What foods do foodies miss most when they move to Israel?
Maybe they dream about sitting down to a plate of nachos with tangy cheddar cheese… or a fruity flan with tons of fresh berries?
When I first started thinking about aliyah, in the early 1990s, reports out of Israel were dire. There were no chocolate chips - you had to chop up chocolate bars and hope for the best. Also, no canned tuna. Also, though perhaps unrelated, the toilet paper was really, really bad.
Depending on where you're from, there are still many local treats and delicacies that you'll either not be able to find, or will have to reserve as a special treat.
Take graham cracker pie crusts, for example. Graham crackers don't exist here, and stores don't usually sell ready-made crusts. That doesn't mean you can't find them. This is the year 2015, and almost everything can be had - for a price.
If you want the authentic flavour of a graham cracker pie crust, you'll have to hunt down a specialty store that carries import grocery products. You'll probably need to find more than one, because different stores carry a different variety. For us, the store that carries pie crusts isn't the same store that carries frozen blueberries - which isn't the same one that carries canned pumpkin or cherry pie filling.
Yup, all those things are available, but even if you can track something down, be prepared to pay triple the price.
When I asked a bunch of real Israeli foodies, they eagerly – hungrily, even – shared some of the foods that they miss most:
Israel has a terrific variety of local dairy products. You can get much more goat and sheep cheeses here, for example, at almost any grocery store. And if you’ve ever had fried Halloumi cheese, you know we have it pretty good here. But that doesn’t stop you from sometimes craving the taste of home.
- Mature cheddar cheese
- American cheese,
- whipped low fat cream cheese,
- creamed cottage cheese
- strong cheddar
- Muenster cheese
- Monterrey Jack cheese (and other tex-mex ingred)
- strong sharp cheddar cheese.(tho that's getting better)
- milk that comes in smaller than liter packaging!!
- Evaporated milk
Soups really struck a common chord with the foodies. Maybe that’s because ready-made soups are such a staple for anyone who’s serious about infusing their food with flavour without adding a ton of salt and weird additives.
- Imagine Soups,
- Really miss imagine soups.
- Chicken broth. I hate the consomme crap
- Ready-made (boxed) broth/stock was a big time-saver.
- Telma beef cubes,
- I buy broth/Bouillon, cubes when I am overseas. One of the few things I do.
- no canned soups here
- Tabachnick Soups,
- (another person says “I've seen Imagine soups here in places that appeal to Americans.”)
This is such a huge range of items, but still, a couple of common threads emerged.
- Coconut Milk Beverage,
- less pricey maple syrup,
- Bridge Seitan,
- more interesting tempeh offerings ,
- Secret love for morningstar veggie bacon strips.
- morningstar veggie bacon!!!
- Morningstar farm products,
- Vans Waffles,
- Aunt Jennie's Kick n'Butt Sauce.
- salad cream, (I think this is British for “salad dressing”?)
- powdered milk,
- creamed corn,
- canned beans
- French style string beans,
- English muffins,
- Golden syrup
- Icing sugar. I was used to "icing snow" sugar so fine that I could make proper butter icing that melted in your mouth. Here butter icing is gritty.
- Relish – no such thing here, that I can tell
- Flour and salt!!! But got used to it
- I think the local salt is damper than the salt back home
- Powdered sugar that comes in larger bags are much finer. You can find it at stores that carry baking supplies
Meat, Fish, Veg:
- Parsnips (lots of people said parsnips!)
- Fowl for making chicken soup !! Don't know what they do with them but there ain't none here
- Smoked haddock
- Dover sole
- burdock (can you find this in Israel?)
- water chestnuts & bamboo shoots
- sliced water chestnuts,
- fowls and I know it's not a cooking ingredient but I really miss Brillo pads
- As I have always cooked with fresh ingredients my cooking has not changed much except for lack of cheap fresh raspberries and blueberries
- Corn on the cob
- Jicama. one of my favorite veggies, probably will never be available in israel.
- I miss Japanese sweet potatoes, chickpea miso and heirloom tomatoes .
That doesn't mean there aren't pluses of living in Israel. Like of high quality chocolate, and the fact that it's much easier to find real kosher gelatin than it was back in Canada. And, of course, lots of incredible, seasonal fresh fruit.
- The brown sugar is moist here and works better than the more granulated one in the U.S. for making cookies
- Carmit dark chocolate chips are the best. They make my cookies happy. (She’s right – I use these, too.)
- Omg the Carmit choc chips are so good my mom wants me to bring some to the states when I visit!
- I have found myself substituting silan [cheap, nutritious, locally available date honey] for maple syrup in recipes.
- Most store-brand (no-name) products are kosher by default
Oh, yeah; just the fact that you can walk into almost any grocery store in the country and come out with bags and bags of kosher cooking and baking ingredients for a very reasonable price… utterly, utterly priceless.
Many people – including long-time olim who had to chop up their own chocolate bars to make chips – say that we olim shouldn’t complain, we should adapt. When in Rome, they say, eat hummous instead of Skippy, replace your sour cream with shamenet and your Kit Kat with Pesek Zman. Plus, they’ll point out, things used to be a lot worse.
I agree, to a point.
There’s no question that when you live somewhere, you should make a habit of buying and using local ingredients. You’ll save money and discover great new tastes and ways of eating.
I love the fact that fruits are so delicious and flavourful when they’re in season. Certainly, we eat them like crazy when we have them, but it doesn’t stop me from kvetching that I can’t make a strawberry smoothie in the summertime when I need one most.
But I also still love my graham pie crusts, and yes, I did pay too much to import a bag of milk powder so I could make a special dessert for Shavuot.
Hunting down our favourite flavours – and even paying extra for them – isn’t a sign that we’re less well-adjusted as Israelis, or even that we’re trying to make Israel over in some distorted “anglo” image.
It’s actually not that complicated at all. For all of us, Israel is now home… and some days, we really, really want it to taste like home, too.