Sunday, October 28, 2007
Monday, September 24, 2007
We are going a little international right now. This past summer, I spent about a month in Paris and got to enjoy all the food it has to offer. Now when you think of Parisian cuisine, it's hard not to jump to frogs legs and snails. However, I found that there were a lot of really tasty vegetarian options scattered throughout the city. One of the most prevalent types of vegetarian cuisine was falafels.
The best part about falafels is that you can get them on Sundays, which is usually when all restaurants and shops are closed, but luckily, le Marais(the Jewish district) stays open. From blocks away, you can see the lines of hunger-driven tourists and locals all waiting for a bite of that delicious sandwich. Now I know that most reviews you read online about falafels in Paris point you towards King Falafel’s neighbor: L’As du Falafel. But as a diner at both restaurants, I honestly preferred the less-renowned King Falafel. At King Falafel, I found the flavor of the falafel balls themselves to be quite superior to that of L’As du Falafel. They also have the option to add an extra spicy sauce that is out of this world. Add on a Coke and you’re only at 6 euros for the whole meal. I must mention, the lemonade at L’As du Falafel is superb. However, you should try both just to see which you prefer, but in LiveVeg’s opinion, King Falafel reigns supreme!
Saturday, September 01, 2007
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Its amazing how the Arab - Israel conflicts extends to areas outside of the political and military arenas. This article, from gulfnews.com even includes a 1930's style Jewish characature, this time with 'the Jew' as 'cuisine grabber'.
To me its pretty obvious that Jews having lived all over Europe and the Middle-East have adapted various dishes. I am sure, for example that we didn't invent the bagel, but maybe we did take it and spread its popularity.
Why, I ask, can't people of the Mediterranean and Middle-East celebrate the fact that their food has been absorbed into Israeli culture?
Here's the article:
My niece, Irene, called me a few days ago indignant that some of her American friends, including some Jews, keep describing typical Arab foods such as falafel, hummus and shawarma, among others, as Israeli.
She wanted to know how she can convince them this is not the case.
I am quite familiar with this problem since many Americans have been aware of this undeclared war at many unsuspecting restaurants specialising in Mediterranean cuisine, or coverage in the media. My first confrontation with this issue came in 1969 when the late Leah Rabin, wife of the assassinated Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin who was then his country's ambassador in Washington, discussed in a New York Times interview Israeli cuisine, and praising labneh (strained yogurt) as healthful food.
My first impulse was to tell my niece that Israel was almost 60 year old and these food items have obviously existed long before then. My curiosity prompted me to "google" Israeli foods. The internet yielded tens of references, including the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs website which carried a feature on Israeli foods.
I couldn't believe my eyes and wished the Arab governments would do the same, but knowing their ineptitude at explaining more life-and-death issues I doubted they will tackle this quiet Israeli attempt at usurping Arab foods. So I did not bother to check but I would like to be proven wrong.
As a matter of fact, Arab-Americans are used to reading sometimes the wildest of statements made against Arabs or Muslims. Two such items appeared in the press this week.
In an Op-Ed column published in The Washington Post, Nina Shea complains about the alleged "cleansing campaign" now underway against non-Muslim minorities in Iraq. Shea, director of the Hudson Institute's Centre for Religious Freedom and a commissioner on the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, saw this action as similar to what happened "sixty years ago (to) Iraq's flourishing Jewish population, a third of Baghdad, (that) fled in the wake of coordinated bombing and violence against them". Of the 125,000 only 6,000 remained in Iraq and the remainder settled in Israel.
You would think that Shea would have checked her facts before making these outrageous and disputed allegations.
Naeim Giladi, an Iraqi Jew who fled to Israel and later settled in the US, maintains in an article that appeared in The Link (April - May 1998) and his book, Ben Gurion's Scandals: How the Haganah & the Mossad Eliminated Jews that "the terrible truth is that the grenades that killed and maimed Iraqi Jews and damaged their property were thrown by Zionist Jews". He also pointed out that Wilbur Crane Eveland, a former senior officer in the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), wrote in his book, Ropes of Sand, published in 1980, that "in attempts to portray the Iraqis as anti-American and to terrorise the Jews, the Zionists planted bombs in the US Information Service library and in synagogues (and) soon leaflets began to appear urging Jews to flee to Israel."
The second incident this week involved New York's newest public school in memory of a world-famous Lebanese-American philosopher and poet, Gibran Khalil Gibran, a Christian, and the city's first to offer instruction in Arabic and on Arab culture. Consequently, it has been has been targeted by critics who alleged that the school will serve as "a potential radical-Islam training ground".
The school's original principal, Debbie Al Montaser, an Arab-American, had to quit for her failure to condemn the use of the word "intifada", a term used by Palestinian Arabs to describe their uprising against Israeli occupation. Danielle Salzberg, a Jewish woman who does not speak Arabic, has been named her interim successor.
To cite but one of many distortions and claims about the authenticity of Israeli cuisine, Joan Nathan, author of The Foods of Israel and whose writings and recipes appear on MyJewishLearning.com, maintains that falafel is "the ultimate Israeli food".
On the other hand, Daniel Rogov, the restaurant and wine critics of Haaretz, the leading Israeli newspaper, acknowledges that "despite these longstanding myths, there is nothing Israeli about falafel, shawarma, borekas or hummus ...." and added that "in order to set the culinary record straight, let it be known that falafel .... outdates the existence of the State of Israel by several thousand years, archeologists having discovered the remains of ground chickpeas in the tombs of several of the Pharaohs. Shawarma ... (is) Turkish in origin, as are borekas ... As for hummus, most food historians agree the dish originated some 4,000 years ago, probably in North Africa." Interestingly, his lengthy review titled The International Israeli Table which appears on the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was written three years ago.
Now that the record is hopefully set straight, I am just leaving to have a falafel sandwich at the best falafel and shawarma sandwich in the Washington, D.C. area, prepared by two Palestinian Arab cooks from Israel and working at a neighbourhood Jewish (kosher) restaurant.
George S. Hishmeh is a Washington
Monday, August 27, 2007
Saturday February 17, 2007
Supermarkets across the country emptied their shelves of hummus yesterday after salmonella was found in dips from one of the UK's main suppliers.
The recall was initiated on Wednesday by Marks & Spencer after routine testing at its supplier discovered salmonella contamination in two hummus products. M&S said there had been no complaints or reports of illness from customers.
But the company's supplier, London-based Katsouris, a unit of Icelandic food group Bakkavor, also decided to pull its hummus from Sainsbury's, Somerfield, Tesco, Waitrose and the Co-op.
Katsouris said the move was a precaution as contamination had been found only in the hummus it had supplied to M&S. The recall included M&S own brand hummus, flavoured hummus and topped hummus (all date codes); Co-op own brand hummus and flavoured hummus (all date codes up to February 28, 2007); Sainsbury's own brand hummus, flavoured hummus and topped hummus (all date codes up to February 28, 2007); Somerfield own brand hummus and flavoured hummus (all date codes up to February 28, 2007); Tesco own brand hummus, flavoured hummus and topped hummus (all date codes up to February 28), and Waitrose own brand hummus, flavoured hummus and topped hummus (all date codes up to February 28, 2007).
A statement on Bakkavor's website said: "Batches of hummus manufactured by Bakkavor Group in the UK have been recalled. Salmonella was discovered in two varieties of hummus manufactured in one of the group's factories. The cause is related to a raw material." Marks & Spencer is conducting an investigation.
A Food Standards Agency spokeswoman said: "Salmonella can cause food poisoning and shouldn't be present in ready-to-eat food."
Thursday, August 16, 2007
The Latin Quarter of the capital of France has been a melting pot for countless languages and tastes for a long time. Once, 500 years ago, the students spoke Latin and thus the quarter received its name. Today the Sorbonne students speak more English than Latin, and eat more McDonald's than baguettes.
The crowded streets are a type of giant fast- food court with a pinch of French and a lot of shwarma, or as they call it in France a “Greek sandwich”. But right in the middle of the quarter stands a tiny, green store that has no meat, but has a lot of customers who swear by their pita.
From noon on, there is a non-stop line at the entrance to the Maoz falafel stand. The customers do not really know that they are eating the national food of Israel. When they are engrossed in their pita, they do not really care. For four Euros they can enjoy hot falafel balls, tahini, and a variety of fresh salads for free.
At times it is shaped like a ball, sometimes like a flat burger. It may have a pale brown color, or be darksome. It can have a smooth or grainy texture, and be eaten inside a pita or Turkish bread. Make way for hummus’s brother: falafel. Marie, a 28 year-old Frenchwoman, works in the office next door and came down to buy two full pitas for herself and a co-worker.
“I prefer not to eat meat - and these vegetarian patties are simply amazing,” she said.
Does she know the origin of the food? “I think it is from one of the Arab countries,” she said, and did not associate the name “Maoz” with Israel. “I only know it is cheap and tasty,” Marie summarized and disappeared down one of the alleys.
This is apparently the secret to the success of falafel around the world. The national food of Israel has become a health trend.
From Australia to America, through India, France, Germany, and Spain, Maoz Falafel, which was founded 16 years ago in Amsterdam, is spreading like jellyfish in the Mediterranean Sea. Today, the founders of the franchise, the Milo brothers, have 25 branches and they sell more than 12,000 falafels a day.
“By 2015, I believe that we will have a thousand branches around the world,” said owner Nachman Milo, 59, who is convinced that his forecast is entirely reasonable. “The vegetarian market is huge, and today we have reached the break-through point.”
How much does it cost to insure a pita?
Way before his big break, Maoz was a small stand in Amsterdam that had a sign saying "Falafel like in Israel.”
In the early 90's Nachman and his wife Sima decided to leave Israel for a sabbatical in Amsterdam. They sold their insurance and computers businesses in Israel and arrived in Holland, because Nachman’s brother, Dov, was already living there and because “there is good energy in the air.” Little did they know that in a few months time they would be breathing in oil soaked air.
The path to the falafel stand was coincidental. “We did not think at all about entering the fast food business,” said Nachman. “We bought a piece of real estate and at the end of the street of our building there was a small space where you could not do anything.”
Or almost anything. His wife, Sima, suggested that they use that corner to make Israeli falafel since what they had been served so far in Holland was terrible: Just two balls in a pita without any taste."
India: They believe that in the new branch in Bombay the amchur will become a success story.
Sima, “an exceptional cook” according to her husband, entered the family kitchen in Amsterdam and began developing a recipe for falafel for non-Jews. They chose the name “Maoz” coincidentally “because all the other Israeli names were already taken.”
After they overcame the pita obstacle - “we went to the bakery and explained that we needed big pitas, not miniature ones” - the first Maoz stand in Amsterdam was on its way. Very quickly long lines began to form outside the small nook, which caught Sima and Nachman unprepared.
“People would block the trolley tracks and the driver would get annoyed. We said to ourselves that we had a hit on our hands and we had to do something with it.” In the beginning they continued to improve the menu, which was not only based on falafel but also on salads. “Each time I entered the kitchen and tried a different salad until I arrived at the current method,” Sima said, “we spent 10 hours a day on our feet.”
Five years later it was time for an expansion, which quickly conquered Europe and then the world. At first it was only in Holland, where today there are ten branches of Maoz Falafel. Then it was Paris’ turn with one branch and then after the partners brothers Boaz and Lior Shvitzer joined, Maoz Falafel went on to conquer the world. Today the franchise has branches in Germany, Spain, Australia, Britain, and even in Union Square in the heart of Manhattan.
The magazine Time Out New York gave the new immigrants the unlimited culinary opportunity with a grade of five out of six in a review that was published a few weeks ago in their fast food column. “Cheap and healthier than most other fast food chains,” praised the reviewer. After New York, it was India's turn, where they are opening the first branch in Bombay. There will soon be a branch in China.
What is missing from the stands is the Israeli identification of the Maoz chain that has disappeared in recent years. Today the branches around the world do not carry the mythological sign “Falafel like in Israel.” The emphasis is now on values such as vegetarianism, freshness, and a healthy lifestyle.
“All the branches look the same, with the same logo and the word 'vegetarian.' They are all painted green because we are talking about healthy food,” explained Milo. The word “falafel” is also missing from the signs, and today they call the food served at the stand a “Maoz”.
“We want to become like McDonald's. It will be impossible to imitate us because the product will be identified with the name of the franchise,”
explained the owners who see a rosy-green future, the same color as the stands.
Nachman and Sima insist that erasing the Israeli identification was not done for political reasons.
“Even though over the years there were some Egyptians who got angry that we presented the food as Israeli and they claimed that we stole their national treasure,” Nachman said while insisting that he has never encountered real hostility.
The trans-national brand was done for marketing purposes and not, god forbid, for any anti-Israel reason.
“It is important that you write that we try to only buy products made in Israel,” said Sima who is proud of the tahini that drips off the chins of the clients from Bombay to Munich.
Falafel around the world - how they like it:
France: At the stand in Paris the spicy tomato sauce and onions work overtime.
Spain: They eat cooked chickpeas next to their pita.
Germany: The falafel addicts dip their falafel balls in vinegar.
Holland: They love their falafel with a lot of mayonnaise.