). My son would definitely get the opportunity to participate in the making and eating of an Israeli meal.
In short order, my son and wife actively transformed these ingredients into a wondrous meal. The first piece of business was to cut the cucumbers. The junior chef had just enough knife skills to start cutting the cucumber. He was totally focused on the task at hand. Considering he had a small plastic knife in his hand, this was very fortunate indeed. The tomatoes were next (he got some help cutting these). He then gleefully mixed up the cut cucumbers and tomatoes into a delicious Israeli salad.
Next, the hummus making operation began. The chick peas were steadily crushed into smaller and smaller pieces. Soon enough, they magically became hummus, with a dash of lemon thrown in for good measure. The (pre-bought) falafel and pita bread were then carefully laid out in their proper places near the hummus.
In my son’s opinion, meals are mere preludes to dessert. So he decided that making applesauce would be a great idea. He took the cut apples and put them into the pot. He added the water and pinch of cinnamon to the apples in the pot. Mom cooked the mixture and put it into the food mill. As he stirred the food mill, applesauce appeared before his very amazed eyes. He wanted to the eat it immediately but Mom reminded him that dinner had to come first.
He was very proud of himself for making the Israeli meal for us. He was proud both because of his role in the food preparation and because he felt that he had brought a part of Israel home. I have a feeling that if we ever get to the Land of Israel in real life, the trip will be followed by a similar hummus and salad making session. Like all great trips, this “trip” created many good memories. Unlike most trips, this one provided an opportunity to relive its memories immediately after it ended. The falafel was really yummy, both the pretend version and in real life. It is one thing to try to speak to my son about Israel; it is a whole other thing to watch him experience Israel (in his mind) by making an Israeli meal.
4 year old version
Take lots of chick peas
Dump into bowl
Crush them as hard as I can
Have Mommy add some tahini
Mix what is in the bowl
Take the lemon Mommy squeezed for me and pour some juice in
Make sure what is in the bowl tastes good
1 15 oz can chick peas (rinsed and drained)
1 freshly squeezed lemon
Put chick peas into mixing bowl
Crush chick peas so that none are still round
Mix and turn over so that mixture is consistent
Add several tablespoons of tahini for texture
Add lemon juice as needed for taste
Len Zangwill is a blogger keenly interested in good fresh food and different aspects of sustainability, He blogs at www.sustainablewritings.com . He lives in the Philadelphia area with his wife and son.