“Weighing in” on Lockdown Eating

By Justine Friedman

At a recent gathering of friends in Israel (we are allowed to be doing that now!), a good friend announced that “food is the enemy”. This gave me a lot of pause for thought as I examined the source of this challenge levelled against an essential element that literally keeps us alive. Without air, water and food we would certainly not be alive. So why is this life-giving source of nourishment seen in such a negative light? Corona or Covid-19 aside, this is a lifetime battle that many face, and at this time of varying stages of lockdown, the proverbial elephant in the room is front and centre.

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Lockdown has resulted in many living a sedentary lifestyle. Exercise is important (Illustration: Onkarnath Bhattacharya).

Social media is inundated with posts that range from fitness gurus posting Zoom lessons on different exercise regimes to the latest recipe craze that MUST be baked and enjoyed and re-baked and consumed again. From banana bread to apple fritter loaf that surely has enough sugar to make the least at-risk person diabetic with one bite, food seems to be the focus of how we are filling our time. Eating is more than just a physiological need that we fill. As human beings, we are so tied in with the emotional and social aspect that food provides. At a time like this, where socialising is not the reason for relaxed eating, the emotional aspect is the biggest trigger. Many of us are eating in response to a variety of situations and emotions. Currently, I believe that the biggest triggers are the lack of our normal routines, of purpose, boredom, anxiety, and fear over the future be they financial, health or family related. We also have non-stop access to our pantries and fridges.

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It is important to make healthy food choices for our families during this stressful time.

On the flip side, many of us are in the mind-set of allowing ourselves the pleasure of eating as so many other external restrictions are being imposed on us, so why worry about what we are eating on top of all of that.

 My biggest concern as a clinical dietician with these triggers is the increased risks we face when poor food choices combines with a more sedentary lifestyle and increased stress. Without listing facts and figures, the risks for heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and high blood pressure are increased substantially.

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Many of us crave the comforting carbohydrates of chips and sweets but there are healthier alternatives. (Image: Istock)

So how do we take better care of ourselves at a time like this, bearing in mind that there may also be a lack of availability to some healthier options? How can we minimise the risks that we could face even when less than nutritious choices are available?

Awareness is the starting place.

Before eating, stop and reflect on why you are feeling a need to eat in the first place. Is it true physiological hunger or is it an emotion or boredom that triggered you?

If the latter, pause before eating and allow yourself the opportunity to identify what emotion has been triggered in you. The trick here is to name the emotion. So, if for example you identify that you were feeling angry, sad or anxious, say to yourself:  I am feeling ANGRY/ SAD/ ANXIOUS. Say it out loud or to yourself. The key is to name it and say it. So often the reason we are eating is to suppress this emotion. However, once it is acknowledged, the desire to eat and hence the need to suppress it often goes away as does the desire to overeat.

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We are feeling overwhelmed by the mounting stress and the unknown and are resorting to emotional eating.

This is the starting point; to understand WHY we are eating in a reactive way.  By acknowledging and addressing our emotions, we can then make a more level headed choice – instead of a knee jerk decision – on whether to eat or not to eat.

When emotions dictate our food choices, the underlying craving is often for a food that will give us a specific feeling. Sugar, baked goods, chocolate, crisps and gummy sweets all hit the spot in the moment, but the rebound effect leaves one feeling flatter and in need of more of the same pick-me-up again. This creates a vicious cycle of cravings and energy dips. The only way out of this is to keep your blood sugar levels as balanced as possible throughout the day by eating smaller and more frequent meals and snacks. If you experience stressful triggers and are hungry with a lower blood sugar level, then you are more likely to fall victim to these foods.

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Sweets temporarily bring comfort but leave us craving more.

Another factor is the ongoing debate around carbohydrates and the role they play in nutrition. Not all carbohydrates are created equal. By this, I mean that there are more complex and wholegrain options which may also be completely natural such as sweet potato, potato, oats, quinoa and corn and then some more processed but not unhealthy options like rice, pasta, low GI and rye breads. The closer any food is to its natural form will always be best utilised by our bodies for fuel, and the energy in these foods will be metabolised more efficiently. The more processed and preserved a food is, the less efficiently the body functions in response to eating it. What we eat with a carbohydrate is also incredibly important. If we are eating lean protein choices with a moderate amount of healthier fats and salad and non-starchy vegetables, our bodies handle it well. However, should we combine a perfectly nutritious potato with high fat like cream, cheese and butter, the meal now becomes incredibly unhealthy. So, it’s not just about one specific food group but how the different food groups are combined together that can either enhance health or create disease.

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Wholegrain options are much better alternatives to preserved, processed foods.

I would love to tell you all to go ahead and indulge and allow yourselves the enjoyment of cakes, biscuits, banana bread and the like; but the truth is – weight issues aside – they just aren’t nutritious not for our bodies nor for our emotions, and certainly not for the attainment of a positive state of mind. If you must have them, then consider the quantity and limit the intake. Take a smaller amount, put it on a plate and eat it slowly savouring every bite.

As for those who really want to make better choices and who would rather avoid the vicious sugar craving cycle, here are some healthier options to keep on hand.

Sugar free-salt free peanut butter which is delicious on a slice of thick toasted low GI bread. If you must make it a bit sweeter, rather add a dash of honey yourself than choose the option with sugar added. Other savoury options to put on are avocado, low fat cottage cheese, tuna with a light mayonnaise or boiled egg with some light mayonnaise. And please leave off the margarine or butter!  Add tomato, cucumber, a chopped pickled cucumber for some extra flavour.

To avoid the tiresome activity of preparing salad vegetables, I always advise my clients (and I do this myself!) to keep ready cut salad veg in the fridge. This allows you to easily add it to any meal without the added hassle of preparing anew each time.

For the colder winter evenings and days, make some homemade vegetable soup with vegetables like baby marrow, carrot, celery and a little sweet potato. A hearty vegetable soup goes a long way to filling the gap.

Raw nuts (in moderation) and seeds also make for a great snack and keep the body in a less inflamed state due to their healthier fat component. Almonds, cashews, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds are a great nush option. Combine this with a fresh piece of fruit and your blood sugar will stay stable for longer periods.

My last piece of advice is to remember to stay hydrated. Yes, drinking 8 glasses of water a day is important. When our bodies are well hydrated, they function better; and thirst can also mimic as hunger if you haven’t had enough water to drink. So, stay off the cold drinks and fruit juices. Be mindful of too many cups of tea and coffee and hot drinks like hot chocolate. Good old water or even a tasty herbal tea is first choice.

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Make sure that you stay hydrated by drinking a lot of water.

This advice covers the general healthy population. If you suffer from any medical condition and you have been given sound nutrition advice from a registered dietician, please follow it. If you are concerned about your health, or you feel that your emotional eating pattern is something that you would like to address, seek out a certified dietician who does not promote fad diets and who will look at your eating in a holistic way. You are more than what you eat – and any advice that you are given should take more than just food into account.

Struggling with thoughts (specifically obsessing over food related issues) and feeling that “food is the enemy” does not need to consume our lives. There is a way to learn to make peace with food. Yes, we need food to survive, but let us also turn our food experiences into ones of nourishment for body, mind, and soul.

 

 

About the writer:

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Justine Friedman (née Aginsky), Clinical Dietician (RDSA) and Mind-Body coach, made aliyah from Johannesburg, South Africa in November 2019 with her husband and their two children. In Johannesburg, she was a successful clinical dietician, coach and speaker who ran her own private practice for 17 years. Justine is passionate about helping people, and women, in particular, achieve greater degrees of health in their mind, body and soul. She is based in Modi’in and loves the challenges and successes that living in Israel has to offer.

 

 

 

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs

 

 

 

MUSINGS OF A DIETICIAN IN LOCKDOWN  

 By Justine Friedman       

Daily, social media inundates us with memes and messages claiming that by the time we leave lockdown status our health status and physical bodies will be worse for wear. I constantly see pictures of what we will supposedly look like on the beach, on our couches, merely wearing a mask and gloves that fit our new bodies as no clothes in our wardrobes can cover our expanded forms.

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As a dietician and holistic coach these images concern me as it depicts quite clearly what people are emotionally experiencing. In making light of the need to throw caution to the wind and give into all kinds of physical cravings and urges when it comes to food and drinks we are falling prey to potential chronic diseases that will last longer than the corona epidemic.

It is very frustrating to be trapped indoors and not be able to do regular exercise, either due to lack of motivation or due to lack of access. I am very grateful that I have my trusty treadmill and that we are now allowed to move a distance of 500m within proximity to our home. The problem is I still need to motivate myself to utilise these avenues. In the first week or two of lockdown I found myself more motivated. But as time goes on and the full weight (excuse the pun) of this experience takes its toll, it becomes harder to stay focused and really set goals that will keep one healthy both physically and mentally.

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There is a clear relationship between sun exposure and the ability to produce hormones in the body that trigger feelings of well-being and emotional calm. Then there is the food component that either enhances or detracts from this balance that we so desperately need at this time.

I have always educated my clients on the effect that food plays in our physical and mental well-being. We literally are what we eat! When making food choices that are less processed and are preferably void of simple sugars and simple carbohydrates, our bodies respond with better energy levels and we produce higher levels of serotonin (the “happy” hormone) in the body. This follows a pattern of better thought processes and leads to our actions being less reactive and emotionally charged. The opposite is also true, by eating processed foods, high in sugars, salt and saturated fat we, in fact, produce less serotonin and as a result, our thoughts, emotions and moods jump on the roller coaster of being more irritable, reactive and causes further cravings of the foods that made us feel this way to start off with. It becomes a terrible cycle of cravings, low energy, anxiety, depression, irritability and frustration.

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Our bodies, however, are amazing vehicles that have the ability to regenerate. Just a few days of staying off foods that cause rebound cravings and mood cycles allow for a calmer and more focused state of mind. We also start to feel our energy levels improve and sleep patterns are also enhanced.

So how does one get into this mindset? How do we pull ourselves up off our couches and find the motivation to make better choices? The old adage that life is not a sprint but a marathon that must be tackled one step, or a couple of hundred meters at a time fits perfectly. We cannot look too far ahead and compare our position today with our final goal. Expecting instant results is what trips us up every time and sets the stage for failure. There are very few people who can just put their minds to it and never lose focus. Does it take effort YES, is it always easy NO! But all it takes is one day at a time and sometimes one hour at a time.

I have found that ensuring that I set a daily alarm and break the day down into sections of time helps immensely. Literally saying by a certain time such and such needs to be done clears the path for building a routine. Don’t wait for mealtime when you are hungry to start preparing food. It is moments of hunger like this that triggers impulse eating and before you know it you have made poor choices based on a body/ emotional response instead of a well thought out mind response.

Ask for help!

Today more than ever there is are an abundance of dieticians who are working online and who are medically trained to give individualised and realistic advice on meal planning and food preparation. Most people who say they never have the time to address this due to lives that are busy with work, lifts and travel are now in the best possible position to implement positive lifestyle changes that can be long lasting. It’s not always about being weighed and measured by a dietician. The relationship with a dietician goes far beyond this. One of the aspects of my work that I am most passionate about is working with a client to truly bring about positive lifestyle changes in all areas of their life not just when it comes to food choices.

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Eating sensibly for a sensible lifestyle.

Each and every one of us has the ability within the scope of our unique situation to take one step in the right direction. Don’t use the excuse that when this is over I will start (…fill in the blank…). Each day and moment that we have now is a gift (that’s why it is called the present). Believe in yourself enough to give yourself the gift of coming through this time a healthier more motivated person and your time behind closed doors would have been very well spent.

 

 

 

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Justine Friedman (née Aginsky) made aliyah from Johannesburg, South Africa in November 2019 with her husband and their two children. In Johannesburg she was a successful clinical dietician, coach and speaker who ran her own private practice for 17 years. Justine is passionate about helping people, and women in particular, achieve greater degrees of health in their mind, body and soul. She is based in Modi’in and loves the challenges and successes that living in Israel has to offer.

A Taste Of Tel Aviv

Israel’s Vibey City Also Vegan Capital of the World

By David. E. Kaplan

I recall some 25 years ago, the celebrated English novelist and former politician, Jeffrey Archer, addressing an ESRA (English Speaking Residents Association) public lecture at City Hall in Ra’anana. It was a riveting talk on his bestsellers interspersed with anecdotes and a revelation that he still had his sights on residing at “10 Downing Street”.

He had plenty of positive things to say about the Holy Land but concluded with one negative – its cuisine. “OMG where am I to go for dinner after this lecture. Your country may have plenty to offer, but good food is not one them!”

The audience laughed.

A quarter of a century ago, Archer was dead right.

Today he would be dead wrong!

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Affirming this transformation is none other than that esteemed writer’s country’s public service broadcaster – the BBC. Its ‘Good Food’  ranked Tel Aviv in the Top 10 Destinations For Foodies In 2020. Israel’s “City that never sleeps” came in seventh following  Galway in Ireland, Lyon in France, Los Cabos in Mexico, Holland, Malta and Marrakesh in Morocco.  In ranking Tel Aviv so highly, the BBC’s Good Food spotlighted the city’s well-deserved moniker as “the vegan capital of the world.”

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Vibey & Vegan. Tel Aviv has been designated the “Vegan capital of the world”.

 

Writes BBC Good Food:

With vegan dishes at the heart of Tel Aviv’s culinary tradition, it’s always been a great destination for lovers of plant-based food. Backed by vast agricultural land, this seaside city serves up veggies that often travel farm-to-fork in the same day. In recent years, Tel Aviv has upped its game to become the world’s self-designated vegan capital, with slick vegan coffee shops, and local chains such as Domino’s offering animal product-free pizza. This young, LGBT-friendly beach buzzy city has boutique Bauhaus-style hotel hangouts with cool cocktail bars, and a burgeoning crop of cheffy restaurants, but the budget-eats steal the show. For stellar street food, there’s nothing like Tel Aviv’s hummus, falafel and shakshuka, served at hole-in-the-wall joints, street stands, and stalls lining local markets such as the sprawling Shuk Hacarmel. Just four-five hours’ flight from the UK, this is an exotic break that doesn’t require a long-haul schlep.”

BBC’s Good Food picked up on Israel being in the vanguard of healthy eating, focusing on what grows in the field rather than what dwells on it. For one Israeli company, Aleph Farms, its philosophy is that man’s eating experience should not be at the expense of the life of an animal. In October, Lay Of The Land published an article Israel leading A Slaughter-Free Revolution For A Healthier World revealing this company served the world’s first lab-grown steak.

However, not only is Israel looking to ‘cultivate’ meat involving no slaughtering of animals but is catering to the ever-increasing appetite of VEGANS which was glowingly acknowledged by BBC Good Food. It highlighted that the country has in recent years “upped its game,” offering “slick vegan coffee shops, and local chains such as Domino’s offering animal product-free pizza.”

Tel Aviv is home to at least 400 vegan and vegan-friendly kitchens and hosts annual vegan festivals.

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Smooth Operator. Bana is one of Tel Aviv’s super-cool, new vegan-friendly restaurants (Bana)

Viva La Vegan

So, with 400 vegan and vegan-friendly kitchens serving most of Israel’s 200,000 vegans, going meat-free isn’t only easy, it’s a chance to chew on the best chow in town.

As one food critic noted:

 “Thanks to the sun-kissed climate, high quality fruit and veg is never too far – you can see it in the colour, taste it in the flavour and smell it in the aroma of what’s on your plate.”

In Tel Aviv, “there is a real emphasis on freshness of produce,” says vegan restaurant owner Merav Barzilay. Though he founded Meshek Barzilay on an organic farm 15 years ago, he says it was an easy move to the city. Tel Aviv’s proximity to fresh vegetables “means a customer can eat a tomato the same day it was picked in the field”.

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Looks Good, Tastes Good, Is Good. A vegan burger at Meshek Barzilay in Tel Aviv (Meshek Barzilay)

For Tel Aviv’s green chefs, preparation for the day ahead, starts with a stroll through the kaleidoscope of colour and chaos  of its “shuks” (markets) selecting fresh produce.

“That’s the beauty of the marketplace – everyone is feeding each other,” says Cafe Kaymak’s Jo Cohen, one of the first vegetarian coffee shop owners in Tel Aviv. Sourcing for his multicultural kitchen from the nearby Carmel Market, “We draw from many different wells,” he says, “Turkey and Greece as well as Japan, Morocco, Tunisia and, of course, the Middle East.”  His signature vegan dish, galean mjadra, is a spicy hot-pot of lentils, paprika, almonds and berries cooked and presented on a bed of bulgur wheat and topped with salsa and tahini.

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By George! Nanuchka has a been a culinary institute in Tel Aviv for the last 20 years, it started as a Georgian restaurant and bar but during the last 5 years changed its skin and became fully vegan.

In the past seven years, the explosion of plant-based restaurants has transformed Israel’s population of just eight million into the largest vegan nation, per capita, in the world. Israel’s Tourism Ministry now promotes the country as a “vegan nation” – and Tel Aviv is at the heart of this culinary movement.

Nothing surprising in this phenomenon, explains Sharon Berger in the Forward:

“Unless you have been living under a rock you will probably already know that Israel has become the leading vegan country in the world, with 5.2% of the population eschewing all animal goods in their daily diet. This number has more than doubled since only 2010 when 2.6% of the population was vegan or vegetarian.”

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Israeli staples naturally includes a large amount of vegetables, fruit, grains and legumes already, including hummus and falafel, the country’s best-known dishes.

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Culinary Unveiling. In colorful Levinsky Market in South Tel Aviv, OPA is the highly curated work of vegan chef extraordinaire Shirel Berger. Working exclusively with produce from a farm 40 minutes north of the city, Berger creates understated Mediterranean-style dishes such as squash with maple-smoked pumpkin relish, jalapeño and lemon; and guava with macadamia milk, sourdough crumbs and betel leaves. (Photo by Tommer Halperin)

“The fresh produce is top quality and the Mediterranean diet has lots of flavours in its naturally vegan dishes,” says Ruthie Rousso, a Tel Aviv-based food historian and critic. “The Israeli diet is based on the meze (the little salads you eat before the meal). So giving up on meat is not the biggest sacrifice.”

Inbal Baum, a former attorney and founder of Delicious Israel, a company that offers culinary tours, sees veganism’s popularity as a natural evolution of Israelis’ relationship with the land.

“Veganism makes so much sense historically in the Israeli diet because eating from the land has always been significant,” she explains. “Eating vegetables was a way of survival. We don’t call it ‘farm to table’ here, but this style of local-produce-based eating is how my grandfather was able to live when he arrived at the kibbutz back in the 1930s – they ate what they grew.”

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Fresh At Frishman. Anastasia at Frishman St 54, Tel Aviv-Yafo.

Times They Are A-Changin’

You must know that change is about when even ‘the one and only’ shawarma – that Middle Eastern sliced-meat sandwich beloved by all the world over – is being popularised in its vegan form – most notably at Sultana, a completely vegan eatery in Tel Aviv.

Sultana uses ‘forest mushrooms that have a texture reminiscent of chicken’ and promises to be ‘the original shawarma experience, only 100 percent vegan. Chef Harel Zakaim is bent on changing the rules of the game regarding everything we knew about vegetarian-vegan shawarmas.

Weighing in on why veganism is so increasingly popular in Israel,

Israeli-based international promoter of vegan culture, Ori Shavit, believes there are a number of unique reasons why Israelis are leading this global trend. Over and above the sensitivity to animals, she adds “the country is very young and still evolving so people here are less attached to traditional eating and are used to trying new things, love innovations and  not scared to making changes in their diet.”

Shavit points out that when in 2013 Domino’s Pizza launched its first vegan pizza with non-dairy cheese, it was ‘pioneering’ and “only now just becoming available in other countries.” Israel is also the first country outside of the USA to offer Ben and Jerry’s VEGEN ice cream flavours. “As Israel has a relatively small population,” writes Shavit,  “it’s interesting that these two major international chains both chose to launch their dairy-free products in the holy land.”

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Going Green. Pizza goes vegan at The Green Cat, Tel Aviv. Photo: courtesy

Interesting but not surprising.

With Israel in the vanguard of the global vegan trend, it was little wonder that the Holy Land came in the BBC’s Good Food Top 10.

It’s indicative of who we are and how we would want to live.

“No matter where you live,” says Shavit, “the greatest effect an individual can have on the world starts on his or her plate — so no wonder that people who understand that will try to make a better choice for their food.”

Bon Appétit!

 

*Feature Picture: From The Field To The Fork. Each day, Tel Aviv’s top vegan chefs shop  for fresh produce at the ‘shuks’ like the famous Carmel Market

Far Out!

An Israeli Steak-Out In Space

By David E. Kaplan

You can actually say, “This steak is out of this world” and it would be true; both literally and figuratively.

How so?

Earlier in the year, Lay Of The Land published an article titled ‘Israel Leading A Slaughter-Free Revolution For A Healthier World’ revealing on how the world’s first laboratory-grown steak was served up in Israel by Aleph Farms (Aleph being the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet) by isolating cells from a cow and cultivating them into a 3-D structure.

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Animals Survive; Planet Thrives. Slaughter-free meat involves taking a sample of animal cells from a real cow and replicating them outside of the animal: without the antibiotics, environmental footprint, contamination and animal slaughter which comes with conventional meat production.

Founded   in 2017 by Israeli food-tech incubator The Kitchen – part of Israel’s food processing company Strauss Group Ltd., in collaboration with the Technion, Alpha Farms is set to impact the nature and scope of the future of food by producing cell-grown meat that resembles a free range version.

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Alpha Steak. Healthier for all – animals, humans and the planet.

For meat lovers, that all too familiar alluring sizzling aroma that is  like a culinary aphrodisiac,  will still be there.

The only difference  is  that the genesis of your T-bone, fillet, rump, sirloin or entrecote hails from a laboratory rather than a field. Having unveiled in December 2018 to much fanfare, the first prototype of lab-grown steak in the world, the Israeli enterprising entrepreneurs decided to take its curiosity to another scientific level!

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A lab-grown steak in a laboratory at Aleph Farms in Rehovot, Israel. (courtesy: Jpost.com – photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)

The Next Frontier

In typical Israeli out-of-the-box fashion,  Alpha Farms launched its idea into the stratosphere by conducting an experiment to manufacture its meat product on the International Space Station (ISS) some 248 miles (339 km) from earth.

The ISS is a low-orbit space station that serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory between five participating space agencies: NASA, Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada).

Aleph Farms explained that the project aims to demonstrate its mission of being able “to provide sustainable food security on earth and beyond by producing meat regardless of  the availability of land and local water resources.”

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Didier Toubia, CEO and co-founfer of Aleph Farms.

Says CEO Didier Toubia who co-founded Aleph Farms together with Prof. Shulamit Levenberg:

 “In space, we don’t have 10,000 or 15,000 liters (3962.58 gallons) of water available to produce one kilogram (2.205 pounds) of beef.”

The experiment, he said, “marks a significant first step toward achieving our vision to ensure food security for generations to come, while preserving our natural resources.”

To conduct the experiment in space, Aleph Farms teamed up with Russian company 3D Bioprinting Solutions, which develops implementations of 3D bioprinting technologies, and two American companies, Meal Source Technologies and Finless Foods, to carry out the process on September 26. As reported by Israel’s innovation news platform, No Camels cosponsored by the IDC Herzliya, “Aboard the Russian segment of the ISS, they used a unique technology of magnetic bio-fabrication, developed by 3D Bioprinting Solutions, to produce bovine, mummichog and rabbit myoblast/fibroblast constructs provided by Aleph Farms, Finless Foods, and Meal Source Technologies, respectively. All under microgravity conditions.”

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New Horizons. The RSC Energia spacecraft. (Photo via Rocosmos)

In a statement released on October 7, 3D Bioprinting Solutions said that the joint project “lays the groundwork for renewable protein sources for long term manned missions.”

3D Bioprinting Solutions and Meal Source Technologies’ co-founder Aleksandr Ostrovsky said, “We believe that bio-fabrication of cultured meat in space has several unique advantages such as sustainability, personalization, and biosafety. What is more, creating cultured meat products in space may grant invaluable scientific insights for implementation of this technology on Earth.”

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What’s Cooking? Cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko on board of the International Space Station during the first experiment with 3D bioprinter in December 2018. (Photo 3D Bioprinting Solutions)

Aiming High

Hailing the experiment in space as a “successful proof of concept,” Aleph Farms said the cutting-edge research “in some of the most extreme environments imaginable serves as an essential growth indicator of sustainable food production methods that don’t exacerbate land waste, water waste, and pollution.”

These new innovative culinary methodologies aim to feed a rapidly growing world population predicted to reach 10 billion by 2050.

Assured of it venturing in the right direction, Aleph Farms cited a UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report  – published in September – that argued that conventional animal farming methods contributed greatly to climate change, creating “a challenging situation worse and undermining food security.”

Said  The Kitchen’s CEO, Jonathan Berger:

“The mission of providing access to high-quality nutrition anytime, anywhere in a sustainable way is an increasing challenge for all humans.” Whether “On earth or up above,” he continued,  “we count on innovators like Aleph Farms to take the initiative to  provide solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems, such as the climate crisis.”

This achievement, said Toubia, “follows Yuri Gagarin’s success of becoming the first man to journey into outer space, and Neil Armstrong’s 50th anniversary this year, celebrating the moment when the first man walked in space.”

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Mindful Menu. “Coming Up, one alpha steak with fresh vegetables and salad.”

While lab-grown steaks will likely not become commercially available for at least three to four years and the world waits, a video shows a group of people – among them Aleph Farm‘s vice president of research and development Neta Lavon – enjoying the steak-of-tomorrow alongside a tomato and zucchini pasta.

All these revelations have tongues not only wagging – but wanting to taste!

 

Salivating On The Sidewalk

A ‘Melting Pot’ of where east meets west, discover Tel -Aviv’s ‘Top 10’ ranked Street Food Scene

By David E. Kaplan

With a reputation as “the  city that never sleeps” Tel Aviv provides a plethora of time to eat!

In a recent survey conducted by CEOWORLD – a business magazine and news site for CEOs, CFOs, senior executives, and business leaders – Tel Aviv nabbed seventh slot in a list of The World’s 50 Best Cities For Street Food-Obsessed Travelers.

Looking at the best cities for travelers who love street food, the data for its Street Food Index 2019 drew from a survey conducted over three months – mid-July to mid-September  – of 92,000 business travelers and 1,400 corporate travel agents in 86 countries.

Preceding Tel Aviv’s 7th’s lot was Singapore which took the top spot, followed by Bangkok, Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh City, Mumbai and Rome.

The familiar proverb “When in Rome…” apples as much to Tel Aviv, so when in the coastal town ranked by Time Out as the N0. 1 city in the Middle East with “a notorious reputation as a wild non-stop city with a great nightlife and music scene”, tuck into its unique street cuisine.

 Despite the availability today in Tel Aviv-Jaffa of cuisine from all over the world, what remains most popular is its signature ‘street food” that is definitively local and an ‘appetizing’ introduction into Israeli culture.

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Letting Loose In Levinsky. Like these young folk, the Levinsky Market is the perfect place to refuel your body and soul.

After exploring antiquities to art galleries and still have an ‘appetite’ for more, where better to sink your teeth deeper into Israeli culture, then trying its cuisine, and where better to take your first bite than on Tel Aviv’s bustling, pulsating streets.

Blaming the weather for all manner of things is fashionable the world over. Less so in Israel!

It may be that our tasty, popular street food is indebted to Israel’s perennial sunny and warm weather. The fact that one can walk outside and eat outdoors, has created an easy laidback cuisine that gels with the Israel temperament – open, candid and ‘catering’ for loud and boisterous conversation.

Most countries have some indigenous street food, so what’s Israel’s most popular and where best to look?

 Some Like It Hot!

The one indisputable street food that has developed into a national dish is falafel. These are balls made of hummus and spices and fried in deep oil.

It is usually served in a fresh pita (round pocket bread) with a variety of salads, tahina (paste made from ground, hulled sesame seeds) and pickles, and if you enjoy fiery hot sauce then you must add skhug (a hot green or red Yemenite chili sauce). Folk with more sensitive palates might dismiss this relish more suitable for gas tanks than gullets, but for most seasoned falafel eaters, it’s a vital component.

“You don’t eat a hot dog without mustard. Same as falafel – you add skhug,” says Avi from Ramat Gan, who the writer met tucking into his falafel in pita at Dr. Shakshuka in Jaffa. “This is one of my favorite places for falafel and Shawarma,” says Avi. His wife Ruti was tucking into a shawarma, but without the skhug. “Not for me,” she says, with Avi adding, “she’s hot enough already!”

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Passport To Pleasure. Young visitors from the USA on the Taglit Birthright programme get a literal taste of Israel enjoying falafel in pita. (Photo by Justin Dinowitz)

If in the typically Israeli family of street-food, falafel is the favourite son, then its favourite daughter is shawarma. It comprises cuts of meat (usually turkey, but originally shawarma was made of mutton) which is packed into a pita or laffa (a large Iraqi pitta, which one fills and rolls like a huge taco), with salads and French fries. And if you are wondering why the French  fries, it’s a case of mid-east meets west.

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Street Aroma. GPS in Israel – follow your nose. (Photo by Jonathan Kramer)

One of the most popular ethnic eateries in Jaffa, Dr. Shakshuka takes its name from the dish Shakshuka, which is a pan-fried casserole of poached eggs and spicy tomato sauce, the restaurant’s most popular dish.  Dr. Shakshuka’s many versions of this dish emanate from Libya and have solidly cemented a reputation in Jaffa over three family generations in the business.

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Tasty & Tangy. Shakshuka meaning “mixture” in Berber languages, is a North African dish of eggs poached in spicy tomato sauce with vegetables.

Believing they are “specialists” in this cuisine, explains the “Dr” in the restaurant’s name. But there’s much more here to enjoy: Tripoli-style couscous with mafrum (potato stuffed with ground meat, served with stewed beef and vegetable soup); stuffed vegetables; kishke (North African-style intestine stuffed with meat and rice); grilled lamb patties; and fresh grilled or fried fish. Main courses come with a spread of fresh pita and eight Middle Eastern salads.

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Inside Story. Off the sidewalk in Jaffa you enter the alluring world of the famed Dr. Shakshuka.

Best Kept Secret

While hummus, falafel, and even shawarma, are well-known outside the Middle East, sabich – described by one food critic as “the ultimate Israeli street food” – remains one of the country’s best-kept secrets.

Sabich is a pita stuffed with fried eggplant, hard-boiled eggs, hummus, tahina, and vegetable salad, while some versions contain boiled-potatoes as well. Pickled cucumbers, chopped parsley, and onions seasoned with purple sumac are usually added, as well as the sauces skhug or amba.

While making sabich may seem simple enough, true lovers of it say that preparing it “just right” is an art form that few truly master. One, who according to Tel Aviv folklore has earned this title of ‘master’, is Oved Daniel, referred to as the “Diego Maradona of Sabich”. Like the revered Argentinean who dominated football in his day, Oved, has been dominating Israel’s sabich scene from his little corner on Sirkin Street in Givatayim, adjacent to Tel Aviv, for nearly three decades. Customers are reputed to flock there from all over the country. Tel Avivians now no longer have to make the trek as Oved subsequently opened a branch in Tel Aviv on Karlebach Street.

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Sabich ‘Say No More’. While falafel enjoys all the street food fame, its lesser known cousin – sabich – is not far behind. It is a glorious synergy between pita bread, egg, eggplant, vegetable salad, with humus tahini and amba.

Oved reveals that “People eat here from all over the world, and many ask about opening branches in the States. I tell ’em, “Forget it, it can’t be done!” They won’t be able to find the right ingredients and importing them will impair the quality.”

Oved offers a sound solution to their problem – Visit Israel often

While some might assert that hummus and falafel are essentially Arab dishes ‘adopted’ by Israelis, sabich is unarguably a local Israeli concoction. The core ingredients can be found in the traditional Shabbat-breakfast of Iraqi Jews, but the idea of putting them into a pita and eating them as a sandwich is purely Israeli. Apparently, the credit for this culinary achievement rests with one Sabich Halabi, an Iraqi immigrant who opened what is believed to be the first sabich stand in Ramat Gan in 1961.

One central quality sabich eatery is on the corner of Dizengoff Street and Frieshman Street simply called – Sabich Frishman. It is reputed to be the first place that locals recommend, and as one food critic wrote:

 “If lines and smell give any hint of quality, it’s hardly a surprise why.”

While many of these street food eateries are referred as “hole-in-the wall” establishments, one must not be put off – this is part of their charm, and often the less attractive on the outside, might be a cover-up for the best food in town. This is typical of Tel Aviv cuisine deception.

Another top Sabich establishment that comes highly recommended is Sabich Tchernichovsky whose food one food critic described, “rivals my grandmother’s.”

Could you ask for a better endorsement?

He continues:

“From the moment you walk in, you know you’re in good hands. Despite the ever-existent line, the employees take their time constructing each and every sabich.  Each ingredient is layered artfully in the perfect pita, providing the ideal combination of flavours in every bite.  The delicious eggplant is thin and crispy, packing a flavourful kick with its unique and unidentifiable seasoning.  It combines well with the soft creaminess of the boiled egg and pickled flavor of the amba.”  There is also the option of ordering your sabich with a cheese that “is both gentle and tart, balancing the smoky eggplant and flavourful egg yolk.”

Yemen On The Yarkon

Included in the long list of tantalizing Israeli delights, dishes necessitating salivating overseas visitors to board a plane is Jachnun, described as “heavenly Yemen pastry.”

While Jachnun is available at eateries across Tel Aviv, you may want to enjoy it in an absolutely authentic setting – its Yemenite Quarter.

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Yemenite Jachnun

A charming, twisting enclave of cobblestone streets, low-slung buildings and some of the best home cooking, Tel Aviv’s Yemenite Quarter   – also known as  “Kerem HaTeimanim” or as locals call it “The Kerem” –  is one of the world’s last thriving communities of Yemenite Jews.

Described poignantly; as well as poetically by Debra Kamin in Fodor’sTravel as “a community with a stopped clock…. where stout grandmothers stir rich, cartilage-thick soups and gossiping neighbors gather in courtyards under the hush of flowering pink mulberry trees,” where better that to savor Yemenite cuisine and in particular Jachnun.

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Take A Jaunt For Jachnun. For authentic Yemenite street food cuisine venture to the colourful neighbourhood of Tel Aviv’s Yemenite Quarter.

Left in a slow oven overnight, Jachnun  is prepared from dough  which is rolled out thinly, brushed with shortening (traditionally, clarified butter or samneh), and rolled up, similar to puff pastry.  turns a dark amber colour and has a slightly sweet taste. It is traditionally served with a crushed/grated tomato dip, hard boiled eggs, and the traditional hot sauce Zhug. The dough used for Jachnun is the same as that used for the Yemini flatbread – malawach.

Another delight, malawach resembles a thick pancake  consisting of thin layers of puff pastry brushed with oil and cooked flat in a frying pan.  It is traditionally served with hard-boiled eggs, Zhug – of course – and a crushed or grated tomato dip. For those who prefer a sweet taste, it is frequently served with honey.

A staple of  Yemenite Jews in Israel, it has become a favourite “Street Food” for all Israelis irrespective of background or ethnic origin.

 Best GPS – Your Nose!

No serious ‘explorer’ of Israeli street food can avoid a visit to Abulafia in Jaffa. It’s almost ‘universal’ popularity is best expressed by an overseas patron sounding more like a frequent ‘pilgrim’:

Here are your directions. (1) Board plane for Tel Aviv, (2) Clear immigration and customs, (3) Ask taxi driver to take you to Abulafia. You could tell him that it is in Jaffa, but he already knows.”

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Pastries For Peace. One blogger wrote that the iconic bakery ‘Abulafia’ in Jaffa “owned by an Israeli-Arab family and staffed by Jews, Christians, and Moslems, is a place where people of all religions both literally and metaphorically break bread together every day.”

Open 24-hours a day, this street-side bakery has been located at the same corner in Jaffa just south of the Jaffa clock tower since 1879, and there are always crowds ordering at the counter. It’s hard to walk past without stopping to order, the smells draw you in, and “once hooked, you’re an addict,” said one customer from Holon who was buying to take home a huge supply of fresh and flavored pitot, bagels, sambusak (stuffed pastry with mushrooms, egg and different cheeses), and a variety of sweet confectionary. “Was it for a party?” I curiously inquire.

“Nope, I have a big family with healthy appetites.”

And while in Jaffa, one must try the local bourekas, a puffed pastry introduced mainly by Jewish Bulgarian immigrants. Its filling is either white cheese, potato or mushrooms. While it’s as easy to find bourekas in Israel as it is to track down falafel, however, just like snowflakes, no two are alike. And like the quest for the best falafel, shwarma or sabich, bourekas-makers have their “to-die-for” customers.

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On The Ball. Known as the “Diego Maradona of Sabich”, Oved Daniel serves his world famous sabich.

Bourikas Leon’ on Oleh Zion Street is the oldest Bulgarian bakery in Jaffa. The owner Avi Cohen is a third-generation Bulgarian in Israel and the bakery, named after his father, was started by his ‘Grandma Julie’ who arrived in 1948 “and was the first to make the phyllo pastry that people would come from all over Israel to buy. This was even before she went into the bourekas business.”

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Tastes Divine. Heavenly little parcels of dough crisped with hot oil or melted butter and stuffed with any number of delicious savory ingredients, Bourekas are nothing short of edible perfection. Like Italy’s calzone, Spain’s empanada and India’s samosa, these nutritious and filling pastries are the perfect portable snack while browsing through Tel Aviv’s shuks (markets).

Is bourekas still such a popular food today?

“Absolutely,” answers Avi. “Each year we have more and more new customers while still keeping our local, loyal customer base. It’s funny,” he says, “many of the young people who come today for a bourekas are the children of my father’s customers and the grandchildren of customers ‘Grandma Julie’ served.”

Street Wise

While street food is generally labeled ‘fast food’, and assumed unhealthy, this is not necessarily the case in Israel, where Israelis tend to eat more turkey than red meat, and always accompanied by mounds of fresh salad. It’s practically unheard of to have a meal in Israel – whether at a restaurant or a sidewalk eatery – without lots of salad.

This is why cities like Tel Aviv are vegetarian and vegan friendly.

Most people might not know but Tel Aviv is considered to be the world’s VEGAN capital! There are over 400 vegan-friendly places in Tel Aviv and new ones popping up every week or so  that “vegan-friendly” means at least 25% of menu items are plant-based.

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Hot Off The Pan. Offering fresh Bourik at Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market.

While the Tel Aviv’s ‘Street Food’ scene, cannot escape the big-name international chains such as the hamburger behemoths, they however, do not dominate the market. They may allure their customers by illuminating their presence with big, bright colorful lights; still, they are no match still for the small, unassuming sidewalk eateries attracting their loyal customers by offering quality, wholesome Israeli street cuisine.

People in Tel Aviv certainly love their side-walk food.

Join ’em!

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Shuk’ing Time. Enjoying food on the walk in Tel Aviv’s Shuk HaCarmel or Carmel Market. (Photo by Matthew Scott)

Easy To Digest

Israel went to the polls on Tuesday the 17th September.  It was the second election in 2019 and when Israelis woke the next morning, they were uncertain what they woke up to and if they were sure, it was distasteful.

Far more palatable than the news was the breakfast, frequently voted one of the healthiest in the world.

By David E. Kaplan

“Oh, your Israeli breakfasts are the best!”

How often do we hear this praise from visitors abroad? It’s often the first notion that comes to mind when they think of Israeli cuisine. In a world today conscious of “what we eat”, the Israeli breakfast has earned the reputation of meeting the concerns of health and diet far more than its counterparts abroad, with its emphasis on seasonal fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, and dairy products renowned for its tasty variety as well as low fat content.

Most top hotel chefs in Israel will tell you: “A traditional Israeli breakfast is fresh, healthy and wholesome; this is why it’s so popular with our overseas visitors who are not only looking for a substantial meal to begin the day but a healthy one.”

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“Good Morning, Israel”. Best wat to greet the day – an Israeli breakfast.

So before feasting your eyes on the sights, set your sights on a wholesome Israeli breakfast

Fresh from the Fields

The origin of the traditional Israeli breakfast is imbedded in this young nation’s recent past and tied to its rural landscape. To avoid much of the hot day’s sun, Israel’s pioneer farmers on the kibbutzim (collective agricultural settlements) would go out into the fields way before the crack of dawn, and then after a good few hours of toiling, return to the chadar ochel (communal dining hall) for a hearty breakfast. What awaited these hard-working laborers with raving appetites were usually fluffy omelets or boiled eggs, fresh salads made with cucumbers and sweet tomatoes, hummus, eggplant, salad, pita and other breads and homemade jams. Little did they realise at the time that with each mouthful, they were forging a nation’s cuisine!

A recent publication went so far as to refer “the Jewish state’s contribution to world cuisine” was none other than the “Israeli breakfast”.

Genesis

Rich in history, the Israeli breakfast was born in poorer times. In the pre-and early days of the State, the kibbutz breakfast meant a hard roll and a scoop of leben — a liquidy and sour Mideast yogurt. But kibbutz agricultural laborers needed a heartier start to their day, so the communal village’s kitchens began putting out a spread with whatever they had on hand, such as fresh vegetables, fresh juice, eggs, bread, milk and other dairy products.

It was a simple meal but compared to what most folks living in the cities and towns ate at that time, it was a meal ‘fit for a king’.

Feeding a young nation was an arduous task.

The years between 1948 – the year of independence – and 1951, witnessed the largest immigration ever to reach the shores of modern Israel. Some 688,000 immigrants came to Israel during the country’s first three and a half years at an average of close to 200,000 a year. As approximately 650,000 Jews lived in Israel at the time of the establishment of the state, this meant in effect a doubling of the Jewish population. It also meant a lot of mouths to feed in a state saddled with security concerns and a struggling economy. The availability of produce was limited, and food was rationed. These were the days of the Tzena (Hebrew for “austerity”) and citizens received coupons for food.

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State In Distress. Soon after the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, the country found itself lacking in both food and foreign currency and the government introduced measures to control and oversee distribution of necessary resources to ensure equal and ample rations for all Israeli citizens. Tel Aviv residents standing in line to buy food rations in 1954.

Life under austerity was not easy. The Ministry of Rationing and Supply created a “basket” of basic products, such as sugar, oil, bread and margarine, which could be purchased only in authorized stores.

Coupon books allocated the type and amount of food to be consumed and people stood in line for hours to obtain with no guarantee that the produce was available.

A child of an immigrant recalls that when his parents immigrated to Israel from Poland after World War II, the family was allotted one egg a week. Half-jokingly he records that “I was a little upset when my baby brother was born, because I was no longer given that precious egg!” There was literally, a ‘new kid on the block’ and “my brother needed the egg more than me.”

And he was not egg’aggerating!

The situation was so dire that when someone from the city was invited to the kibbutz for a visit, it was considered a vacation – not only because it was a chance to escape ‘the madding crowd’ of the city, but because the offering was better and bountiful.

From ‘King’ to Kibbutznik

However, by the mid-1950s, “what was once a typical kibbutz breakfast had emerged into a traditional Israel breakfast served in hotels the length and breadth of the country,” explained former South African Arnie Freedman, a veteran member of Kibbutz Yizreel in central Israel near Afula. As Israel’s hotel industry developed, it turned to the kibbutz for inspiration for breakfast. There was good reason – If the reference to kibbutz food had once been “fit for a king”, the phrase had morphed into “fit for a kibbutznik” and the image of the kibbutz had impacted upon Israeli culture beyond its socialist ideology into the realm of cuisine.

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Body And Soul. Kibbutz pioneers would go off the work early and then return to the communal dining room for a hearty, wholesome breakfast.

While many kibbutzim today no longer have a communal dining room, this is not the case with Kibbutz Yizreel which remains traditional in every respect, “including our sumptuous daily breakfast,” says Arnie.

Before returning to work, the members were streaming in, taking trays and helping themselves from the buffet. There was a variety of cereals, yogurts, scrambled and boiled eggs, breads rolls, fish, a variety of cheeses, hummus, tehina and all different kinds of salads and fresh fruit, all picked from the kibbutz.  An hour later, well satiated, they were well ready to return to getting back on their tractor, climbing a ladder to pick oranges or sitting at their computers at Maytronics, the kibbutz’s highly-successful manufacturer of robotic swimming-pool cleaning equipment.

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The Young And The Hungry. Youngers tucking in to a typical Israeli breakfast in the communal dining room at Kibbutz Sde Nehemia in the Upper Galilee.

Where’s the beef?

Any seasoned traveler to Israel is familiar with the major difference between an Israeli breakfast and those elsewhere in the world – No meat.

In accordance with the Jewish laws of Kashrut (keeping kosher), meat and dairy ingredients are never served together in a meal. The Israeli breakfast is thus a dairy meal, and a variety of cheeses are offered. Fish is considered pareve and so is permitted, and herring is frequently served.

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Healthy And Wholesome. Breakfast at Yotvata Kosher (Dairy) Restaurant in Tel Aviv

Other smoked or pickled fish dishes are also common, including tuna and salmon.

Egg dishes are almost universal, which may be pre-cooked or cooked to order. The Middle Eastern egg dish shakshouka, a spicy North African concoction of eggs poached in a tomato-pepper-onion sauce is a common choice. However, Jewish food writer and historian Gil Marks told ISRAEL21c that this iconic dish “is actually a latecomer to the already laden Israeli breakfast table.” The classic must-haves, he says, “are scrambled or hardboiled eggs, a variety of chopped vegetable salads, porridge, cheeses, fresh breads, plain and flavored yogurts, fruit and granola, washed down with fresh juice and/or coffee or tea.”

Shakshuka fried eggs macro in frying pan. horizontal top view
Top Ten. The bountiful buffets that have made the “Israeli breakfast” famous among tourists usually include shakshouka, a spicy North African concoction of eggs poached in a tomato-pepper-onion sauce. So it was no surprise that Lonely Planet included the shakshouka at Jerusalem’s Tmol Shilshom café on its recent Top 10 list of the world’s best breakfasts.

Other Middle Eastern dishes may include Israeli salad, hummus, tehina, baba ghanoush and the strained yogurt called labaneh.

While Hummus – the much loved, humble chickpea dip – is a vital part of the cuisine throughout the Middle East, in Israel, it may be served at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack times – it’s iconic.

No less iconic are the fresh vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, radishes, onions, shredded carrots and a variety of olives – both black and green.

Enjoying an Israeli breakfast is one of the pleasures of a visit to Israel. Apart from the hotels, restaurants and small cafés will all offer one version or another of this famous feast.

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Table For Two. Enjoy an Israeli breakfast overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

Some places serve it throughout the day, so you can even have one for lunch or even diner.

Like Israeli salad, this breakfast is not locally called an “Israeli breakfast”. In restaurants and cafés it’s sometimes named after the establishment, or it is just called “breakfast”. But if you see a breakfast on the menu offering eggs, coffee/tea, salad, cheeses and juice – rest assured, it’s an Israeli breakfast!

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Irresistible! Israeli breakfast is a rite of passage for those visiting Israel.

Mouthful of Myths

The most popular day to eat an Israeli breakfast at a restaurant is on a Friday morning but as one American tourist once quipped: “Finding a table is like trying to catch the last flight out of Saigon!”

It is common counsel that if you eat an “Israeli breakfast” you might not need to eat lunch. However, this is one bit of counsel this writer is unlikely to chew on! Breakfast is breakfast and lunch is lunch and too many active hours separate the two.

If it is one o’clock then it is time for an Israeli lunch – it is different to an Israeli breakfast but that is another story!

Bon Appétit! or as we say in Hebrew:

Betayavon.

 

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Pleasure On The Patio. Begin the day with a nutritious Israeli breakfast.

Israel Leading A Slaughter-Free Revolution For A Healthier World

The world’s first lab-grown steak is served up in Israel

By David E. Kaplan

For lovers of meat, the alluring sizzling aroma is all too familiar. It peaks as you enter a steakhouse; frequently even before entry -like a culinary aphrodisiac titillating the taste buds as you decide – T-bone, fillet, rump or sirloin.

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Steak Out. World’s first lab-grown steak is made from beef but slaughter-free

What a salivating choice!

What if that choice included a steak that hailed from a laboratory rather than a field?

Believing that meat is one of life’s pleasures to be celebrated and enjoyed without the downsides to health and the environment, Aleph Farms in Israel, aims to offer “superior, healthier, slaughter-free meat,” providing a new customer experience.

Aleph Farms was founded in 2017 by Israeli food-tech incubator The Kitchen, part of Israel’s food processing company Strauss Group Ltd., in collaboration with the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology.

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LEADING THE SLAUGHTER-FREE MEAT REVOLUTION FOR A HEALTHIER WORLD

Made from cells that were isolated from a cow and grown into a 3-D structure, the first lab-grown steak was served up in Israel. The steak’s “chef” – Aleph Farms – says “it represents a benchmark in cellular meat production,” that could quite literally shape the future of food by producing cell-grown meat that resembles free range meat.

However, will it “meat” the expectations of steak lovers?

The image of a waiter walking towards your table about to serve a ‘laboratory concoction’ rather than a ‘kitchen creation’, might not titillate the taste buds at first, but then that can change.

It may well be that the ‘lab’ steak is no less “sumptuous”!

The proof will be in the proverbial ‘pudding’ – or steak!

In a world where meat production is increasingly under scrutiny from consumers and citizens who feel that certain practices are unethical and insensitive to farm-animal welfare, the announcement of slaughter-free meat has been welcomed. While there are other companies in the race to produce lab-grown meat, they are mostly burger patties, sausages and nuggets. Aleph Farms, on the other hand are going for a carnivore’s ‘gold’ –   STEAK.

This revelation has tongues not only wagging, but wanting to taste.

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Can You Spot The Difference? Aleph Farms’ Technology Will Change Cultured Meat.

Not Yet On The Menu

The steak will likely not become commercially available for at least three to four years, and while this writer has not tucked into one of Aleph’s steaks, a video shows a group of people – among them Aleph’s vice president of research and development, Neta Lavon, enjoying the steak alongside a tomato and zucchini pasta.

And to the obvious question of price – as volume increases, it should be on par with traditional meat within a few short years.

Most of the companies working to produce lab-cultured meat have focused on ground meat and nuggets. “Making a patty or a sausage from cells cultured outside the animal is challenging enough, imagine how difficult it is to create a whole-muscle steak,” said Didier Toubia, co-founder and CEO of Aleph Farms.

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Appetite For Creating A Better World. Didier Toubia, founder of the start-up Aleph Farms in Ashdod, Israel, aims to have its first products on the market in three years.

Toubia conceded that Aleph’s steaks are still “relatively thin” – only 5 mm thick.

However, the steak is said to have the same texture as conventional meat, and it gives off that familiar beef smell when cooking.

Easy Eater

It will ease many a consumer knowing their favourite food on their plate did not come from an abattoir.

Toubia believes that products like Aleph Meats’ steak can help bridge the divide between people who are unwilling to give up meat entirely and the need to reduce global meat consumption in the fight against climate change. “Today, over 90 percent of consumers do eat meat,” says Toubia, “and we think the percentage of vegetarians will not grow significantly despite many launches of plant-based products.”

Lab-grown meats are a welcome alternative to animal-sourced meats.

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Bon Appétit. The steak was made using a variety of cells extracted from a cow

While this development is unlikely to convert die-hard vegans as these products include starter cells derived from animals, they may recognise the positive benefits. Even Louise Davies of the UK’s Vegan Society noted “the potential that lab-grown meat can have in reducing animal suffering and the environmental impact of animal agriculture.”

So, even if it still “isn’t vegan”, Lab-grown meat may prove a sustainable alternative requiring significantly less land, water, and feed than traditional beef farming.

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Worth Waiting. This thinly-sliced steak prototype took between two and three weeks to produce.

It remains to be seen what impact lab-grown steaks can have on the world. In the meantime, we’ll be keeping an eye on what’s ‘sizzling’ over at Israel’s Aleph Farms.

 

 

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