In Tel Aviv eating Turkish delight

Really, it’s all about the food. I’ve probably gained 10 pounds on my trip to Israel and Istanbul to prove it. Bags of tiny nougat squares of Turkish delight filled with pistachios, walnuts, pomegranate seeds, you name it. Forget about almonds, my usual healthy nibble. But let’s start at the beginning. Maybe you’ll understand that there’s no turning back in countries where tradition and hospitality begin with “Israeli breakfast” and end with small glasses of strong tea set in tiny flowery saucers.

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Breakfast in Israeli hotels could easily substitute for a wedding buffet: lox that goes down like silk, at least four other kinds of smoked fish, even more kinds of yogurt freshly made, gleaming in white bowls and a whole counter of scrumptious cheeses.

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Not to mention the rugelach ribboned with chocolate and other tender, flaky pastries. But when you’re talking tender, flaky — add buttery — pastries, nothing beats the world’s best baklava.

First fly north from Israel over the Mediterranean to Istanbul. My friend Gail warned me that I couldn’t eat just one piece. The old world charm of Karakoy Gulluoglu made me do it. Three pieces of baklava!

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Here’s the big surprise: Neither Israel nor Istanbul have good coffee. Fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice is plentiful in both places. I drank plenty of it.

Fortunately, both destinations had decent chocolate, which appeared most often in rich Israeli desserts.

Which I ate. My American Jewish Press Association colleagues and I were superbly wined and dined by our generous hosts, the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.

I wanted to connect with people and probably overdid “please” and “thank you” in Hebrew and Turkish. I believe in the benefits of chatting, without the complications of government and politics (more about those topics in future posts and articles).

I must have looked afraid in a colorful spice/tea shop in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. Young Osman — an English teacher and the best salesman I’ve ever met — sold me $40 worth of Turkish spices (like I cook), gorgeous dried flowers for tea that will help cholesterol and coughs, made me laugh and served me pomegranate tea.

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“You know, I’m not your enemy,” he said, after I was drawn into the shop. That stop was one of my favorite of the entire trip.

I’ve been in Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport for around eight hours, and still have five to go before boarding my El Al flight to Newark, with another nine hours to get back to Dan and Tucson at 6:35 p.m. Monday night (don’t ask).

So dear readers, toda raba (thank you in Hebrew) and tesekkur ederim (thank you in Turkish)  for following this flaky post.  I’m going to look for chocolate.

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11 Responses to In Tel Aviv eating Turkish delight

  1. Amy Wilensky says:

    I needed to be reminded just now that the world is enormous, and life full of unfathomable twists and voyages, and I am very lucky to have an aunt who has never been afraid of what might be around the next corner and inspires me with her courage and sense of adventure. Thank you.

  2. judith cox says:

    Amy’s response to Sheila’s is exactly what I needed….at this moment of living in a small spot grieving my mother’s death. Life is indeed unfathomable…a mystery that we delude ourselves into thinking we can every fully know. Love and peace of heart…

  3. sheilawill says:

    Oh Amy, I so appreciate your kind words. Thanks you!
    Lots of love to you and your beautiful daughters.

  4. sheilawill says:

    Love to you Judith! You’ve been a wonderful daughter, and as always, a dear friend.

  5. Charlotte says:

    So did the eight years of Hebrew kick in when you were there? Learning Hebrew for all those years in the seat right in front of you, I was proud on my first visit to Israel, at age 19, to practice my “fluency” – who knew I was speaking biblical Hebrew?? So that’s why people responded with gales of laughter!! It’s like going to London and speaking Chaucerian English. Oh well.
    Glad you had a wonderful time, lehitraot.

    • sheilawill says:

      This was my second trip to Israel. When I went with Brook 20 years ago we were on a kibbutz and I asked “where’s the bes h’cesay (phonetic spelling)?” I was very proud of myself but the same thing that happened to you happened to me. Laughter, and I was told that I was asking, “where’s the hole in the ground?”

  6. Sheila L says:

    Hello there, What do you mean, no good coffee in Turkey? Was that Turkish coffee which they serve in both countries too strong, too thick, too sweet…not like Starbucks? I like it with bakalava. And you don’t have to brush your teeth after drinking it, because it scours them. (I think). Eager to hear more of your fab trip to two countries I know fairly well but haven’t been to for 25 years…… “do you know me?” NO, but I think that the gal you walk with, Julie, is the same one who is in my investment club. And also I think, Anne Echeverria from San Diego, is a friend of yours and mine as well. Welcome back home to Tucson.

  7. Olivia says:

    Love hearing about the food, the people. SOunds like it was a really good trip, a healing experience. Want to hear more. Thinking of you and yours, much love, O

  8. Kathleen Bowman says:

    That sounds so exhausting. Hope you have recovered and are enjoying the riches of your travels. Lots of love, Kathleen

  9. Kathleen Bowman says:

    Thanks for the evocative travelog, Sheila. It’s so generous of you to have taken us all with you. I may never get there, but i can taste it and smell it from here. Yes, you are a role model of adventurousness and agelessness. With admiration, Kathleen

    • sheilawill says:

      Thanks for reading Kathleen! It’s always a lovely surprise to hear from you in cyberspace. Now I know I can travel anywhere, although I was a bit nervewracking at times not knowing the language in Istanbul. Plus any long trip — yup I can do it. But I don’t want to spend so much time in airports again!

      What’s your next trip? Don’t you usually go somewhere around your birthday in April? Paris, Ireland, what’s next?

      Does Dennis ever take on any landscaping jobs himself? I’ve got a little one fixing up the front of my house for the wedding. I would assist him. Thanks.

      How’s winter been for you?

      You are so kind in your admiration Kathleen. I so appreciate it!

      Love,

      S

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